TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Spirits aren’t high on the future of powdered alcohol being mixed in Florida.
The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on Monday unanimously supported a measure (SB 998) that would prohibit the sale and possession of powdered alcohol throughout the state.
The effort to ban powdered alcohol comes shortly after the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved the sale of a powdered alcohol called Palcohol by the privately held company Lipsmark LLC.
Under the bill, a person selling powdered alcohol would face a first-degree misdemeanor. A second violation within five years would carry a third-degree felony.
The Senate measure also proposes a $250 fine for using or possessing powdered alcohol unless the product is utilized for research or is being commercially transported through the state.
The House version (HB 1247) doesn’t include similar language regarding possession.
During an earlier committee meeting, Sen. Gwen Margolis, a Miami Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, called Palcohol “something new in the scheme of how to get high in this country.”
One of Margolis’ legislative assistants presented the bill Monday, and the Commerce and Tourism Committee approved it with little comment.
On its website, Lipsmark says sales won’t begin until this summer.
Palcohol is comprised of powder from distilled vodka or distilled Puerto Rican rum. The product will be sold in single pouches, each equal to a shot and intended to be mixed with water, cola or juice, Lipsmark’s website says.
Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who initially filed legislation this year against powdered alcohol, told lawmakers during an earlier committee meeting that the product was once promoted as something that could be smuggled “illegally into football games and into concerts … in additional to a series of other illegal and questionable activities.”
Palcohol creator Mark Phillips has posted a YouTube video disputing similar claims.
“Palcohol is not some sort of super-concentrated version of alcohol, it’s simply one shot of alcohol in powdered form,” Phillips said in the video.
The Food and Drug Administration has not approved Palcohol, but in a clarifying note posted on March 13 stated that “at this time the FDA does not have a legal basis to block market entry of this product.”
Florida lawmakers, with backing from the Beer Industry of Florida, Florida Beer Wholesalers and the Wine & Spirits Distributors of Florida, aren’t alone in seeking the keep the product off the shelves.
The product has already been banned by Alaska, Louisiana, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia.
Federal legislation has been introduced by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to make the production, sale and possession of powdered alcohol illegal.
Delaware and Michigan have defined powdered alcohol as an alcoholic beverage.
Ellen Snelling, chair of the Florida Coalition for Alcohol Policy, urged the Commerce and Tourism Committee on Monday to support the ban rather than consider regulating Palcohol.
“We feel like we already have an underage drinking problem in the state of Florida,” Snelling said. “This type of a product, the only way we can see it being used, is to be abused, especially by young people.”
On its website, Lipsmark argues against legislative bans and dismisses claims that people will snort, illegally smuggle or spike other people’s drinks with the product.
“No one wants the government telling us what we can drink and not drink. We don’t need a nanny,” Lipsmark says on its website. “The legislature exists to protect our rights to live how we choose, not to use coercive power to force their values on us.”
The committee approval Monday was the second in the Senate for the measure. The bill must go to the Rules Committee before reaching the Senate floor.
The House version cleared its first panel last Tuesday and awaits a hearing before the Appropriations Committee.
“The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.”