Nanny state of the week: SC — and Schumer — for duplicative efforts to ban powdered alcohol

Part 5 of 5 in the series Nanny State of the Week

Eric Boehm |

MINNEAPOLIS — It looks a lot like powdered soft drink mix, but don’t get this stuff confused with the Kool-Aid.

POWDERED ALCOHOL: South Carolina’s state Senate is considering a bill to ban powdered alcohol.

Known as “Palcohol,” various types of powdered alcoholic drinks could be the next craze for college parties or any get-together that involves a punch bowl. The federal government hasn’t legalized the product, yet it’s starting a race among would-be nannies to stop the substance from ever reaching a Americans’ drinking cup.

Lawmakers in South Carolina are in the lead, determined to stop the mixing before it gets started, according The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

A planned hearing on the bill was postponed Thursday, but the ban could pass before the end of the state’s legislative session. Because the bill was introduced late in the session, it would require a two-thirds majority for approval.

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, summarized the dust-up in Columbia over powdered alcohol. Martin told The State he thinks everything should be illegal until the government decides otherwise.

OK, that’s not exactly what he said. But read this quote and tell me that’s not what he’s suggesting.

Our default position needs to be that it is illegal in South Carolina until we can get our arms around it and figure out what this stuff really is,” Martin said.

South Carolina is the fourth state to consider a ban on powdered alcoholic drinks.

But U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is trying to beat South Carolina and other states to the punch.

This week, Schumer wrote to the federal Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to ban powdered alcohol because, in Schumer’s view, kids could use the substance to secretly get drunk.

“You could walk into a concert or a ballpark . . . you could just put this in the sole of your shoe or your pocket,” Schumer told Newsday. “Almost every week there’s a story of some teenagers being killed in some DWI accident.”

Yes, it’s tragic when that happens.

But it’s already against the law for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol — whether that alcohol comes from a beer tap, a wine spout or a baggie of powdered spirits.

Banning everyone from using a new product because kids might use it to do something they’re already banned from doing — that’s just silly.

It’s like banning everyone from driving cars because kids without drivers’ licenses occasionally get behind the wheel illegally. It’s like banning everyone from fishing because some people fish without a license. It’s like banning all politicians from accepting campaign contributions because some people who give campaign contributions are criminals.

Which is how Mark Phillips, the guy who invented Palcohol and is fighting to get it legalized, sees it.

In a statement posted to YouTube this week, Phillips said Schumer’s complaints to the FDA were “riddled with inaccuracies and irresponsible statements.”

“We never suggested using Palcohol illegally,” Phillips said. “Like so many others, he is completely ignorant about the truth of Palcohol.”

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Why would politicians want to enact a Prohibition-style ban on his product? Phillips asks. He suggests those behind such bans are “caught up in the hysteria” by suggesting the powdered alcohol could be snorted, among other things.

Adding to the confusion surround the new product: Last month, media reports claimed the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureauapproved powered alcohol for sale in the United States.

Then the agency quickly reversed course and claimed the approval was made “in error,” without supplying reasons for the change.

But for people like Schumer and Martin, the world will remain a scary place until powdered alcohol is banned at both the federal and state levels — before it’s made legal.

Boehm is a reporter for and can be reached at Follow @EricBoehm87 and @WatchdogOrg on Twitter for more.