Ohio House votes to ban powdered alcohol

By Maggie Thurber | for Ohio Watchdog

PALCOHOL: In a YouTube video, Palcohol inventor Mark Phillips shows how the product works and addresses what he calls the “completely false” claims about his product.

The Ohio House has passed a measure that would ban crystalline, or powdered alcohol, in the state.

House Bill 594 was reported out of committee Wednesday morning and passed informally by the House later in the day. The bill now goes to the Ohio Senate.

The bill would prohibit the sale or offering for sale for human consumption crystalline alcohol. It was sponsored by Reps. Ron Gerberry, D-Austintown, and Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, who claimed the substance was easy to abuse.

“The public health risk of powdered alcohol is too great for our state to ignore,” Buchy said in a press release announcing the bill. “We have to do our part in putting forth reasonable laws that protect our children and prevent the availability of drug forms that have a higher potential for abuse.”

As Ohio Watchdog previously reported, those concerns mirror those of U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, who asked the Food and Drug Administration to ban it.

In April, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which regulates taxing and labeling of alcohol products, approved seven flavors of the commercially produced Palcohol. They then temporarily rescinded those approvals due to a technical issue with the package fill levels. Palcohol made some changes and resubmitted the labels for approval.

According to the product website, Mark Phillips does a lot of camping, hiking and biking, but he didn’t want to lug around heavy bottles of alcohol. “Wouldn’t it be great to have alcohol in powder form so all one had to do is add water?” he asked.

There wasn’t anything like that on the market, so Phillips invented it. He is not granting any media interviews while his product is awaiting federal approval.

Despite being the only product impacted by the bill, no one from Lipsmark, the maker of Palcohol, was asked to testify during the House committee hearings.

Traditionally, when a bill is assigned to committee, sponsor and proponent testimony is given, opponent testimony is given, and then the committee votes on the measure.

H.B. 594 was introduced in July and referred to the Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee. It received sponsor and proponent testimony on Nov 12.

Jacob Evans, general counsel of the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association, and Tim Bechtold, government affairs director of the Wholesale Beer & Wine Association of Ohio, testified in support of the bill.

Evans said crystalized alcohol is an untested product that has the potential for other abuses. Bechtold said his organization supports the responsible sale and consumption of alcoholic products, but doesn’t see a need for powdered alcohol, a product which he said is suited for abuse by underage Ohioans.

On Tuesday, after two minor amendments were made, the bill was unanimously reported out of committee without opponent testimony.

One amendment would allow certain permit holders to serve alcoholic beverages on Sundays and the other would allow open containers on the premises of Columbus’s North Market.

When contacted by email, a Lipsmark representative said the company had not been contacted about the impact the bill might have on its product, but they intended to contact the committee chairman to follow up.

Rep. Mike Dovilla, R-Berea, the chairman of the committee, didn’t return phone calls asking about the lack of opponent testimony.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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