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Ald. Burke Moves To Ban Powdered Alcohol Before It Even Hits Chicago

By Margaret Paulson in News on Mar 19, 2015 2:00PM

On Tuesday the federal government approved the sale of powdered alcohol— known as “palcohol” by Lipsmark, the main company that produces it. The backlash started almost immediately and here in Chicago that includes Edward Burke, the Chicago’s 14th Ward alderman and Finance Committee Chairman, proposing a ban on powdered alcohol at the City Council Meeting Wednesday.

According to the Sun-Times, Burke is worried about the possibilities that children will bring powdered alcohol to school or it could be slipped into people’s food or drink without them knowing.

Chicago isn’t the first place to look at proactively banning palcohol before its slated production this summer by Lipsmark. In fact, there are already bans in place in Vermont, Louisiana and South Carolina and it is illegal in Massachusetts too, simply because the state defines alcohol as a liquid. Rhode Island, Colorado and New York have been mulling it over as well.

As par for the course when anyone comes up with a new way to have fun that needs government approval, there are two sides to the story. Responding to increased negative media attention and calls for banning its product, Lipsmark took to their website to argue that “banning powdered alcohol is the worst action one can take.”

In all sincerity, there are both pros and cons to palcohol. Here are some of the major concerns from critics and the company’s response to them:

Palcohol can be snorted.
Lipsmark's response to this is that "just because a few goofballs use a product irresponsibly doesn't mean you ban it. But even the goofballs won't snort Palcohol due to the pain the alcohol would cause. It really burns. Imagine sniffing liquid vodka.” Touché. Though we imagine plenty of people will do this anyway because people do stupid things.

It will be used to spike drinks.
According to Lipsmark, in actuality, it takes a full minute of stirring to dissolve the powder enough where it isn’t noticeable. In contrast, someone already can spike a drink with liquid alcohol with no noticeable effects in mere seconds.

Kids will be able to get their hands on it.
Actually, it will be regulated just like alcohol. The site makes a point that in many cases, it is easier for an underage kid to buy weed— which isn’t legal and thus unregulated— than to go into a liquor store and buy alcohol.

However, we see two legitimate concerns about palcohol— one if it is legal and another if it’s banned. If palcohol is legal, it's more likely that people will abuse it by mixing it into drinks that already contain alcohol, ingesting a dangerous amounts more quickly than they otherwise would. But again, people do stupid things.

And possibly more dangerously, if palcohol is banned, people are more likely to want it (per psychological research) as the company also astutely points out on its page. (Editor's Note: Remember how people couldn't get enough Four Loko, especially during the height of their legal issues? Case in point.) A ban forces palcohol to the black market, which might make it more likely to fall into the hands of minors.

Lipsmark reminds us that “no one has ever tried Palcohol so all the criticisms are just speculation," but we know of at least one person who made and tried his own palcohol…and somehow lived to tell about it.

In all honestly, powdered alcohol seems like a waste of time, more a fad than a cocktail we'd crave. We'll stick to the liquid stuff in a flask on the go for our portable alcohol needs.