Last Call for Palcohol?

Powdered alcohol (traded under the name “Palcohol”) was only recently approved for sale by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. It isn’t even available for sale yet in the State of Maryland. But that hasn’t stopped Democrats from working to make sure consumers never get the opportunity.

Franchot announced this week that he had cut a deal with the liquor lobby to enact a voluntary ban on its sale in our state:

Expressing deep concern for the health and safety of Marylanders, Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that a voluntary agreement to ban the distribution and sale of powdered alcohol has been reached with the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association, Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association and the Licensed Beverage Distributors of Maryland

“This product, by its very nature, presents a significant and untenable risk to the health and safety of Maryland consumers,” said Comptroller Franchot, who serves as Marylanders chief regulator of alcohol. “The likelihood of widespread Palcohol abuse – particularly among underage consumers – carries a real possibility of tragic consequences, which is why I’m so pleased by the industry’s unified response to protect the public from such a dangerous product.”

Now of course there are a couple of different moving parts to this story.

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The first, and most obvious, aspect is the fact that the Liquor Lobby does what the Liquor Lobby always does; protect their back yard. There is no more protectionist lobby in the state than the Liquor Lobby. All alcohol sold in our state has to go through the wholesalers and distributors, and only they can sell to the liquor stores. Grocery stores (except for four grandfathered liquor stores in Montgomery County) can’t sell beer or wine as they can in Virginia. For years, consumers couldn’t have wine delivered to their homes, before enough legislators finally overturned the ban a few years ago.

More than likely, the Liquor Lobby saw powdered alchol as a threat to their business model and agree to cut a deal with Franchot (their regulator) to keep it off the shelves. The same kind of deal they cut to get beverages like Four Loko off the shelves a few years ago. This, of course, is crony capitalism at its finest.

The other, less obvious, aspect of this story is the contradiction between the banning of powdered alcohol and the legalization of marijuana. Before the announcement of the ban, there was a bill already trying to race through the General Assembly to forbid the sale of this stuff:

A bill ( HB1288) introduced by Baltimore County Del. Dan Morhaim would prohibit the sale of powdered alcohol through June 2016. Offenders could face a fine up to $1,000.

What’s of course fascinating about that bill though is the inclusion of Dr. Dan Morhaim as the lead sponsor of the bill. In addition to banning powdered alcohol, Morhaim has been one of the leading voices in supporting marijuana decriminalization in the General Assembly. Morhaim supports marijuana decriminalization despite the medical evidence that marijuana is harmful to people, particularly minor children. However, Morhaim’s justification for banning powdered alcohol is the “concerns over powdered alcohol among public health experts” and a lack of study of its medical impact on people.

So for Morhaim and other Democrats, legalizing an illegal narcotic that has well-studied harmful effects on people is good, but banning a substance that has been little-studied but is related to a legal substance is bad. This is the same type of liberal nonsense thinking that the sale of grain alcohol in our state last year.

I don’t understand the appeal of Palchol. I have no idea why anybody would want to have powdered alcohol instead of actual, quality beer, liquor, or wine. We may not know what it does to people, but we do know that this product has been approved by the appropriate regulatory authorities for sale. Why the same people who want to see marijuana legalized want to see powdered alcohol banned says a lot about the modern Maryland Democratic Party, their legislative priorities, their special interests supports, and the powerful impact of crony capitalism on our state liquor industry.

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