With final legislative approval in both chambers today, the General Assembly has approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Frank Lombardo III and Rep. Lauren H. Carson to ban powdered alcohol in Rhode Island.
The legislation, which has been sent to the governor, is aimed at protecting Rhode Islanders, particularly youth, from a substance with an unknown potential for danger and abuse. Powdered alcohol is molecularly encapsulated alcohol which, when mixed with water, produces an alcoholic beverage. A product called “Palcohol” – which had received initial approval from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in 2014 only to have it rescinded – was officially approved later in the year by a federal regulator.
The legislation (2016-S 2059, 2016-H 7026A) would criminalize the possession, purchase, or sale of powdered alcohol, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. Additionally, the legislation would add the powdered form to the definition of alcohol in state law.
“Putting alcohol into the same form as Kool-Aid is sending the wrong message to youth about its dangers. Alcohol is not fruit punch, should not be consumed like it is, and should not be marketed like it is. Underage drinking is a big enough problem already with the products we currently have, and adding this confusing product to the mix is not going to help. The public’s unfamiliarity with it could also lead to people of all ages accidently consuming unsafe amounts of powdered alcohol. Powdered alcohol is a danger we just don’t need,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport).
The sponsors also point to the potential for powdered alcohol to sidestep existing laws and regulations.
“Nobody envisioned powdered alcohol when our existing liquor laws were written. It’s entirely possible that because they were intended to apply to liquids, we could end up with situations where it could technically be legal to sell it to minors if it’s in powdered form or that it might be able to escape the taxes that apply to alcohol. Add that potential to the dangers powdered alcohol poses to children, and there’s just no good reason to open our state to this product,” said Senator Lombardo (D-Dist. 25, Johnston).
As of November, 27 states had laws banning powdered alcohol.
The legislation is cosponsored by in the Senate by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket), Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), and Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick). The House cosponsors are Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown), Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown).