The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has given the greenlight to Palcohol, a powdered alcohol that you mix with water to make, well, liquid alcohol. The TTB had already approved the product for sale last year but almost immediately backtracked on that decision, saying the approval had been “issued in error.”
TTB spokesperson Tom Hogue today said the approval is only based on whether or not the label on the product matches what’s actually inside, according to the Associated Press. Palcohol sorted out the labelling issues since last year and so four flavors of Palcohol are now approved for legal sale.
“Potential for abuse isn't grounds for us to deny a label," Hogue told the AP.
And since alcohol is legal, there was no other reason for the agency to deny the approval.
Palcohol’s inventor, Mark Phillips, wrote on the company blog that he hopes the product will be available as early as this summer.
However, states can choose to outlaw powdered alcohol, and some are working to do so before the product even hits the shelves. Alaska, Delaware, Michigan, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Vermont have already banned powdered alcohol, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio have considered it.
The main concerns are around the safety of the product. Will people snort it? Will it be easier to spike drinks or for kids to get their hands on?
But Phillips refutes all of the worries and has said he believes Palcohol is actually safer than liquid alcohol. He doubts anyone would snort it, at least not more than once.
“It's painful to snort due to the alcohol,” Phillips wrote on the company blog. “Second, it's impractical. It takes approximately 60 minutes to snort the equivalent of one shot of vodka. Why would anyone do that when they can do a shot of liquid vodka in two seconds?”
As for sneaking it in, he says the large packaging is no easier to sneak into an event than a small bottle of booze and besides, “Alcohol in any format is subject to abuse if someone is determined to do so,” he says, which is pretty true.
Spiking a drink, while a pretty easy feat with liquid alcohol, would actually not work too well with Palcohol since you need to shake or stir the powder for a good minute before it dissolves, Phillips says.
The Kool-Aid like flavored powders might be appealing to kids and teens, but Phillips argues that it is no easier to access than regular alcohol since it will be sold and regulated in the same way. And powdered alcohols are already on the market in Europe without any real panic.
Still, state legislatures seem set on not even giving Palcohol a chance to fail and the race is on for Phillips to get the product on the market before lawmakers outlaw it. He envisions lots of potential uses for his powdered alcohol, from partying to using it to make easily-transportable medical antiseptics—Phillips says he’s had medical personnel touch base about the need for lightweight antiseptic in remote locations where it’s hard to transport supplies.
But if local legislators have their way, the party will be over before it even begins.