Indiana could ban powdered alcohol before it even has a chance to hit store shelves, as a House committee voted unanimously Wednesday not to allow the new product's sale, purchase or even possession in the state.
A federal agency, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, earlier this month approved the sale of the powdered alcohol product, Palcohol. The manufacturer says on its website that it hopes to have the product available for sale as early as this summer.
But the Indiana House's Public Policy Committee voted 13-0 in favor of banning the product within the state while calling for further study of the issue after the legislative session ends.
"We have to be responsible," said the committee's chairman and bill's sponsor, Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte. "I'm not sure we need to push for more alcohol products that we don't know much about."
One ounce of Palcohol can be mixed with any liquid to create an instant drink that has the same alcoholic content as a shot of liquor. It comes in four flavors: rum, vodka, cosmopolitan and margarita.
The product's website describes it as a lightweight alternative for consumers who want to enjoy alcoholic drinks without having to carry around heavy bottles.
However, several other states, including South Carolina, Utah, Tennessee and New York, are also considering banning powdered alcohol, with critics saying the chances of misuse aren't worth the risk.
Among the chief concerns are powder alcohol's potential for abuse by minors, said Dermody. It could be snorted or used to spike drinks, and could be easily concealed at school events, he said.
Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, voted in favor of the proposed ban but said rushing to outlaw the product without more information about how it would impact Indiana could make matters worse, especially if surrounding states don't follow suit.
"I think we all know and would admit that prohibition didn't work," she said. "People will just drive across the state lines and pick it up."
Austin also questioned the bill's effectiveness since the penalty for using, buying, possessing or selling powdered alcohol would be equivalent to a speeding ticket under the current proposal.
Committee members agreed to request further study on the issue but voted to approve the ban.
"This is going to be used and abused," said Rep. Matthew Lehman, R-Berne. "If we don't do something now, I think we'll be back here with serious social problems."
The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate in February. It now goes to the full House for consideration.