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Texas Unlikely to Ban Powdered Alcohol This Session

Despite warning that powdered alcohol could lead to a spike in underage drinking that would “make the darkest days of the Four Loko era look tame,” a lawmaker on Wednesday pulled back his measure to outlaw the product in Texas.

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It appears powdered alcohol is coming to Texas, after a measure that would outlaw the controversial new product was pulled from the Texas House on Wednesday.

House Bill 1018, a statewide ban on powdered alcohol, or Palcohol, was set to be debated and voted on in the House on Wednesday. But state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, the author of the Palcohol ban, postponed the measure until July 4 — more than a month after the end of the legislative session — likely killing the bill.

Geren had previously warned of the dangers of powdered alcohol, suggesting it could lead to a spike in underage drinking that would “make the darkest days of the Four Loko era look tame.” In an interview Wednesday, he said he spoke to “people in the industry” and decided to wait to see what happens when the product is introduced in Texas.

Palcohol is sold in a 1-ounce pouch, in an amount equivalent to a shot, for consumers to mix into a glass of water, soda or juice to create an instant mixed drink. Critics of the product warn that its main feature — how easy it is to store and carry — is also its biggest flaw.

“With packets small enough to fit into a child’s pocket, it will be harder for schools and parents to identify and confiscate this substance from our youth,” Grace Barnett, a spokeswoman for Texans Standing Tall, a nonprofit that advocates against youth drug and alcohol use, said at a House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee hearing in March.

At the same meeting, Geren compared powdered alcohol to Four Loko, the alcoholic energy drink that changed its formula in 2010 after widespread criticism that it posed a health risk for young drinkers. He said the product could be used in dangerous ways — snorted, sprinkled into food or used to spike a bowl of punch.

HB 1018 would've classified powdered alcohol as an illicit beverage, illegal to sell or possess in Texas.

Palcohol was created by inventor Mark Phillips so that he could have a drink when he went “hiking, biking, camping and kayaking” without carrying a heavy bottle of booze around, according to the product’s website. The powder is available in vodka, rum, cosmopolitan, “powderita” and lemon drop flavors and is expected to hit the shelves this summer.

After the product was approved nationally by federal regulators in March, a number of states started moving to regulate Palcohol. Geren’s measure is one of 71 bills filed across 39 states and Washington, D.C., to somehow restrict powdered alcohol, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Alaska, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont and Virginia already prohibit the sale of powdered alcohol, and Colorado, Delaware, Michigan and New Mexico have extended restrictions on traditional alcohol to Palcohol.

Texas isn’t likely to join those states, at least for the next two years.

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