Despite pushback from some advocates, lawmakers unanimously approved two bills Monday that would regulate the sale of powdered alcohol in Texas. The measures now head to the full House.
The version of House Bill 47 by state Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, approved by the House Licensing and Administrative Committee would amend the definition of an alcoholic beverage to include powdered alcohol, ban the possession and purchase of the product by minors and tax and regulate powdered alcohol the same as traditional liquor. House Bill 47 would also give the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission the authority to regulate powdered alcohol.
House Bill 133 by state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, covers much of the same ground as Guillen's bill but would also require that powdered alcohol packages contain no more than 14 grams of alcohol and require advertising of the product to make clear that it shouldn't be consumed in its powdered form.
Powdered alcohol is a form of dehydrated booze that can be mixed with water, soda or juice for an instant mixed drink. If the bill passes this legislative session, Texas could become the second state to regulate powdered alcohol (Colorado already has such a law and Wisconsin is considering similar legislation).
Concerns about powdered alcohol have already led 34 states to ban or considering banning it.
Prior to Monday’s hearing, Guillen told The Texas Tribune that he filed his measure because he was concerned about the dangers powdered alcohol posed to kids, since it is not explicitly regulated — or prohibited — under state law.
“I believe that without outlawing powdered alcohol for minors as HB 47 seeks to do, it could be made available in Texas as there is nothing in statutes that prohibits it,” he said.
According to a spokesperson for the TABC, powdered alcohol products haven’t appeared in Texas market yet and the state agency doesn’t have the authority to regulate it under current law.
Nicole Holt, CEO of Texans Standing Tall, a statewide coalition that works to support healthier and safer communities for kids, is among those favoring a ban on powdered alcohol in Texas.
“We do believe that those involved with the creation of this legislation have good intentions,” Holt said. “But the reality is that [powdered alcohol] is not like any other form of alcohol. For instance, each of these tiny packets would serve as a shot of liquor and you could put 30 shots of liquor in your pocket through powdered alcohol without any concern whatsoever. You cannot do that with, you know, a fifth of Jack Daniels.”
Alvarado said banning the product isn't the answer.
“We’re not trying to regulate adult behavior. This bill simply targets the sale and consumption to and by children,” she said.
State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, filed the the upper chamber’s version of a similar powdered alcohol regulatory measure this session. His bill was left pending in committee.
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Concerns about powdered alcohol have led 34 states to ban or considering banning it. However, both the House and Senate are considering legislation that would regulate the product in Texas.
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 pulled back his measure to outlaw the product in Texas in the 2015 legislative session.