Jacinto Ramos Jr. is worried.
He fears that if Texas students get their hands on powdered alcohol they could die.
“This is a public health disaster waiting to happen because it could push blood alcohol content quickly to dangerous levels, which can lead to car crashes if behind the wheel of a car; alcohol poisoning; and even death,” Ramos, a Fort Worth school board trustee, recently wrote in a column about the topic.
He is voicing his concerns as Texas lawmakers consider an outright ban on the product. It is not sold in Texas.
On Tuesday, the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee is set to consider House Bill 1610, by state Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, which would ban powdered alcohol, also known as palcohol, in Texas as of Sept. 1.
“Though time is once again slipping away, I’m hopeful that House Bill 1610 would have strong support if it were brought to the members of the committee for a vote,” Ashby told the Star-Telegram.
Texas lawmakers have until the end of their legislative session, May 27, to pass laws.
Nearly three dozen states already have banned the sale or use of powdered alcohol, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Powdered alcohol, which comes in little bags, can be added to any liquid — water, soft drinks, energy drinks — to make an alcoholic beverage.
State officials say they don’t know of any powdered alcohol products being sold in Texas.
“Under current law, anyone wishing to make powdered alcohol would need a TABC permit to manufacture the liquid version of the beverage,” said Chris Porter, a spokesman with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. “So, if you want to make a vodka powder, you’d need a Distiller’s Permit. Same goes for wine or beer.”
One distiller, Lt. Blender’s, received TABC label approval for two powdered alcohol products — Vodkarita and Cheat-A-Rita — in 2017, “but these have not yet entered the market,” Porter said.
Ralph McMorris, owner of the Galveston-based Lt. Blender’s, said he’s against a ban on powdered alcohol in Texas.
“Of course I’ll oppose banning what will be one of the safest alcohol products on the shelf in Texas liquor stores,” he said.
Time to ban?
Ramos says it’s time to take action to ban powdered alcohol before it becomes a problem, particularly for younger Texans.
Concerns are that it could be mixed into a drink that is already alcoholic, making strong and potentially deadly cocktails, or used in other ways such as snorting it or adding it to food.
Critics say these packets are small and easy to hide.
“It is clear that there is no safe way to regulate it because once it’s produced and sold, it would be nearly impossible to make sure it does not fall into children’s hands,” Ramos wrote. “Additionally, it could be easily over-consumed.”
Opponents of a ban say the product should be treated as any other alcoholic product, given the same oversight and regulations.
“Texas consumers should have the same freedom to consume powdered alcohol that they do to consume liquid alcohol,” a 2015 House Research Organization report detailing both sides of the argument states.
As for concerns about the product, opponents of a ban say snorting it would be painful and worries about it being mixed with food or drinks are no different than concerns about what can be done with liquid alcohol.
More than that, “a ban on powdered alcohol could increase interest in it and feed a black market for the product, which could facilitate purchases by underage drinkers,” the HRO report states.