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Powdered alcohol: what it is, and how Tennessee law views it

A new formulation of alcohol in powdered form has recently been approved by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. What this will mean when it comes to state laws governing driving while under the influence of alcohol remains to be fully understood, but some states, including Tennessee, are already enacting legislation to restrict or even to prohibit the sale of the new product.

The inventor of the new product has named it “Palcohol.” The formulation for how it is made is subject to patent, but the idea is that packing an alcoholic beverage for a trip will soon be as easy as taking along any other kind of powdered beverage. All that is needed to mix a liquor drink will be to just add water.

The advantage of Palcohol is its easy portability. Without the weight of liquid alcohol, taking along a stiff drink on activities like hiking or camping now becomes more practical. Some have suggested that even commercial air carriers may be interested in the weight-saving advantage.

The novel formulation is not without its detractors. Their objections can be summarized as follows:

  • The concealability of the Palcohol packets may present a new and harder-to-counter avenue for teenage drinking. Also, people may seek to surreptitiously bring powdered alcohol into venues that otherwise prohibit alcohol.
  • The powdered form of the alcohol may lead the curious or the adventurous – read once again, “teenagers” – to seek ways to use it in ways that are either more difficult to detect, such as sprinkling it on food, or unconventional and possibly even dangerous, like inhaling or “snorting” the powder or mixing a packet into an alcoholic beverage to create a new drink that is even more potent.

The perceived dangers of Palcohol have also drawn the attention of some in the federal government. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has already introduced legislation to ban the product nationwide, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has also backtracked at least temporarily on its approval of the product, albeit for labeling issues.

Regardless of the form it takes, consuming alcohol and then driving will always be a bad idea that can lead to serious legal consequences after an arrest and conviction. Anyone facing drunk driving charges, whether from a legal or illegal source of liquor, will require an aggressive defense to avoid or at least mitigate those consequences.

Source: WGNS, “NO: Powdered Alcohol Banned in Tennessee, for now,” April 30, 2015

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