By Sharon Frankenberg,
Attorney at Law

On March 10, 2015 the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the United States Department of the Treasury approved the sale of a powdered alcohol product called Palcohol.  Palcohol had previously been approved for U.S. sale by the Food and Drug Administration.  According to the Palcohol website, the product is not actually being produced yet but it is expected to hit the market this summer.  It is a powdered version of vodka, rum and three cocktails sold in one ounce packets.  Just add six ounces of water to make the equivalent of one shot of liquid alcohol.  That does not sound very controversial but the concept has been met with criticism and multiple states acting to ban its sale within their borders.

The inventor of Palcohol, Mark Phillips, claims a desire to have a convenient “refreshing adult beverage” after hours of activity (hiking, biking, etc.) motivated him to create the product.  No need to lug heavy bottles of wine or beer, all you would need to carry is a light packet of powder and some water. This convenience is perhaps what might make it so appealing for underaged consumers.  Concerns over abuse of the powdered alcohol products by underaged children has led many states to anticipate that school children will get hold of the powder and pour it into water bottles and drink it and everyone will think they are drinking water.   Of course, smuggling of liquid alcohol by children into schools already occurs with regularity and it is not yet known if this product will make that problem worse.

Other concerns include the ingestion of the new powdered alcohol products by snorting.  The Palcohol website asserts that “even the goofballs won’t snort Palcohol due to the pain the alcohol would cause.  It really burns.”  While that may be true, one only needs to go online to see how many “goofballs” are willing to take liquid alcohol through every bodily orifice despite the pain.  There can be no doubt that alcohol is being abused in liquid form.  The interesting twist is that while you might assume that this powdered alcohol would be sold at the same retail outlets and under the same restrictions as liquid alcohol, what if your state regulatory statutes define “alcohol” only in liquid terms?  In Tennessee the phrase “alcoholic beverage” means and includes alcohol, spirits, liquor, wine, high alcohol content beer, and every liquid containing alcohol, spirits, wine, and high alcohol content beer and capable of being consumed by a human being.”  Tenn. Code Annotated Section 57-3-101.

In reaction to the concerns over this new form of alcohol, the Tennessee Senate voted on March 12, 2015 to ban the sale of crystalline or powdered alcohol.  The bill was sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, who often handles alcohol related legislation including the wine-in-supermarkets law.  The vote was 31 to 1 without debate and Sen. Brain Kelsey, R-Germantown cast the lone vote against the bill.

This week a House subcommittee will now consider a version of this bill that is sponsored by Sheila Butt, R-Columbia.  If this law is passed, the sale of crystalline or powdered alcohol will be a misdemeanor.

Obviously this column only offers general information.  You should always seek advice and guidance from an attorney regarding your specific legal situation.  Sharon Frankenberg is an experienced attorney licensed in Tennessee since 1988.   She is a sole practitioner who handles probate, foreclosures, landlord-tenant, collections and general civil matters.  She also represents Social Security disability claimants and represents creditors in bankruptcy proceedings. Her office is in Knoxville and she may be reached at (865)539-2100