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Powdered alcohol OKed for sale. Should it be banned in Minnesota?

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The federal government has given the OK to powdered alcohol, which could be on the market within a few months.

But a Minnesota lawmaker wants to temporarily prevent it from being sold here until its impact is clearer.

Palcohol, a powdered form of alcohol, was approved for sale by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau last week, The Associated Press reports, and it could be on store shelves by June.

According to Palcohol's website and a video made by creator Mark Phillips last year, Palcohol is alcohol in a white powdered form that can be mixed with water or other beverages to create alcoholic drinks.

The AP says four varieties have been approved so far – rum, vodka, cosmopolitan and margarita – with a fifth, lemon drop, expected to gain approval soon.

Should it be illegal?

Many critics say selling powdered alcohol is a bad idea; they're concerned the product could be easily accessible to children and could lead to more alcohol abuse (Robert Glatter, MD, lays out the arguments in a column for Forbes Magazine).

Among the most vocal opponents is U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, who introduced a bill last week to outlaw the product. Several states have already taken steps to ban Palcohol sales.

Instead of an outright ban in Minnesota, lawmakers may consider a year-long moratorium on powdered alcohol sales.

Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, introduced a measure Tuesday to prohibit the sale of Palcohol in Minnesota until June 1, 2016, while state agencies study its impact on public health and law enforcement, the Star Tribune reports.

Atkins told the paper he's heard from parents and school officials who are concerned about the product, and he left the door open for a permanent ban depending on the outcome of the study.

What is Palcohol?

Palcohol is essentially dehydrated alcohol. One ounce of the powder is packaged in a 4-inch-by-6 inch bag, and when mixed with six ounces of liquid, it has the same alcohol content as a shot, Palcohol says on its website. The powder alone is around 80 calories a bag.

Its sales would be subject to the same restrictions as liquid alcohol, and no one under 21 could purchase it legally.

Phillips says he initially created Palcohol because he likes to hike, and saw the powdered alcohol as a way to enjoy an adult beverage without adding much weight to his pack.

However, he envisions other uses, like using powdered alcohol on airline beverage carts to lighten the load or creating different versions for industrial uses, such as where alcohol is used as a disinfectant.

Firing back at critics

Phillips has loudly criticized those who oppose his product, saying in a video he made last year that they are "ignorant or just being untruthful to promote their agenda."

"All of the hysteria about the dangers of Palcohol are unfounded," he said in the video.

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