Lawmakers approve bill to regulate powdered alcohol

(Photo: CPR)

Colorado lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill that would require state regulators to come up with rules for powdered alcohol. A company called Palcohol intends to start selling its products as soon as this summer, having gained federal approval last week, triggering concerns in the state.

When House Bill 1031 was first introduced, it was meant to ban powdered alcohol until the federal government authorized it for sale. The House passed that version, then sent it to the Senate, where lawmakers passed a revised bill to require regulations, instead of banning the substance.

The House had not acted on the Senate version until today. When the federal government approved Palcohol last week, lawmakers wrestled with how to proceed. Some, including Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat from Longmont, thought the bill would need to be reintroduced without the word "ban" in the title.

But Rep. Dan Pabon, a Democrat from Denver, says with guidance from legal council at the Capitol, House leadership decided to proceed on the current bill and not introduce a new one.

"Now that the federal oversight is in place, the state oversight will be in place, and this will be a regulated substance in Colorado," Pabon said.

The bill would need to be signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper to become law.

Even before the vote on Thursday, Colorado's top liquor regulator said he had authority to set rules for the sale of powdered alcohol before it hit the market. Through a spokeswoman, the director of Colorado's Liquor & Tobacco Enforcement Division, Patrick Maroney, said, "it is considered an alcohol that the Department of Revenue’s Liquor Enforcement Division can create rules around and make sure that they regulate in an appropriate manner."

The spokeswoman said her office would engage in emergency rulemaking if the office received an application to import powdered alcohol into Colorado for the purpose of commercial sale.