Idaho House State Affairs Committee members approved a bill to ban powdered alcohol in Idaho, though the bill needs changes before it receives a full hearing on the House floor.
The panel voted to send the bill to General Orders, where lawmakers can amend it as they please.
Idaho State Liquor Division chief Jeff Anderson told legislators the substance is "prone to abuse" and easily concealed for safe passage into venues where government restricts alcohol, like sports stadiums or school lunchrooms.
Some 27 states have already banned the substance, and several others are considering similar legislation this year. Arizona lawmakers approved a ban, but Republican Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed the proposal. After rejecting the bill he said the state didn't need a new law because Arizona's alcohol regulators already possess the power to keep an eye on the substance.
Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman stood as the lone dissenter at the committee meeting. During his testimony, Hoffman pulled out a 3 oz. bottle of alcohol and pointed out how easily people can conceal the product, which the state liquor store already sells.
"If you're really concerned about concealability, why don't you ban this?" Hoffman asked. "The reason you don't ban it is that you're concerned about the revenue."
Hoffman also told legislators that Idaho, like Arizona, already possesses the power to regulate the substance through its liquor division.
Tyler Mallard, lobbyist for the Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association, supports a ban. He warned the panel about potential dangers the new substance poses to public health, including added risks for youth.
"It's not hard to fathom the way kids are going to get in trouble with (powdered alcohol)," Mallard said.
The bill's language troubled lawmakers, including Boise Republican Rep. Lynn Luker. The measure mandates a fine between $300 and $1,000 for violators, or jail time of no less than three months and no more than one year.
"That seems to tie the hands of the judge in crafting the appropriate resolution," Luker told Anderson.
A different section of the bill bothered Rep. Gayle Batt (R-Wilder). She said the proposal language, which defines powdered alcohol as "any powder or crystalline substance containing alcohol that is produced for direct use or reconstitution," is overly broad and might bring about unintended consequences.
"It's a little wide sweeping," Batt said. "Maybe it could have been narrowed a bit."
As a result, the committee sent the bill to General Orders for changes, despite one motion to kill the bill and another to approve the plan as-is.
Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise) moved to approve the bill without language changes, citing public health concerns as a good reason to push it ahead.
"I don't think this is the best idea to have a product like this in our state," Wintrow said. "The safety issue is very important."