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Olive Martini.
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Palcohol, made by inventor Mark Phillips, is crystalline alcohol that can be mixed with water to create cocktails in flavors such as Cosmopolitan, Margarita and Lemon Drop. The feds have approved the substance, which is more portable than traditional alcoholic beverages.

NASHVILLE — Don't ask for superdry martinis in Tennessee.

State lawmakers are moving to ban sales of powdered alcohol, approved this week by federal regulators, before the product even hits the shelf this summer.

The inventor, Mark Phillips, says crystalline alcohol can be mixed with water to create cocktails in flavors such as Cosmopolitan, Margarita and Lemon Drop. He calls his product "Palcohol."

Lawmakers call it dangerous.

"Now it can be sold anywhere and our youth will have access to this," warned Senate GOP Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, the bill's sponsor. "There is no way to tax it, there's no way to control it. And we want to stop it before it gets here."

Palcolhol won approval Wednesday by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The federal action leaves states free to allow or make it illegal.

At Ketron's urging, senators voted 31-1 on Thursday to make selling Palcohol a misdemeanor.

"You get a water bottle and kids at school can pour the crystalline powder down in there, just shake it, just walk around and everybody will think they're drinking bottled water," he said.

A House subcommittee will consider a version sponsored by Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, next week.

Ketron, who successfully pushed Tennessee's wine-in-supermarkets law, handles most alcohol legislation in the Senate. He said the powdered alcohol can be taken into restaurants, which would hurt that industry's profits.

But Phillips says on his website that states are moving to ban powdered alcohol "because the liquor industry is against it and they want to squash competition and protect their market share.

"The liquor companies have lots of money to lobby for what they want and we are no match for their deep pockets," Phillips says. "But should big money be allowed to make the laws? "

He says only adults could buy Palcohol and it could only be sold in places now licensed to sell alcohol.He urges would-be customers across the nation to call their state legislators.

Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, was the lone no vote on the bill, which senators did not debate.

 

OTHER LEGISLATION

In other developments Thursday, senators voted 32-0 to preempt Tennessee cities and counties from banning driverless vehicles when they become available.

The bill, sponsored by Kelsey, says local governments cannot bar use of motor vehicles just because they're equipped with "autonomous technology," provided they comply with other safety regulations.

"This technology already exists, in part, on some of the vehicles on our roads today," Kelsey said. "We have motor vehicles out there that will parallel park for you that are already on our roads."

Google and other companies are already testing self-driving vehicles in some states. Kelsey said he knows of one city, Falls Church, Va., which has banned them.

"This technology is only going to become more and more prevalent so this particular bill is an effort to get out in front of that particular issue," he said of such bans.

Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, is the bill's House sponsor.

 

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timefreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

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