PHOENIX (CBS5) - A new product approved by federal regulators makes booze more discreet, and its developers say it's more effective than its liquid counterparts.
Palcohol, or powdered alcohol, could be on the liquor store shelves by this fall. Its developer, Phoenix resident Mark Phillips, said he's excited about the recent approval.
"It's lightness and compactness provide the perfect solution for the sportsperson that can't be bogged down by weight and the traveler who wants to carry alcohol without having to worry about bottles breaking or significantly adding to the weight of the suitcase," Phillips said.
The product transforms a shot of vodka or rum into a discreet pouch of powder. According to its labels, Palcohol can carry up to 65 percent alcohol by volume, if used as directed.
The label approved states, "Sometimes liquid isn't convenient. Because Palcohol is powder, you can take it just about anywhere to enjoy a cocktail! That's why we say: Take your Pal wherever you go!"
A former alcoholic, Vera Martz says Palcohol is a disaster waiting to happen. "Alcohol is the worst drug there is," Martz said. "I can't believe anybody would even think about letting this come on the market. That's about as stupid as it gets!"
Phillips, on the other hand, believes his product is convenient for the responsible drinker.
On an earlier version of Palcohol's website, it lures readers with the possibilities of Palcohol:
"1. What's worse than going to a concert, sporting event, etc. and having to pay $10, $15, $20 for a mixed drink with tax and tip. Are you kidding me?! Take Palcohol into the venue and enjoy a mixed drink for a fraction of the cost.
"2. Maybe you're a college football fan. So many stadiums don't even serve alcohol. What's that about; watching football without drinking?! That's almost criminal. Bring Palcohol in and enjoy the game."
For Martz, the most shocking part was addressed further down the list of possible uses, past the Palcohol on food and spiking a drink on a nature hike:
"7. Let's talk about the elephant in the room ... snorting Palcohol. Yes, you can snort it. And you'll get drunk almost instantly because the alcohol will be absorbed so quickly in your nose. Good idea? No. It will mess you up. Use Palcohol responsibly."
Palcohol's website has since been toned down, stating, "There was a page visible on the site where we were experimenting with some humorous and edgy verbiage about Palcohol. It was not meant to be our final presentation of Palcohol."
The new website says Palcohol has taken precautions against snorting, adding volume to the powder so it would take more than a half of a cup of powder to get the equivalent of one drink up your nose.
Martz believes the door for abusing this product is left wide open. "Now they want to throw this crap [on the market]?" She asks, "Hasn't [the alcohol industry] put enough out there?"
Palcohol could hit stores by this fall, available in powdered vodka, rum and four different cocktail flavors.
The scourge of heroin is difficult to overlook in southeastern Louisiana, from an exponential increase in overdoses to an alarming spike in trafficking. The highly addictive narcotic has emerged as an affordable drug of choice and a killer to be reckoned with, gaining new users and fueling the state’s violent crime rate.
Heroin-related deaths soared last year from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, and the drug has shown no signs of loosening its grip as the epidemic spills into more and more parishes. On the verge of panic, authorities are warning of a public health crisis that demands new methods of deterrence.
“When we’re getting to people, they’re dead,” said Col. Mike Edmonson, the State Police superintendent. “When we’re getting to people, the needle is still hanging out of their skin.”
Against this backdrop, law enforcement officials are supporting legislation to drastically increase prison time for heroin dealers and users, including a bill backed by the influential Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association that would impose a mandatory minimum of two years behind bars — without parole — for anyone caught possessing even a small amount of heroin.
House Bill 332 sailed through the House Criminal Justice Committee last week and is attracting bipartisan support, even among lawmakers otherwise skeptical of the “tough-on-crime” policies that have been blamed for Louisiana’s nation-leading incarceration rate.
“I think everybody understands the danger of heroin,” said Rep. Joseph Lopinto, R-Metairie, the committee’s chairman and the author of the bill. “I don’t want to put them away for the rest of their lives, but from the other standpoint, I want to make it enough of a deterrent that when they do get out of prison they say, ‘I’m staying away from that stuff.’ That’s the purpose.”
The proposal, which also would double the mandatory minimum sentence for heroin distribution from five to 10 years, stands in sharp contrast to a package of other legislative measures that aim to reduce the state’s teeming prison population, in part by shortening jail time for nonviolent offenders. And it comes at a time of growing recognition among conservatives and liberals alike that mandatory minimums for drug offenses have strained state coffers while doing little, if anything, to curb crime.
“Louisiana already has the highest incarceration rate in the nation, and part of the reason for that is their history with mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses,” said Lauren Galik, a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, who has studied the state’s sentencing laws. “It clearly hasn’t served as a deterrent effect if people are still using drugs.”
State Police patrols along Interstate 10 on the lookout this past weekend for drug trafficking, possibly from Mexico, confiscated more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana valued at about $1.5 million in three traffic stops between Baton Rouge and Lafayette.
“We’re hoping that people realize that there are a lot of narcotics traveling through our state,” Trooper 1st Class Jared Sandifer said.
Sandifer described the stops as “proactive traffic stops.” All three drivers were traveling east on the interstate, and two of the three drivers booked are from Texas.
“A lot of the marijuana and narcotics is coming from Mexico,” Sandifer said. “They will recruit drivers from Texas to ferry them across the states.”
In all three cases, State Police stopped the cars after spotting improper lane usage, a broad category that includes failure to signal during a lane change or crossing the center line, Sandifer said.
“(Troopers) know what to look for,” Sandifer said. “It’s not profiling.”
All three drivers were booked on counts of improper lane usage and possession with intent to distribute narcotics.
The biggest haul of three stops — 586 pounds of pot — was handled by Troop I. The stop was made at 7:15 a.m. Monday west of Henderson in St. Martin Parish, Sandifer said. Juan Rangel, 25, of Brownsville, Texas, was booked into St. Martin Parish Jail. He drove a 2013 Nissan Pathfinder and also had no driver’s license, Sandifer said.
In the other two stops, on Friday and Sunday nights, troopers with Troop A uncovered 100 and 244 pounds of pot respectively.
The Friday stop also turned up 11,000 doses of Ecstasy, valued at more than $110,000, as well as 8 ounces of codeine syrup, Sandifer said. Those stops occurred in the same place, in West Baton Rouge Parish west of the La. 415 interchange.
In the Friday stop, at 11:30 p.m., Jamorrius R. Gibson, 23, of Hammond, was driving a 2007 Honda Accord, Sandifer said. In the Sunday stop, also at 11:30 p.m., Martin Martinez, 34, of La Marque, Texas, was driving a 2007 Mercedes CL550. Both Gibson and Martinez were booked in West Baton Rouge Parish jail.
“We’re going to stop as many of these guys as we can who choose to drive narcotics through our state,” Sandifer said.
State Police also disclosed a similar stop conducted a month earlier, at noon Feb. 26. Like the ones this past week, it involved an eastbound car, a 2013 Lexus GS350, and it occurred along I-10 west of the La. 415 interchange. During that stop, troopers found 11 pounds of cocaine, which Sandifer said is worth an estimated $406,000, along with two handguns and $10,000 in cash hidden in the vehicle.
Christopher Lee-Sinc Jackson, 31, of Beaumont, Texas, was booked in West Baton Rouge Parish jail on counts of possession with intent to distribute narcotics, as well as improper lane usage and illegal carrying of weapons, Sandifer said.