For those of you who do not live in the State of Washington, there’s been a recent scare surrounding the alcoholic beverage Four Loko (warning: Worthless flash age verification within), a shitty 24 proof alcoholic beverage mixed with caffeine, guarana, and taurine, all the better to give a consumer a drunk and a jittery buzz at the same time . It packaged in garish colors, and is designed to appeal to younger drinkers.
Last month, nine Central Washington University students became ill after drinking Four Loko. Law enforcement officers reported the students had blood alcohol levels ranging from 0.12 to 0.35 percent, more than four times the legal limit. A blood-alcohol concentration of 0.30 percent is considered potentially lethal.
Yesterday, the Liquor Control Board banned the drink, and all other similar products, and have had them removed from the shelves. Their edict:
The Washington State Liquor Control Board hereby finds:
* The 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution grants states the authority to regulate the sale and dristribution of alcoholic beverages.
* The overuse of caffeine can result in acute overdoses that can cause health problems including anxiety, heart palpitation, mania, depression, lapses of judgement, and, in extreme cases, death.,
* The marketing messages of malt beverage products containing caffeine and other stimulants imply that they have energizing effects and fail to disclose to consumers the adverse effects and consequences associated with their consumption.
* The protection of the public health, safety, and welfare require the Board take Emergency action to prevent further sale and distribution of malt beverage products containing caffeine and other stimulants in the State of Washington.
Approved this 10th day of November, 2010.
In following this chain of events, I can’t help but think that this is a knee-jerk reaction to one unfortunate event of *gasp* college kids over-indulging.
But in reading the first half of their edict, something stands out. Let’s visit that, shall we?
In 2010, the Board sought legislation that would prohibit the sale of caffeinated malt beverages in the state, but faced a general lack of awareness of these product and their potentially harful effects.
In other words, the Liquor Control Board has been trying to get these products off of the shelf for quite some time, and couldn’t get it done via traditional methods.
Suddenly a news story appears where *gasp* college kids over-indulge in alcohol, one that coincidentally was one of the brands that the Liquor Control Board was trying to remove from the shelves.
Two weeks later, in an emergency edict based off of this story, they are able to ban (albeit for only 120 days) these products, using this story as a de facto rationale for their decision.
Well huh. It’s almost as if someone with a political agenda saw an opportunity and decided to run with it, a run that allowed them to avoid the standard legislative process.
Three points worth noting here:
1) Binge drinking by college students has never been the cause célèbre of the Liquor Board prior to this incident.
2) Caffeine, Taurine, and Guarana are all legal products in the State of Washington.
3) So is alcohol served at 24 proof.
Knowing these three items, my question to the Liquor Control Board is as follows:
How, exactly, are these drinks illegal?
I’m not saying that there’s nothing skeevy about these drinks. But “skeevy” isn’t a solid enough legal rationale to outlaw a drink that fits within the confines of state law. Is it their marketing? Is it the mixture of stimulants with a depressant? (side question: Would that make Irish Coffees and Jack and Cokes illegal too?)
I ask again – How, exactly, are these drinks illegal?
Because until they answer that question, the Liquor Control Board’s implication of “it’s illegal because we say it’s illegal” sets a dangerous precedent.