Grain alcohol facing potential ban in Maryland

MITCHELL NORTHAM
Staff Writer

Party-goers and students may be drinking their last sip of Riot Punch or Jungle Juice very soon.

Grain alcohol, commonly sold under the brand name Everclear, is the key ingredient to making these favorites, but it could soon be outlawed by the state of Maryland.

On February 5, Maryland Senators voted 37-10 to pass a bill outlawing the sale of 190-proof alcohol with grain alcohol being the main target, which contains 95 percent alcohol.

Richard Madaleno – the Montgomery County Democrat who is sponsoring the bill – said that “This is a small step (that the Senate) can do to improve safety.”

Backing Madaleno’s bill is Frostburg University President Jonathan C. Gibralter and echoed the senator’s comments in a statement.

“(Grain alcohol) really should not be for human consumption,” he said.

The dangers of the drink have been well documented and a recent study found that approximately one in five Maryland college students meet the criteria for alcohol abuse. However, most say that students will just find another drink to abuse, and outlawing one is a slippery slope.

“Drinking in excess is a choice and the consequences are the same regardless of the drink,” said Ryan Liszewski, an exercise science major at Salisbury and a bartender at Specific Gravity. “If it’s a matter of safety, then honestly the drinker should be aware of what they are getting themselves into before they purchase or take the drink.”

One local liquor store employee agreed with Liszewski, but wished to remain anonymous.

“All (alcohol) can hurt you if you overdo it,” she said. “Whether its 80-proof or 190, it doesn’t make a difference. College kids are going to over-drink.”

John Urdahl, manager of Last Call Liquors in Salisbury, said he sells two to four bottles of Everclear on an average weekend but said that banning the drink wouldn’t “make or break” his sales.

“It doesn’t really affect me either way,” he said.

Urdahl’s biggest fear is the slippery slope that banning the potent alcohol can create.

“Once you start banning 190-proof, what’s next? 151? There are a lot of really good alcohol’s that are a little over proof,” he said. “If they ban just the 190-proof, then I’m all for it. I just don’t want it to trickle down and affect other alcohols.”

This will be the third time that the Senate has tried to ban grain alcohol – the last instance coming in 2010 – and the last two times the House of Delegates have killed the bill.

The bill will head to the House one more time, but even if it is banned, Urdahl isn’t worried and already has a backup plan.

“Everclear makes 150-proof,” he said. “So if it comes down to it then I’ll get that and people won’t know the difference. It’s still over-proof.”

It’s still unclear when the House will vote on the bill but, while it waits on the doorsteps, Everclear and other grain alcohol’s remain in limbo in the state of Maryland.

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