Senators seek to ban high strength grain alcoholBy Melita Kiely
High strength grain alcohol could be banned in the US state of Maryland after senators voted in favour of its outlaw on Wednesday.
The Maryland Senate voted 37-10 in favour of Senate Bill 75, meaning it will now be sent to the full House of Delegates for a vote.
The bill proposes to prohibit the sale of alcohol of 95% abv or more and would mean those found guilty of flouting the law could be fined up to $1,000.
However, it has already been approved by the Senate twice in previous years but has always died in the House committee.
At least 12 other states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, have already imposed a ban on the clear-coloured spirit, which is often marketed as moonshine, and Maryland is attempting to follow suit as it strives to curb binge drinking, particularly among university students.
For decades, grain alcohol has been a popular cheap choice of spirit for students who often mix it with lemonade or fruit punch but in recent years, experts have hit out at grain alcohol for being “dangerous” as they strive to crackdown on binge drinking on university campuses.
Speaking to The Baltimore Sun, Frostburg State University president Jonathan C. Gibralter, said: “It really should not be for human consumption.”
He described the spirit as an “extremely dangerous product” and warned “most of the time students don’t even know they’re consuming it”.
Some retailers and industry representatives, however believe students see grain alcohol as a “novelty” and lawmakers are “unfairly blaming” the spirit for problem drinking.
“Yet again, the alcohol industry is being blamed for a problem it didn’t create,” said David Marberger, presidents of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association. “Next year what are they going to do? Introduce a bill to ban 180-proof?”
A recent study showed approximately one in five Maryland university students meets the criteria for alcohol abuse and 83% of students under the age of 21 drinks alcohol.