In an effort to curb binge drinking, particularly among college students, the Maryland Senate passed a bill that would ban the sale of grain alcohol, or any alcoholic product at or above 190 proof. That includes products such as Everclear and Gem Clear, which, like all 190 proof alcohol products, contain about 95% ethyl alcohol. That’s more than rubbing alcohol!
While the proposed legislation doesn’t include penalties for anyone in possession of grain alcohol, anyone who sells grain alcohol would be charged with a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.
According to Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr., the bill’s sponsor, university presidents in the state requested the ban to curb drinking problems among college students. Grain alcohol is considered a big contributor to alcohol poisoning due to its cheap price, its lack of taste and smell, and a potency that causes impairing effects after a much smaller amount than your average alcoholic beverage.
According to David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at John Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, college students who are binge drinkers are 36 times more likely to drink grain alcohol than non-binge drinkers. And when students drink grain alcohol, they’re not just drinking a single Everclear cocktail with dinner.
Everclear and other grain alcohols are often mixed with drinks like fruit punch, and since it doesn’t affect the flavor, it’s easy to drink too much. Some partygoers aren’t even aware grain alcohol is what’s in a mixed drink at a party, which is why its often considered a date rape drug.
Despite passing the Senate 37 to 10, the bill isn’t without its skeptics. Sen. Edward Reilly pointed out that prohibiting grain alcohol’s sale would not have a significant impact on binge drinking and college drinking, as students will simply buy more of another alcoholic product.
The bill has passed the Senate twice before but has never made it through the House of Delegates. Madaleno is hoping that the backing of Del. Charles Barkley, chairman of the Economic Matters subcommittee on alcoholic beverages, will finally allow the bill passage.