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Maryland Looking to Ban Grain Alcohol

Maryland Looking to Ban Grain Alcohol

These bottles of Everclear won't be seen in Maryland stores anymore if this current ban is passed.

The state of Maryland, backed by major universities, are looking to tackle college-age (and oftentimes underage), binge drinking in a big way. The Maryland Senate passed a bill, that, if it holds up in the House of Delegates, would ban the sale of grain alcohol, or liquors above 190 proof like Everclear, a clear, tasteless grain alcohol brand that’s popular on college campuses because it takes so little of the product to become intoxicated.

According to The Washington Post, if passed, a violation would result in a $1,000 fine, but there would be no penalty for possession of the high-proof liquor. Senators in opposition to the bill are concerned that young drinkers will just buy more of a different type of alcohol. But still, college campuses like Johns Hopkins University and Towson University approve of the measure.

“This is a good step on part of Maryland to try to address this huge issue,” said Professor Donna Cox, director of alcohol tobacco and other drug abuse prevention center at Towson University. “For these students, it’s not really about getting the alcohol. It’s very purposeful in that they want to get wasted and don’t understand implications of that.”

Noah Rothbaum, the editor-in-chief at Liquor.com said that grain alcohol is a very niche product, and is often used by bartenders for specialty drinks. Although he would not comment directly on the ban of grain alcohol, he did say that the product is so flammable, that it is often used in flambé desserts. “Most stores don’t even stock Bacardi 151 or Everclear; it’s a niche product,” said Rothbaum. “Grain alcohol should be treated special because obviously you’re going to feel the alcohol a lot more.”


Maryland Senate Seeks To Ban Grain Alcohol

And you thought prohibition ended in 1933. Earlier this month, the Maryland Senate voted in favor of a new bill that would essentially ban the sale of alcohol comprised of 95% of more alcohol per volume (APV). Whether you’re currently a Maryland resident or not, you should pay close attention to what the Senate here does, as it may spread into other states as well.

Midnight Moon Apple Pie Moonshine: photo by nan palmero.

Maryland Senate Bill 75 aims to prohibit the sale of high-alcohol spirits by imposing a maximum fine of $1,000 on violators. However, it’s important to note that this bill only affects spirits of 190 proof (95% ABV) or higher. If you prefer the ‘softer’ spirits, you don’t have to worry about this bill. On the other hand, if you enjoy a glass of moonshine every once in a while, this bill could certainly impact your normal routine.

“We found very few kids who are drinking grain alcohol for a casual nip at dinner. This is as strong as you can get. There is no product that I know of higher than this. This is the outlier,” said David H. Jerniga, director of Alcohol Marketing and Youth.

There are around a dozen other states which have passed similar bills designed to prohibit sales of high-alcohol spirits, including Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

But not everyone is in favor of passing the Maryland Bill 75. There are plenty of residents, business owners and politicians who believe it’s the individual’s own right to decide whether or not they wash to drink a high-alcohol spirit such as moonshine.

“Yet again, the alcohol industry is being blamed for a problem it didn’t create. Next year, what are they going to do? Introduce a bill to ban 180-proof,” said David Marberger, president of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association.

The good news is that just because the Maryland Senate voted in favor of Bill 75 doesn’t necessarily mean it will pass. Once the senate approves a bill, it then passes to the House of Delegates who has the final word. The Maryland Senate has approved this same bill twice in previous years, and both times it was shot down in the House of Delegates. While there’s a good change it will get denied for a third time, Maryland residents remain dubious of their politicians’ goals.

What do you think about Maryland’s Bill 75? Let us know in the comments section below!


The bill would ban 190-proof alcoholic beverages like Everclear. (WBAL's Robert Lang)

Anne Arundel County Senator Ed Reilly holds up a bottle of a grain alcohol that would be banned, during today's floor debate. (WBAL's Robert Lang)

State Senators Ed Reilly (R-Anne Arundel), Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery) and Karen Montgomery (D-Montgomery) debated this bill.
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Maryland's Senate has passed a measure to ban "extreme-strength" alcoholic beverages, 190-proof or higher, from stores.

The bill, which passed 37-10 on Wednesday, would halt sales of grain alcohol brands like Everclear, Gem Clear and Golden Grain, though Everclear's 150-proof version would remain legal.

A proof of 190 translates to 95 percent alcohol content. That's more than most rubbing alcohol.

Many of Maryland's college presidents requested the ban to help curb student drinking problems. Frostburg State University President Jonathan Gibralter says when grain alcohol is mixed with drinks like fruit punch or lemonade it hardly affects the flavor, making it easy to drink too much.

The bill's sponsor, Montgomery County Democratic Richard Madaleno, says students often mix these drinks with energy drinks, so they can stay awake and drink more alcohol

Some sexual assault advocates consider it a date-rape drug.

"This is a date-rape drug. This is a take somebody's clothes off and take pictures of them drug. This is a dangerous alcohol," Montgomery County Democratic Senator Karen Montgomery told her colleagues.

Montgomery admonished some of her colleagues who during floor debate talked about how they drank grain alcohol when they were in college. She says many lawmakers were making light of a serious issue of binge drinking.

Anne Arundel County Republican Senator Ed Reilly, who told his colleagues he drank similar products when he was in college, noted banning these beverages won't stop binge drinking.

He says college students will use other forms of alcohol to get drunk.

Reilly at one point during the debate read from the label of a bottle of Everclear, and passed it around his colleagues asking them to smell the alcohol.

Reilly rejected claims from supporters of the bill who say the products are odorless.

Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania have already banned 190-proof products.

Under the bill, retailers who sell this product could face a maximum of a $1,000 fine.


Maryland proposes ban on grain alcohol

That beloved staple of frat parties, the main ingredient of frenzied pre-games in Loyola’s crowded dorms, and that infamous brand—Everclear—could be gone forever.

In the state of Maryland, lawmakers are considering a ban on grain alcohol. It’s a college student’s worst nightmare, like a second Prohibition, speculated by many to rock the drinking scene on campuses across the state.
Liquor that’s over 190-proof—in other words, 95 percent alcohol—is in danger of being outlawed, as it has been in several other states, including Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Maryland senate voted recently to prohibit the sale of grain alcohol and the bill will likely move to the House of Delegates. The Sun claims this is the bill’s “best shot at passage in years.” Twice approved in the past, the bill has always been defeated by the House committee—but committee chairman Dereck E. Davis told the newspaper he would be surprised if it didn’t get through.
The push for such a bill to be passed comes from college and university presidents, who feel that the strong booze puts their students in grave danger. Universities such as Johns Hopkins, Towson and the nearby U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis have spoken out about the health hazards associated with grain alcohol and have urged that the bill become law for the safety of their student populations.

Safety is an issue when it comes to grain alcohol, frankly, because it is such a strong drink. People who use grain alcohol typically do so in order to get very drunk very quickly (and very cheaply). The many Loyola students who have tried it—or even heard of it—can attest to that. Everclear is the usual choice: the jugs of grain alcohol produced by Luxco come cheaply, in both 190- and 151-proof forms. I’ve seen a bottle of it at almost every college party I’ve ever been to, and my fellow underage drinkers and I always know what it means when we do: time to binge.

Although Loyola is not a main proponent of the new bill, the administration is concerned about the level of dangerous drinking at our school. “Unfortunately many students who drink mixed drinks are not aware of the contents of the drink,” said Dr. Sheila Shaw Horton, vice president for Student Development and dean of students.

Since drinks with grain alcohol are more potent, she says, “they cause students to have blackouts and increased alcohol emergencies. This law will help to limit access to dangerous grain alcohol and will hopefully lower the negative consequences associated with student drinking.”

It’s true: very few kids are drinking Everclear, or any type of grain alcohol, “for a casual nip at dinner,” as the director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins, David Jernigan, put it to the Baltimore Sun. “This is as strong as you can get.”

The possible ban, therefore, would be a preventative measure to keep young binge-drinkers from alcohol poisoning, or death—a fate that almost 2,000 Americans meet each year.

“Grain alcohol definitely promotes binge drinking among college students,” said Giuliana Caranante, class of ’15, who serves on Loyola’s Junior Assembly. She, like many others, feels that the ban would be “beneficial for the entire Maryland community” because it would discourage inappropriate and dangerous behavior related to drinking.

Part of the problem, then, is not just the alcohol but the way we treat it and abuse it.
Cheap, translucent Everclear is notorious for being the drink that’s secretly slipped into the punch at a party (something I experienced, unknowingly, my freshman year at Loyola). Since we use the liquor to trick our friends or intoxicate ourselves at rapid speeds, it’s no wonder why it results in accident, sickness and death.

I have to be skeptical, then, about how effective such a law will be—if and when it passes. I’m reminded again of my freshman year of college, when the FDA targeted Four Loko and deemed it unsafe. Instead of recognizing the health risks of a drink that mixes alcohol and caffeine, young people in America went out and bought cases of the stuff, creating stockpiles for when the ingredients were eventually changed. Now that Four Loko is caffeine-less, we’ve found substitutes for putting ourselves at risk: mixing Red Bull and vodka, for example.

What all of this means is that we, as young people, have to change our behaviors if there is to be a significant change in the number of alcohol-related injuries, poisonings and deaths.
Obviously the threat of grain alcohol’s untimely death is a blow to college students throughout the state of Maryland. But in this current state of affairs, if we have a firm resolve to get absolutely smashed and hurt ourselves, we’re going to do it whether or not Everclear is on the shelves we’ll make do.


95% ethanol, usually with about 4.5% water and 0.5% other stuff), you can very easily purchase DENATURED alcohol (for example, at drug stores and paint stores and outdoor camping stores), which is ethanol mixed with small quantities of an additive that renders it unsuitable for human consumption. One version of denatured alcohol is "methylated" spirits, which usually means 90-95% ethanol mixed with 5-10% "wood" alcohol (i.e., 10% methanol). Other common denaturants for ethyl alcohol include acetaldehyde, isopropyl alcohol, and so on. You can find a complete list of all the legal denaturants here:

Walmart, for example, sells Kean Strip paint thinner, which is denatured alcohol: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Klean-Stri. l-1qt/17208795. But it's nearly half methanol, and also has methyl isobutyl ketone in it.

Chemical supply houses usually stock denatured alcohol (95% ethanol) with minimal amounts of fairly inert denaturant, and these may be better suited for luthier work. The trick is to get something that doesn't leave a residue after drying and doesn't interfere with the desired chemical characteristics of the ethanol.

You can find out what the denaturant actually is by looking up the MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheet) for the product, even if they don't list list on the container -- and they usually DON'T! But it has to be in the MSDS by law.

Here's an example of an MSDS sheet for a denatured alcohol from "ScienceLab", which shows that the only additives are methanol and isopropanol: http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9922820

(That stuff should be just fine for luthiery, and won't dry with a residue.)

Depending upon the exact chemical used for the denaturant, many types of denatured alcohol sold over the counter are perfectly well suited to thinning shellac and the like.

One thing is certain: you don't have to stick with EverClear. Unless you plan to drink some on the side, that is!


Maryland ban on grain alcohol hurts violin makers they say it made a good varnish

why do we need to ban everything that can possibly be abused?

And so Maryland has opened the door for a fine black market item. one that's legal in the surrounding states and so is ripe for buying and selling mere miles away.

Way to go, Maryland, way to go!

It really helped with a good shellacking.

How many violin makers can there possibly be in Maryland? 2?

Their logic for this ban seems to mean they want students to get drunk more expensively.

Yes, because rum takes so much longer.

Isopropyl alcohol is manufactured to be undrinkable and usually isn't, Why can't this be done with grain alcohol, And then you could buy it at the dollar store?

They can and do. It's called denatured alcohol.

I don't get why to ban this stuff, but industrial alcohol was always cheaper anyway. A little bitterant or methanol in your alcohol isn't going to alter its use as a varnish, will it?

I really don't see why states ban this stuff. Makes no sense at all.


O’Malley Signs Bill Banning Grain Alcohol

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a measure on Monday banning the sale of alcohol that is 190-proof and stronger.

The new law had strong backing from leaders of colleges and universities.

“Grain alcohol is seen as a cheap and reliable way to get drunk quickly, sometimes without the person knowing it,” said Jonathan Gibralter, president of Frostburg State University, who attended a bill signing ceremony and noted that the inexpensive cost equates to about 35 cents a drink. “Not surprisingly, its potency and low price make grain alcohol a popular option for college students.”

U.S. Naval Academy Commandant Bill Byrne also attended to show his support. The academy is part of the Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems. The group formed last year to address problems with excessive drinking among college students.

“We’re trying to create the environment where our midshipmen and other college students can make smart decisions, and this is one further step headed toward that direction,” Byrne said.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, prohibits a person from selling at retail an alcoholic beverage with an alcohol content of 95 percent or more. Violations will be punishable as a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000.

More than a dozen states have passed similar laws. Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania already have banned 190-proof products


Grieving mom crusades to ban grain alcohol after son's death

Periodically, columnist Jim Stingl hits the streets of Milwaukee. To see his latest video columns, click the thumbnails below.

The phone call was from a woman I didn't know. "I'm calling to invite you to my son's funeral today," she said.

Jeff Wielichowski, 22, drowned in the Greenfield family's swimming pool on July 15 after drinking a punch made of 190-proof Everclear grain alcohol, Red Bull and Gatorade.

Luanne Wielichowski believes her only son had no idea how potent this concoction was, and she has channeled her grief into a crusade to ban the sale of Everclear and other high-proof booze in Wisconsin, as some other states have done.

I did stop at the funeral at St. Alphonsus Church in Greendale and talked briefly with Jeff's mother and dad, Luanne and Jerry, who were surrounded by things that had been dear to him - the diploma from Viterbo University in La Crosse that he earned two months earlier, samples of his graphic art, his camera, his electric guitar, the music playing on his iPod.

Their creative son had been looking for a job in the arts or media, and just a week earlier had committed to a five-year loan for a better car. A promising future was unfolding for the 2006 Greenfield High School grad.

"He was not ready to die. It was not his time," his mother said.

Luanne has become something of an instant expert on high-powered grain alcohol. She began calling everyone from the governor's office on down to, in her words, ban this poison. The Everclear bottle purchased by Jeff and a friend remains at the family's home, a painful reminder of a night that her parents can't stop replaying in their minds.

"It smells like rubbing alcohol," Luanne said, unscrewing the top and putting her nose to the opening. The bottle has a price tag of $17.99 and a warning that its contents are extremely flammable. People have been known to use this stuff as a cleaning solvent and for circus fire-breathing acts. A designation of 190 proof means it's 95% alcohol. Most popular gin, vodka, brandy and other hard liquor is 80 proof, or 40% alcohol.

On July 15, Jeff and a longtime friend went to Loomis Beer & Liquor at Loomis and Layton and bought the Everclear and other party supplies. Everclear is available at many liquor stores and even grocery stores, though the owner of this particular store voluntarily took it off the shelf after learning of Jeff's death.

Another male friend and three female friends joined them that night at the Wielichowski home. Jeff and one friend mixed up the Everclear, Red Bull and Gatorade and started drinking it about 8:30 p.m. His parents have since learned this blend has an all-too-fitting name: Tucker Death Mix.

Just a short time later, Luanne, who was home that night along with Jerry, noticed her son's speech was slurred when he briefly came into the house. She urged him to stop drinking. Jerry saw the Everclear bottle and told his son, "Get rid of that stuff. It's going to make you sick."

A little later, he jumped in the pool, as he had countless times since childhood. It's about 5 feet deep. His friends later said he seemed to be swimming frantically.

"It is my best guess," Luanne said, "that his heart was speeding from the Red Bull, and he thought he could just swim it off. Instead, he became unconscious from the Everclear and went to the bottom of the pool."

At this point, she can't prove what role the strong alcohol played in his death. Final autopsy results have not been determined yet by the Milwaukee County medical examiner, which ruled the death a drowning. Luanne was informed her son's blood-alcohol level was 0.26%, more than three times the legal limit for driving.

The friends pulled Jeff from the pool and laid him on the deck, but didn't tell his parents right away that he apparently had passed out. About 10:30 p.m., Jerry came outside and found his son unresponsive and not breathing. Luanne, a professor of nursing at Alverno College, did CPR to try to save her son's life. Someone called 911, and a rescue squad and police came, but Jeff could not be revived.

Last Tuesday would have been his 23rd birthday. Seven weeks after his death, his bedroom at home is undisturbed. Luanne said she can't bring herself to even pull the sheets from his bed. His death is so hard to accept. No one wants to go in the pool anymore.

The family has faced other challenges. Jerry and also Jeff's 30-year-old sister, Lindsay Goff, were diagnosed with cancer in 2004. Jerry is still receiving chemotherapy.

The family's state representative, Peggy Krusick, has taken an interest in their cause and plans to introduce a bill to ban the sale of products like Everclear. First, she plans to check with law enforcement, health experts and with other states to see what they've done. A patchwork of restrictions, including outright bans, exists in more than a dozen states, including neighboring Minnesota and Michigan.

Luanne also has turned to the governor's State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse. Citizen member Joyce O'Donnell from West Allis said the council's planning and funding committee, which she chairs, took a position in August to support a ban on 190-proof grain alcohol.

Everclear is a brand of Luxco, a St. Louis spirits company. Company chairman and CEO Donn Lux declined to comment on Jeff's death or Luanne's allegations about the product. The company's website says Everclear enjoys "a loyal, near cult-status, following." Other Internet sites glorify its hard-partying reputation.

What it does is get you drunk fast, especially younger users, Luanne said. Her son paid the ultimate price for a very bad choice, she said, and it's her goal to inform other families about this stuff and prevent similar tragedies.

"Was it sold legally to them? Yes, it was. But I don't think people are really aware of what it is," she said. "I need something good to come out of this horrible story."


Sunday, February 15, 2015

DC Memorials on the Tidal Basin

Construction of the Jefferson Memorial began in 1938. FDR laid the cornerstone. Well, not physically, but he is still given the credit. It may strike a reasonable person as odd that Roosevelt, a president who did more to undermine the Constitution and traditional American values than perhaps any other, would have even been associated with a memorial to a champion of individual freedom and limited government. But by linking Jefferson to himself, FDR could give legitimacy to his regime and ideas. Sure, he confiscated people's gold, threatened dramatic changes to the judicial branch when they refused to uphold his novel constitutional theories, and imprisoned citizens merely on account of their ethnic background, but hey, he was just a modern day Thomas Jefferson.

In fact, on the walls there are various quotes from Jefferson. One reads:

In other words, what was appropriate for the people in Jefferson's time (limited government and individual rights) is not what we need in the modern world. We need this new socialist scheme called the New Deal and other restrictions on our freedom because the world is much more complex and dangerous. Jefferson was an intelligent man who knew what was best for his time and would understand what we are doing now is what is best today.

I had a feeling of disappointment and despair as I explored this memorial as it was painfully obvious what the intent of the designers was. A simple farmer who fought for human freedom had been deified and his words and image had been taken to support an ideology and a leader he would have been appalled with. I was happy to find later that I was not the only one who felt this way. For example, the now late Professor Ronald Hamowy wrote:

Of course, do not attempt to voice any objections in the memorial itself. Political discourse is forbidden. So is any artistic expression, no matter how quiet or undisturbing. Armed thugs who work for Federal government will assault and arrest you. It is impossible to imagine that Jefferson would have approved of anything about this memorial. I suppose it is worth a visit just to say that you have been there. Tears over the fate of the nation are the price of admission. It is otherwise free.

A short walk from the Jefferson Memorial is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. It is a sprawling, confusing, and ugly display fitting to the memory of the leader who brought so much confusion to our constitutional order. Various quotes from FDR are inscribed on the walls. One ironic one reads, "We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens, whatever their background." Japanese Americans might wonder about that one.


This memorial takes up way too much space. It is spread out over 7.5 acres. It is appropriate that it was constructed during the Bill Clinton regime as he was known for giving speeches that were way too long. Wasting people's time seems to have been part of the Zeitgeist.

The final memorial I visited was to George Mason, one of the founding fathers.
Mason was an anti-Federalist who never signed the Constitution because he feared that it did not provide enough protections against the Federal government. In retrospect, he had a point, but the fault may not be with the Constitution itself, but with those charged with upholding it. Paper constitutions are of limited value.

This memorial was completed in 2002. It is rather simple and small. The quotations on the walls have mostly faded, just as the memory of Mason and his ideas have all but faded from the consciousness of most Americans. Nevertheless, it stands as a tiny reminder of his life and work.

All of these memorials are free and are located in the West Potomac Park, which also has free parking. There were plenty of spots on the lot when I visited on a weekend. So even if you aren't excited to see these particular memorials, it is a good place to leave your car if you otherwise want to explore the city and don't mind a little bit of walking.


Senators seek to ban high strength grain alcohol

Maryland Senate is seeking to ban the sale of grain alcohol, often marketed as moonshine

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.


In Which States Is It Legal to Sell Everclear?

Currently 14 states ban the sale of Everclear including California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Iowa, Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, North Carolin, Virginia, and Ohio. Alcohol vendors can sell Everclear in the other 36 states. Some states, such as Maryland, disallow the sales of grain alcohol, but owning such drinks is not a crime.

States cite sexual assaults as the reason to ban the sales of grain alcohol. One shot of Everclear is 2.5 times stronger than a shot of vodka and has no taste. Binge drinking is a concern on college campuses. Bartenders use the substance to add a kick to fruity drinks.

Alcohol sales brought $15.8 million in tax revenue to Maryland in 2013, and grain alcohol was a very small portion of that total. Violin makers and cake decorators complained about Maryland's ban, explaining that grain alcohol helps their businesses. Everclear dissolves colorings used to varnish violins, and the substance dissolves edible powders that go into cake fondant.

Grain alcohol such as Everclear is 190 proof, or 95 percent alcohol by volume. States such as Wisconsin have attempted to ban the sale of grain alcohol several times without success.