Michigan Bans Alcoholic Energy Drinks

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

They've been called "cocaine in a can", "blackout" and "alcopop".

And, at least in the state of Michigan, you can call alcoholic energy drinks banned too.

A Commission Order Thursday from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission rescinded approval of 55 varieties of alcoholic energy drinks from 9 different companies. Retailers have 30 days from Nov. 4th to stop selling the product.

"They don't feel it's a safe product right now," said Sharon Martin, Director of Licensing for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

A lot of the reason for that is a danger associated with mixing caffeine and alcohol.

"People don't feel drunk," said Mike Tobias, executive director with Michigan Alcohol Policy. "Our research shows people are more likely to drink and drive, more likely to assault people."

"Basically what it does is, well we say it's a wide awake drunk feeling," said Martin.

Tobias says his group has been advocating against alcoholic energy drinks for two years. They have additional concerns about the labelling of these drinks being similar in some cases to non-alcoholic energy drinks and the high alcohol content in some varieties. For example, Four Loko contains 12% alcohol. In a 24 oz. can, there is the equivalent of 5 beers worth of alcohol. A cheap way to get drunk when you consider that you can generally buy that same 24 oz. can for $2.49 or less.

But some retailers are not happy with the decision. Rich McCarius owns Tom's Party Store in East Lansing and says the decision doesn't make sense.

"They seem to be coming after retailers again for a product that you could go into any bar and have a drink like a Red Bull and Jaegermeister or a shot of Grand Marnier and coffee," said McCarius.

Four Loko is a big seller at Tom's Party Store and alcoholic energy drinks tend to be a big hit with college students. McCarius says it's not at all uncommon for them to sell out of the product by Sunday.

He also expects a rush to buy up remaining alcoholic energy drinks before the ban goes into effect in early December.

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