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Maryland Senate Votes To Ban High-Proof Alcohol From Liquor Stores

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The Maryland Senate passed a bill today by a vote of 37-10 that would ban high-proof alcohol from liquor stores.

Montgomery County Democrat Richard Madaleno's bill would ban any drink that is 95 percent alcohol — 190 proof — from being sold in Maryland. He told his colleagues on the Senate floor the measure really targets only one kind of liquor: grain alcohol.

"It's odorless. It's tasteless. It's an easy way, if you want to dump grain alcohol into a punch or any other drink, in order to up the grain alcohol content," he said.

There are many dangers stemming from such high-proof alcohol according to Madaleno, who says that leaders at universities in Maryland are asking for the measure. They blame alcohol poisoning for fights, sexual assaults, injuries, and deaths.

Those concerns were echoed by Democrat Karen Montgomery of Montgomery County, one of the 37 senators who approved the bill. She says while there will always be jokes about alcohol and trying to get college students to stop drinking, this was no laughing matter.

"This is a date rape drug," Montgomery said. "This is a take somebody's clothes off and take pictures of them. This is a dangerous alcohol."

Republican Ed Reilly of Anne Arundel County purchased a bottle of Everclear at an Annapolis liquor store on Tuesday night and brought it with him to the Senate floor today. He disagrees with the characterization that it is odorless.

"As a child — one of nine children — I ended up in the doctor's office on a regular basis," Reilly said. "When I opened the top and took a smell, it reminded me of the wonderful days getting stitches and x-rays."

Reilly was one of ten senators who ended up voting against the measure.

"Where do we draw the line? If we're at 190 this year, the next bill will come in at 150 or 110 or 90," he said.

The bill now moves to the House of Delegates.

The Senate was prepared to vote on the bill yesterday, but a one-day delay was granted so skeptical senators could see what restrictions neighboring states such as Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania have on high-proof liquor. As the report indicates (pdf), all three have either prohibited its sale or put severe restrictions on those who can buy it.

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