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Md. Senate votes to outlaw grain alcohol

Maryland senators voted Wednesday to outlaw sales of the clear, potent booze that's been a staple at college parties.

The move comes after a push from Maryland university presidents who say grain-alcohol, which is 95 percent pure, contributes to a dangerous culture of binge drinking. The 190-proof liquor is sold under several brands and sometimes is marketed as "moonshine," but is often known by the most popular brand name, Everclear. 

"This is a small step we can do to improve to safety," said Sen. Richard Madaleno of Montgomery County, a Democrat who sponsored the bill at the request of college presidents. The Senate approved it 37-10, primarily along party lines.

The potential ban now moves to the House of Delegates, which has twice before killed such proposals.  

At least a dozen other states have also outlawed sales of 190-proof liquor, according to legislative analysts, including Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. States across the country have set various limits on the potency of liquor.  

Sen. Ed Reilly, a Republican, said he voted against it "not for lack of love for our college students. It's where do we draw the line?"

Reilly, who brought an unopened bottle of Everclear into the Senate chambers for debate, pointed out that college students could still get other strong liquors, including Barcadi 151, a rum named for its 151-proof alcohol content.  Reilly, of Anne Arundel, suggested that instead of restricting sales of booze, the state should work on alcohol education. "We need to get to the heart of the matter."

"Lots of luck on that one," responded Sen. Karen Montgomery, a Democrat. She argued the potent booze, often poured into lemonade, fruit punch or watermelons, contributes to sexual assault of women.

"This is a date-rape drug," she said. "This a dangerous alcohol."

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