I made a provocative statement last week on Twitter, addressed to the Indiana legislature: If you support banning powdered alcohol, then you support the kind of brutal violence committed by vice cops in Virginia against an underage man denied entry to a bar. Because of the limitations of the platform, I could not explain this position in detail, but intended it to be a jumping-off point for a longer argument.
Here is that longer argument.
When government passes laws, especially laws that will be enforced by police, it is inevitable that those laws will be enforced with violent force. In some cases, that is a good and necessary thing: Force is completely justifiable in dealing with murderers, rapists, carjackers, terrorists and so forth.The civil magistrate wields the sword for a reason, and a primary responsibility is to protect the innocent from the guilty.
For other crimes, especially nonviolent crimes involving consenting adults, we need to be very careful about what we criminalize. If we allowed a 20 year old man – who could fight, kill and die in a foreign war right now – to enter an establishment and consume a legal product then we would not need police to violently arrest him if he is turned away because he has not hit the magical age of 21. Criminalizing powdered alcohol will inevitably result in the use of force (though hopefully not police brutality) in the enforcement of that ban.
What I find disturbing about this ban is that the state legislature wants to pre-emptively criminalize a product that can be used responsibly by consenting adults. Can it be abused? Yes. But canned air can also be abused, and we do not make it illegal for people to use it as a tool to clean dust (and other things) from their keyboards. Well, we have not made it illegal yet, anyway. But some legislators are afraid of a new invention, and (as is often the case with new things) the Luddite mentality prevails and someone wants to ban it.
I have a better solution. Allow powdered alcohol to be sold, just like liquid alcohol. If it becomes a problem, then look at further regulations of the product or at laws designed to mitigate the damage done by people who abuse the product. A pre-emptive ban is a big-government, nanny-state solution. Banning a product should always be the last resort, not the first thing the legislature wants to do.