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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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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.

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Maryland proposes ban on grain alcohol