Michigan has become the first state to ban caffeinated alcoholic drinks statewide, effective the first week of December.
The Michigan Liquor Control Commission signed the order to ban caffeinated alcoholic drinks, such as the popular Four Loko brand, on Nov. 5, and distributors of the drink have 30 days from that date to stop selling the drinks or the drinks will be removed for them.
“The problem is that the drink has an upper and a downer mixed together. Caffeine makes you have energy and be hyper while alcohol is exactly the opposite. What does that do to your heart? What does that do to your brain for anyone, especially young people? And that’s who it’s aimed toward,” said Michigan Liquor Control Commission Chairwoman Nida Samona.
Many people disagree with the banning of caffeinated alcoholic drinks.
Powers Distributing is a Michigan beer distributor wholesaler which has sold and distributed the drink Four Loko. Dave Rohm, who works for the company, said the banning of Four Loko will affect the firm’s and other distributors’ businesses.
“I think it’s a big mistake from the Liquor Control Commission of the state,” Rohm said. “Our company will do what the Liquor Control Commission says to do. It’ll hurt our sales, it’ll hurt us.”
Bars can still make mixed drinks from energy drinks and vodka, which Rohm said is no different than Four Loko.
“What’s the difference in drinking Four Loko and Red Bull and vodka? Nothing. People know smoking is bad and they still do it. Energy drinks are bad and everyone knows. I think it should be the people’s choice if they want to drink it,” said Oxford Township resident Hope Erbert.
The caffeinated alcoholic drink Four Loko is twice the average size of a beer and has three or four times more alcohol content than a beer. Samona said she also found Four Lokos sold for as low as $1.99, which leads people to drink more of them.
“Some people call them ‘blackout in a can’ because people can’t remember portions of their night or day while they’re drinking it,” said Samona. “It’s been called ‘cocaine in a can’ because it acts the same way.”
Samona referenced a case from Oct. 11 which helped the liquor commission make its decision. A 14-year-old Melvindale High School student was reportedly sexually assaulted and had no memory of the night after drinking Four Loko.
“I think the individual who drinks it should drink it in moderation, not be binge drinking,” Rohm said.
Oakland Community College student Alissa Russell Walter said her friends drink Four Loko, and she said she feels it’s the same as any other drink. “When you drink too much, it’s bad for you,” said Walter. “I personally don’t drink, but I know a lot of people that do drink the Four Lokos and none of them have ended up in the hospital. It’s going to hurt businesses by not having energy drinks with alcohol. They make a lot of profit from them, so hey — let’s hurt our economy even more.”
Samona said, despite the opposition, she is proud that Michigan is the first state to ban the drinks. “It’s not just our job to issue licenses but to protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens, especially young people,” she said.
Samona said she hopes the federal Food and Drug Administration will soon ban the drinks nationwide, which looks like it’s becoming a likely possibility. Caffeinated alcoholic drinks have been banned in four states so far, and federal regulators are expected to move to ban the drinks across the nation as soon as this week.
Colin A. Daniels