The state of Washington has enacted an emergency ban on alcoholic energy drinks just two weeks after the beverages were cited in the hospitalization of nine dangerously drunk college students last month.
Washington's ban specifically covers products that combine beer, strong beer or malt liquor with caffeine, guarana, taurine or other similar substances found in regular energy drinks.
Similar to bans enacted in Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma, Washington's ban goes into effect on Nov. 18 — giving retailers just one week to clear away millions of dollars of beer-based drinks that also feature caffeine, such as the malt-liquor energy drink Four Loko, from their store shelves.
At that point, any drinks that can't be sold before Nov. 18 could be returned to wholesalers. It puts retail stores in a bit of a pickle, because wholesale distributors aren't obliged to buy the products back. Even if they do, they will just move the product to other states.
In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the safety of alcoholic energy drinks, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for a ban in his state.
Washington's ban is good for 120 days, but could be made permanent by the state Liquor Control Board or Legislature.