Virginians would be able to buy liquor with almost 50 percent more alcohol than is currently available under a bill passed Wednesday by the House of Delegates. The legislation would raise the limit on the alcohol content of neutral grain spirits – alcohol that is “without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color” – sold at state-controlled liquor stores from 101 proof (50.5 percent alcohol) to 151 proof (75.5 percent alcohol). The bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 83-14.
Advocates view the bill as a common-sense measure to align the state’s alcohol policy with that of the rest of the country. Virginia and Vermont are the only states that prohibit the sale of 151-proof liquor. College and health officials say the bill would endanger college campuses already dealing with underage alcohol abuse, binge drinking and sexual assault. Teresa Sullivan, the president of the University of Virginia, has compared highly potent liquor to a “date rape” drug. The outcry led Gov. Terry McAuliffe to veto a similar bill last year.