Kansas Senate advances bill regulating ‘alcoholic candy’ and allowing stronger beer from microbreweries

? The Kansas Senate advanced a bill Tuesday that would regulate “alcoholic candy” the same way alcoholic beverages are now controlled.

That same bill also would allow microbreweries to begin making stronger beer by raising the alcohol content limit to 15 percent by weight instead of the current limit of 10 percent.

The Senate spent little time debating the bill before advancing it to a final vote, which is expected Wednesday.

Originally, the two provisions were included in separate bills, but they were combined into House Bill 2476 in the House, where it passed on Feb. 15 by a vote of 107-15.

Current Kansas law regulates only alcoholic beverages, but supporters of the bill have said new products have been entering the market known as alcoholic candy, which the bill defines as any candy or other “confectionary product” with an alcohol content over a certain limit.

The House version of the bill set that limit at 0.5 percent, which is consistent with federal law. But Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, pushed through an amendment raising that to 1 percent, saying federal regulators have been giving states latitude to go that high.

The bill would put alcoholic candy under the regulatory control of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Kansas Department of Revenue, and it would require retailers selling those products to have a liquor license.

That portion of the bill is intended mainly to make sure such candies are not sold to underage consumers.

The other portion of the combined bill would also allow microbreweries to start making stronger beer, with up to 15 percent alcohol by weight.

Philip Bradley, who lobbies for the Craft Brewers Guild of Kansas as well as the Kansas Licensed Beverage Association, said in a phone interview that two or three microbreweries in Kansas have expressed interest in going up to the higher limit.

An employee at Free State Brewing Co. in Lawrence declined to comment on whether it was considering such a change.

Bradley said there are already commercial beers on the market in Kansas with alcohol content as high as 22 and 28 percent, and he described the 15 percent limit as “not that high.”

If the bill passes on final action Wednesday, it would be sent back to the House to either concur with Denning’s amendment or refer it to a conference committee.