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Chicago-Based Maker Of 'Four Loko' Faces Backlash

CHICAGO (CBS) --  The drink is called "Four Loko" -- a potent brew of alcohol and caffeine. And it's all the rage on college campuses. It is also being blamed for dozens of overdoses and at least one DUI-related death.

Several states have now banned the sale and import of Four Loko, and as CBS 2's Mike Parker reports, there's now a move to make the stuff illegal in Chicago.

Community activists took to the West Side streets to issue their warnings Monday evening.

"This drink is very dangerous. It's a time bomb," Andrew Holmes told one driver.

Holmes and other demonstrators were telling anyone who would listen that Four Loko – a brew of 12 percent alcohol, caffeine and fruit flavors -- should be illegal in Chicago.

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"I call it poison," said Holmes. "They call it a 'blackout.' A lot of college students have passed out, been in the hospital."

Last week, a 21-year-old Maryland woman, Courtney Spurry, drank two cans of Four Loko, then grabbed somebody else's keys and crashed their pickup truck into a telephone pole. She was killed.

"She could not remember peoples' names," her friend, Jessica Lane, said. "She blacked out within 30 minutes of having the alcoholic beverage."

In Washington state, after a house party fueled by Four Loko, nine students had to be hospitalized.

The drink is made by a Chicago company called Phusion Projects and is run by three recent Ohio State graduates.

Attempts to reach company officials were complicated. A business website says the corporate headquarters is at 1658 North Milwaukee Ave., Suite 424. That is a UPS office mail drop.

A spokeswoman for the firm called from Washington on Monday evening to express concern over the recent incidents.

"Our hearts go out to the families" of people who overdosed, she said.

The company also says regulations regarding caffeinated alcoholic drinks should apply to all products, not just the products they make and distribute.

Regardless of the controversy, Four Loko gets rave reviews from some.

"It tastes kind of funky but it gets the job done," Marcos Ortol said outside Cal's Liquor in the South Loop. "It has a lot of alcohol in it. I think too many Four Lokos will have you loco, for sure."

The shelves for the drink inside were bare. It had sold out.

Connecticut liquor wholesalers have agreed to voluntarily suspend their shipment and deliveries of Four Loko and two similar beverages.

Four Loko been banned in Washington, Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma.

Contributing: Associated Press.

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