Changes to Indiana vaping law may affect company’s monopoly

(WLFI Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI) – Indiana lawmakers are working to fix a controversial 2015 vaping law that created a monopoly with Lafayette-based security company, Mulhaupt’s Incorporated.

State Sen. Randy Head wants to change the law so the current responsibilities of a private security company will soon belong to the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. The change would allow qualified business owners to manufacture e-liquid without having to be a customer of a private security firm and, instead, it would be monitored by the government.

“We assumed there would be multiple people doing what we’re doing,” president and partner of Mulhaupt’s Inc. Doug Mulhaupt said.

State lawmakers said they did, too. But right now, Mulhaupt’s is the only security company qualified to monitor e-liquid manufacturing companies.

Since Mulhaupt’s said it couldn’t possibly secure every e-liquid producer in Indiana, several qualified business owners are out of luck.

“I voted against the bill,” Sen. Head said. “But I think the original intent was to make sure that nothing dangerous was happening.”

Mulhaupt said in the safety aspect, the law is doing what it intended. Mulhaupt’s said it has been successfully monitoring its e-liquid manufacturing customers 24 hours a day. But the job isn’t easy – especially, if you’re the pioneers.

“Right now, there is no fat hog, as you say, being cut,” Mulhaupt’s Inc. partner Mike Gibson said. “There is a lot of cost getting started in the new industry.”

Mulhaupt’s has eyes and ears on all of its customers 24 hours a day. Expensive high-tech software monitors every single event from the temperature of the facility to someone walking into it.

“Can I help you?” answered a Mulhaupt dispatcher as he helped an e-liquid mixologist safely store a sample of e-liquid into the highly secured sample storage unit.

“I’m making sure he’s doing what he says he’s doing,” said the dispatcher as he watched the live surveillance feed. “Which is dropping samples into the box up here, not – like I said – removing anything at all. And that the door gets secured on his way out, and that he is the only one since he is the only one that gave me a code, he’s the only one that goes into the room.”

Before e-liquid samples are stored, they’re mixed in another highly monitored area.

Randy Burchett, co-owner of Sugar Creek Bottling Company – one of Mulhaupt’s e-liquid customers — said he’s happy the state required a security company because without it, there were no rules.

“Anybody and everybody could make e-liquid anywhere,” said Burchett. “It could be in their store, it could be in a not-so-clean environment.”

Mulhaupt’s and its auditors constantly make sure the e-liquid is safe for use.

“They go through every bottle,” said Burchett.

“Do you mind these audits?” reporter Kayla Sullivan asked.

“No. If you’re doing everything properly, then the audits are really just another way of someone else coming in and saying, ‘Yes, you’re doing it right,’” Burchett said.

It’s good practice for Sugar Creek Bottling, especially since Head hopes to give Mulhaupt’s responsibility to the government soon.

“We’re going to take a look at the federal language, but we’re also going to have a government department take over that function,” said Head. “In the same way that, let’s say, the health department looks at restaurants in each county.”

Head said the government department would likely be the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission.

“We’re going to put standards in place, and say any business that demonstrates they meet these standards can be licensed to be in that business,” Head said. “We’re going to treat it just like any other business. But we’re going to make sure that what they manufacture is safe, and that people know and understand what it is they’re putting in their bodies.”

Gibson added, “I would just hope that whatever they do to it that they look at it from, you know, a public safety standpoint.”

So does Burchett, who said he’s sticking with Mulhaupt’s.

“They’ve done a good job – we know Mulhaupt’s, they know us. They know our business now, and there is no reason to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

When asked what would happen to its contracts with current e-liquid manufacturing companies if state lawmakers end up giving the responsibility to the ATC, Mulhaupt’s said it’s too soon to tell.