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Is absinthe legal?

Everything you wanted to know about thujone!

One of Absinthia’s favorite hashtags is #thujoneisfakenews. Read on to find out why!

Though it is best known as a chemical compound in absinthe, thujone is unlikely to be responsible for absinthe’s alleged stimulant and psychoactive effects due to the small quantities present in both vintage and modern absinthes. Modern absinthe made strictly according to pre-ban recipes, such as Absinthia Organic Absinthe, has been analyzed and found to be more or less identical to actual pre-ban absinthe. Modern analysis has demonstrated that the compounds blamed for absinthe’s alleged harmful effects were not present in pre-ban absinthe in the large amounts previously assumed. 

While alcohol is classified as a drug itself, absinthe contains no other components that would differentiate it from any other form of alcohol in that sense.

Thujone, the primary volatile oil in wormwood, is present in only in trace amounts in absinthe due to its resistance to distillation and is safe at these levels. The “100mg thujone” and “extra strong” hype on many absinthe retail sites is a marketing gimmick. The role of thujone in the so-called “secondary effect” is greatly exaggerated, as is the effect itself. The similarity in effect to THC was an untested conjecture in the mid-1970s and is unsupported by later studies. Thujone is a dangerous neurotoxin at large concentrations and is NOT a hallucinogen or a psychedelic and has no reasonable recreational potential.

In order to determine thujone content, an official method for thujone analysis was prescribed.  Although the information has been published and accessible since the 1960s, prior to 2007 it was not widely known that the threshold of tolerance—the fudge factor—for this method was ten parts per million, about 10 mg/L.

This effectively legalizes most absinthes, since authentic absinthe contains only minute traces of thujone in the first place. The highest thujone levels so far detected in pre-ban samples is 48.3 mg/L, the lowest was “none detected.” 1

Many pre-ban era absinthes would be legal in the US today by modern government standards.  Discovering this was a major breakthrough for absinthe in the US. Many absintheures, then, understand that asking the quantity of thujones in a true absinthe, one properly made with artemisia absinthium and distilled, is not an important question. Absinthia Organic Absinthe, despite using a large amount of fresh, organic absinthe, passed federal formula tests at less then 10 ppm. This is because the wormwood is distilled, and these are the same results as vintage absinthes.

Many thanks to Wikipedia and Absinthia’s friends at the Wormwood Society for their excellent research!

Why was absinthe illegal?

Absinthe was a victim of its own success. During a period of phylloxera and struggles in the European wine market, absinthe came to Paris and instantly became a favorite of cafe life. In fact, happy hour in Paris bars, cafes and cabarets of mid 19th-century Europe was called L’Heure Verte, or green hour. When the wine industry roared back, anti absinthe propaganda was the easiest way to get the people to put down their absinthe and drink wine again. Modern science proved absinthe was already legal and so it was allowed for sale again in the US beginning March 5, 2007. No laws needed changing and no ban was lifted. In fact, it is very likely that absinthe had been legal since the repeal of prohibition.