General Question

thetmle's avatar

Why is Absinthe illegal in the US?

Asked by thetmle (691points) December 31st, 2007

I went on a trip to Greece and Turkey this summer and it seemed that Absinthe was in every corner liquor store. Why is it illegal here in the US? I drank some with my friends and one shot had me plastered for about 5 hours! It’s been around for over a hundred years so why can’t we have it here?

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15 Answers

ccatron's avatar

according to wikipedia…“Further, absinthe was portrayed as a dangerously addictive, psychoactive drug; the chemical thujone was blamed for most of its deleterious effects. The Lanfray murders of 1906 caused a petition to the Swiss government leading to its prohibition in Switzerland, and subsequently other countries. By 1915, it was prohibited in a number of European countries and the United States.”

boydieshere's avatar

I believe because it’s a hallucinogen.

sferik's avatar

Actually, it’s not illegal any more. There are a few brands of absinthe currently being sold in the United States, including K├╝bler, Lucid, Absinto Camargo, and St. George’s Absinthe Verte.

I’d also recommend reading this interview in the San Francisco Chronicle as well as this piece in Salon.

steveprutz's avatar

The “hard stuff” is illegal in the U.S., last time I checked. I think it is considered poisonous. Tamer brands can be brought into the States, but they are not the “real thing”, in the sense that they could kill you. From my experience, they are not hallucinogenic in any way.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@sferik those brands being sold in US do not have a high Thujone count. I dont remember what it is exactly but it needs to be under a certain percentage. As far as other absinthe you can order it online from various sites and have it shipped to the US. It is legal to own but illegal to sell in a bar or liqueur store in the US.

as far as why its illegal, large quantities of wormwood are considered poisonous.

sferik's avatar

Steveprutz is correct. Despite popular wisdom, there is nothing particularly hallucinogenic about absinthe. That rumor may have come into existence because of absinthe’s high alcohol content (as high as 144 proof), which—even at relatively low quantities—might start to make your vision spin.

robhaya's avatar

In 2005 Anthony Bourdain of “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel went to France and explored Absinthe. NYTimes has a little right up on that episode. And also a great article in Wired .

Oscar Wilde was also a big fan of the it as well..

Trance24's avatar

@sferik absinthe is actually hallucinogenic if you have a high enough thujone count. its just most brands don’t have a very high amount of thujone in it.

gooch's avatar

The “hard stuff” is now legal in the US now I just bought some last month. The restrictions have been lifted.

damianmann's avatar

I always heard there was a hemp-like element or some connection to hemp in old-timey absinthe. Marijuana is still considered a hallucinogen, right? I don’t kno why THC is considered a hallucinogen…But, it is.

The connection to hemp may have been just a rumor or an urban myth type thing. (I don’t know.) But, that may be the reason. There was a loot of racist reasons for hemp’s demon status.Maybe it was about “foreigners” and the whole scary concepts associated with that when America was more of an isolationist country. The other possibility is that the connection was invented to make it easier to demonize it. Maybe it was considered competition for our alcohol trade.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@damianmann THC is considered a hallucinagen because at high doses it does cause hallucinations . Also yes there is some connection between Thujone and THC in the way they act on the body.

xgunther's avatar

when I drank absinthe, I hallucinated. Not in the sense that I saw things that weren’t there, but much like ecatasy, the things that I did see, such as a strand of lights, the lights seemed to dance and flicker in sync with the sound of passing traffic.

Definatly a trip. But I enjoyed it.

jballou's avatar

I’ve talked to a few Absinthe distillers and they all say the hallucination stuff is a myth, and that the people who experience hallucinations are probably just wasted. They also said the power of suggestion has never been more evident then when a newbie tires Absinthe. The myths started back before alcohol was regulated, and people probably really did hallucinate, but for the human body in this day and age to hallucinate from the wormwood in Absinthe, you be long dead from alcohol poisoning before you ingested enough to actually trip out.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@jballou it really depends on which brand of Absinthe you buy, or if you make your own. I made mine it was really potent thus effects. There are definitely psychoactive abilities in wormwood its just not very strong or worth it for the god awful taste.

ItsAHabit's avatar

Absinthe is no longer illegal in the U.S. There is considerable evidence that when it became very popular in France, vintners there spread rumors that it caused insanity in order to discourage its consumption. Apparently, the tactic worked.

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