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Absinthe
Legal Status
by Erowid
U.S. FEDERAL LAW #
Caution :   All legal information should be verified through other sources. [see below]
U.S. FEDERAL LEGAL SUMMARY
Absinthe
REGULATED
Yes
STATUS
FDA Regulated
SCHEDULE
Un-Scheduled
Traditional absinthe has been illegal to sell in the U.S. since 1912, because it contains the chemical thujone. However, in 2007 some products labelled as "absinthe" were approved for sale in the United Stated. The situation is somewhat complex, but the short version is that the agency that now regulates alcohol in the U.S. (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) defines "thujone free" (an FDA requirement for any food made with Absinthe's defining herb wormwood) as meaning less than 10 parts-per-million (10 mg/L) thujone. It is an ongoing debate whether "thujone free" absinthe should be considered authentic, with the common understanding being that traditional absinthe contained higher levels of thujone but current manufacturers arguing that vintage absinthe had similarly low levels of thujone. Whatever the truth of their arguments, the modern low-thujone absinthes are being widely publicized as the first legal absinthes in the U.S. since the 1912 ban.

For more details about the legality of Absinthe, see Absinthe in the United States?

Another legal issue is that it is illegal in the United States to distill alcohol (even for personal consumption) without paying special taxes, filing paperwork & requesting a license from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. Some absinthe recipes call for distilling the product and some do not. So, technically a distilled absinthe could be illegal if made without a license. It is also illegal to sell any alcohol for human consumption without a license.

It is likely legal in the US to produce absinthe for one's personal use using commercially available distilled liquor and infusing one's own herbs into the alcohol.

INTERNATIONAL LAW #
Australia #
According to Agnu, Doubs Absinthe with around 10 mg/L of thujone is available for sale in Sydney. (March 2007) R told us that Absinthe containing Thujone at around 7.8 mg per litre and 60% alcohol is scarce but legally available in Australia. (unconfirmed) (thanks A, R) (last updated Mar 2007)
Brazil #
Absinthe is legal and common in Brazil. Thujone-containing absinthe is available in almost all stores and supermarkets including the brands: Camargo (Brazilian), Lautrec (Brazilian, poor quality), Pere Kerman's (French), Neto Costa (Portugese). The law in Brazil requires that Absinthe be less than 55% alcohol and at most 10 mg/kg thujone, but it's not hard to find other absinthes like Hapsburg (85% alcohol). (unconfirmed) (thanks C)
E.U. #
Absinthe has been unavailable in most of Europe throughout the twentieth century due to regulations governing thujone. This changed in 1988 when the European Economic Community issued directive 88/388/EEC, which set maximum legal levels of thujone in beverages sold in EEC member states: 5 mg/kg in alcoholic beverages with up to 25% alcohol, 10 mg/kg in alcoholic beverages with more than 25% alcohol, and 35 mg/kg in bitters (see Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Food and Thujone). Since this regulation was passed several European countries including France and Switzerland lifted their bans on absinthe that comply with EU restrictions, and it is now widely available throughout the EU. (reference)
Canada #
As of March 2007, thujone-containing absinthe seems to be regulated by the Provinces, with the central government's agency Health Canada, only providing non-binding guidelines to each Province's liquor board. We have been unable to find definitive information about the current regulatory status, but it appears that low-thujone abinsthe (< 5 mg/liter) is now available in every Province. Higher thujone content absinthe seems to be available in BC, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. (Ontario & Quebec allow 10ppm thujone, BC has no limit). All other provinces have laws against thujone-containing absinthe. Generally, alcoholic products must be individually approved for retail sale in Canada and are thus tightly controlled by Provicial liquor boards. (unconfirmed) (thanks TOR) (last updated Mar 2007)
Czech Republic #
Absinthe is legal and common in the Czech Republic. Thujone-containing absinthe is available in stores including Tesco, a large supermarket chain.
Denmark #
We have been told that absinthe is legal in Denmark and is commonly available in liquor stores. (thanks D)
France #
The sale of Absinthe has been prohibited in France since March 16, 1915. [Reference] In 1988, a law was passed which specified that the 1915 law only applied to products that do not comply with European Union regulations on thujone content and products which explicitly call themselves "absinthe". Thujone-containing beverages are now available, often labelled as "spiritueux base de plantes d'absinthe." Higher thujone content absinthes are also produced in France for export.
Germany #
Thujone-containing absinthe available at bars and stores in Germany, in 2002 it is quite popular in some parts of Germany and Austria
Hungary #
We have been told that Absinthe became legally available in Hungary in early 2004 but that quality and potency is generally low. (thanks G)
Israel #
Thujone-containing absinthe sold in some liquor stores in 2004. (thanks AE)
Ireland #
Thujone-containing absinthe is not legal to sell in the Republic of Ireland, although personal importation is not blocked. (unconfirmed) (thanks TO)
Italy #
Thujone-containing absinthe sold in some smartshops. (thanks DL)
Malta #
Absinthe is available in bars and clubs. (thanks C)
Netherlands #
1909 ban on absinthe sales lifted Jul 2004. Thujone-containing absinthe sold in liquor stores, as long as thujone quantity remain within European-accepted levels. (thanks Tino and Enrico)
New Zealand #
Thujone-containing absinthe sold in liquor stores.
Norway #
We have been told that absinthe is legal in Norway and available in liquor stores but only with low thujone content.
Poland #
Absinthe is not available in stores and presumed illegal. (unconfirmed) (thanks D)
Portugal #
Thujone-containing absinthe sold in liquor stores, bars, clubs, and supermarkets.
Russia #
Thujone-containing absinthe (with as much as 50-75 mg thujone) available, mostly in stores geared towards foreigners. (unconfirmed) (thanks K)
Serbia #
We have been told that thujone-containing absinthe and absinthe above 50% alcohol is banned for sale in Serbia. Lower quality French and Chech absinthe are available. (unconfirmed) (thanks A)
Slovakia #
Absinthe is legal and common in Slovakia. Thujone-containing absinthe is available in stores. (unconfirmed) (thanks D)
South Africa #
We have been told that Absinthe is being legalised in South Africa, effective January 1, 2005. (unconfirmed) (thanks HTMS)
Spain #
Thujone-containing absinthe widely available.
Sweden #
Absinthe sold in all liquor stores must be marked as containing wormwood extract. We are told that absinthe can be purchased in most liquor stores since EU laws allow sales of absinthe below a specific thujone level. Products are labeled with "Spiriteux aux extraits de plantes d'absinthe" and list wormwood as an ingredient on the back label. (thanks U)
Switzerland #
In June, 2004, the Swiss parliament voted to end a 96-year ban on absinthe. Although absinthe had been available in most of Europe for 20 years, it had remained outlawed in Switzerland until June 14, 2004. (thanks SC)
Turkey #
Thujone-containing absinthe is banned in Turkey. (unconfirmed) (thanks IS)
United Kingdom #
Thujone-containing absinthe sold in some stores (liquor stores, Tesco, Harrods) and small number of pubs, as long as thujone quantity remains within European-accepted levels. Absinthe was never banned in the UK, as the market for it ended with the banning of French exports and the belt-tightening during and after the first world war. (unconfirmed) (thanks AG)
If you have information about the legal status of this substance in any other country, please let us know.

CAUTION & DISCLAIMER #
Erowid legal information is a summary of data gathered from site visitors, government documents, websites, and other resources. We are not lawyers and can not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided here. We do our best to keep this information correct and up-to-date, but laws are complex and constantly changing. Laws may also vary from one jurisdiction to another (county, state, country, etc)...this list is not comprehensive.