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While absinthe is legal in Australia, several sources like this Sydney Morning Herald article and this article on absinthe.com.au claim that a special permit is required for importing it from overseas. Is this still the case?

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As of July 13, 2013, permits are no longer required. Customs has an FAQ for this:

Can I import Absinthe or oil of wormwood into Australia?

The controls on the importation of ‘Oil of wormwood’ and products containing ‘oil of wormwood’, have been repealed from the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956.

Permission is no longer required in order to import these products.

Here's the official announcement.

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For several years, importing of Absinthe into Australia without permission was illegal - the product was restricted. The reasons behind this was the ingredients:

"the import and sale of absinthe technically required a special permit, since "oil of wormwood, being an essential oil obtained from plants of the genus Artemisia, and preparations containing oil of wormwood" (wording: Wikipedia) were listed as item 12A, Schedule 8, Regulation 5H Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations of 1956.

However, slowly, over time, laws changed. The Food Standards Code and the 1989 Thereapeutic Goods Act set new terms on importing food, and as of July 2013, these rules have been repealed and now permission to import this item is no longer required (although some conditions exist).

Since the, the Customs and Border Protection Service page now states:

Can I import Absinthe or oil of wormwood into Australia?

The controls on the importation of ‘Oil of wormwood’ and products containing ‘oil of wormwood’, have been repealed from the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956.

Permission is no longer required in order to import these products.

If you are importing a product containing oil of wormwood for the purpose of selling or distributing it in Australia, then you should ensure that you comply with the Food Standards Code or the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989

For more information on these requirements, please use the contact details below.

Contact Details

Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Phone Local: 1800 020 653 Phone International: +61 2 6232 8444 Email: eps@tga.gov.au Web: www.tga.gov.au

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) Phone Local: (02) 6271 2222 Phone International: +61 2 6271 2222 Email: info@foodstandards.gov.au Web: www.foodstandards.gov.au

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Careful with the terminology there: it was not illegal (prohibited), it was only restricted (requires a permit). While the permits were impractical for the average traveler, professionals can and did import absinthe legally. Also, if you're going to quote what I just wrote on Wikipedia, please credit the source ;) –  jpatokal May 24 at 12:09
    
Sorry, you wrote on Wikipedia? Which bit? I went through a bunch of sites but thought I'd linked them all... –  Mark Mayo May 24 at 12:11
    
It was illegal without a permit, but you're right, I've clarified that. –  Mark Mayo May 24 at 12:12
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"...technically required a special permit...", en.wikipedia.org/w/…. And credit to WP, not me! –  jpatokal May 24 at 12:15
    
@jpatokal argh, sorry, I looked at the paragraph not realising I'd used two sources, and cited only one, thought I'd covered it. Updated now! –  Mark Mayo May 24 at 12:19
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