DEA narc Regency/early Victorian romance author Liz Carlisle wants to make sure you know better than to smoke pot. Her concern for your health is so unbounded that she ignores facts and actual research in order to slip in an easy-to-remember soundbite for you to use in helping you resist the siren lure of the sweet, sweet greenstem!
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the funniest line of dialogue I have seen in print in YEARS:
“But absinthe isn’t just spirits, my boy. Dr. von Althausen theorizes the wormwood makes it chemically similar to cannabis. It’s hallucinogenic.”¹
Let’s just take this piece by piece. First of all, no. Similarities (or not) to wormwood aside, cannabis is not hallucinogenic. It makes time slow, and it heightens senses; it makes some people giggle and other people hungry and other people deeply philosophical, but what it doesn’t do? Is make you see things that aren’t there. Despite what the DEA propaganda writers no doubt suggest as “other possible side effects,” there is no actual documented clinical or anecdotal evidence to suggest that pot makes you hallucinate.
Second of all, while you’re researching marijuana outside of a governmental agency (or your kid’s D.A.R.E. club) website, do a bit more research on absinthe. Absinthe does not cause hallucinations. Wormwood is not poisonous. What was poisonous and hallucinogenic about absinthe was the copper that was used to make it green in the later 19th century after demand for the green fairy was so heavy that distillers didn’t want to wait the three years the liquor needed to age in the wormwood to turn green naturally. When you saw visions of the green fairy it was because you were suffering copper poisoning. In 1848 (when the book is set) this gent would have had the real stuff. Van Gogh wasn’t even born yet, much less painting his absinthe-washed landscapes. So double no on the hallucinogenic properties for the time in question.
Look. I realize the absinthe thing is fairly esoteric and a popular myth. Aside from all the anecdotal claims people make about different liquors causing different kinds of drunks, most people have never drunk absinthe to debunk it on their own. I happen to have spent enough time in New Orleans absinthe bars to get a better than average education on the subject, so I can forgive Carlisle getting that part wrong. What I can’t get over is the hallucinogenic cannabis thing. It is just…unimaginably incomplete research to take anti-drug propoganda as the basis for your descriptions of it by characters who regularly use it.
No. Unless you’re trying to suggest to me that 1848 street pharmacists were dusting their herb with PCP.
¹ Carlisle, Liz. The Bride Wore Pearls. Mass-market paperback edition. USA: Avon (HarperCollins), 2012. Page 69.