Are Butane Hash Oil Labs a Real Concern?

hashMany people have heard of exploding meth labs, but not as many have heard of the dangers of labs which produce butane hash oil (or BHO, as it is also known). Smoking BHO is a method of consuming THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, which creates a stronger high than smoking marijuana in the normal way. Tests show that BHO has a concentration of between 60% and 80% THC, which is quite potent. This high potency is leading BHO to higher levels of popularity among seasoned marijuana users.

In sixteen months in Oregon alone, seventeen people were severely burned by failed attempts at making BHO.

WHAT EXACTLY IS BHO?

BHO is inspired by marijuana hash, a substance which has been around for centuries. For as long as marijuana plants have been cultivated, people have been mashing up the leaves to extract THC from it in various ways, from smoking it to eating it. Hash is a thick, pasty substance created from the mashed leaves. BHO was created when somebody decided to take the concept of hash and “improve” it with modern science.

BHO is created by washing marijuana leaves with butane, which is a very strong solvent. The butane absorbs THC from the marijuana leaves and then evaporates, leaving behind a thick, sticky resin which holds all the THC. This resin is then ignited and the resulting smoke is inhaled before it can dissipate. A popular way of smoking BHO is by putting into an e-cigarette vaporizer.

In the words of one user, BHO creates “a high that envelopes you and renders you pretty much useless” due to its extreme strength. The cooking process for BHO is dangerous because butane fumes can ignite easily, at just 120 degrees. Just like with meth labs, BHO labs are very difficult to detect up until the point when they explode. Even advocates of BHO will admit that the process of cooking it is highly dangerous.

IS BHO LEGAL?

This is an interesting question. In states with legalized marijuana, the legislation has generally been written from the perspective of smoking marijuana in the traditional way. California, a state whose laws are often more exacting than those of its neighbors, has declared BHO, or any solvent extract, to be illegal. Anybody who makes BHO would be subject to years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines. Despite that, marijuana dispensaries even in California can provide BHO as long as they lie about how it was processed. Similarly, Oregon permits dispensaries to carry BHO, but has regulations against the creation of the substance without proper licensing (and will not be issuing licenses until 2016).

Advocates of BHO say that it has the chance to be very beneficial to the same demographic that uses medical marijuana. Because it has such a high concentration of THC, it could be used even for patients whose stubborn pain won’t respond to normal marijuana usage. It is easy to ingest in an e-cigarette, and could be a convenient aid to sufferers.

However, for BHO the risks outweigh the benefits. Studies on smoked marijuana have shown that it does in fact adversely affect people’s minds, especially for adolescents and even people in their early 20s. Thanks to BHO’s increased concentrations of THC, it’s highly probably that these effects would be magnified in users who did BHO instead of traditional marijuana. Because of this, there is perhaps even more to be concerned about in the legal gray areas related to BHO consumption than in the prospect of the labs themselves exploding.

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