The Concern over Concentrates
How Reformers Can Defend Butane Hash Oil and Educate the Public
By Russ Belville
Dabs are exploding in popularity… literally!
‘Dabs’ is a term popular in the Western medical marijuana states to refer to the smoking of butane hash oil, also known as butane honey oil, or simply ‘BHO’. Some medical marijuana patients and cannabis aficionados swear by it. However, BHO presents some potential public relations nightmares for reformers.
The ‘butane’ part of BHO refers to using that solvent to extract the cannabis resin from the plant, leaving a very potent form of hash oil. Butane, of course, is an extremely flammable gas which can be stored as a liquid under great pressure.
The danger: An ignorant hash maker who works behind closed doors in unventilated spaces, unaware that butane is a heavier-than-air gas that likes to pool on the floor near pilot lights, switches, and discarded cigarette butts. Just this year, an Oregon hotel room exploded because of a young man carelessly making hash oil. Luckily, his girlfriend and two-year-old child, also in the room, were unharmed; he suffered burns.
The defense: Alcohol prohibition made it profitable for untrained moonshiners to make whiskey and occasionally blow up a backwoods distillery. So, too, does cannabis prohibition lead to unsafe and unregulated production of hash oil.
The education: Butane hash oil can be made safely so long as it is done in ventilated areas far from ignition sources. Trained hash makers wearing proper protective gear are no more dangerous to themselves and others than a gas station attendant filling your car’s tank.
Grabba Dabba Goo!
One talking point we’ve heard from opponents of marijuana legalization for years now is “This is Not Your Father’s Woodstock Weed!” The story varies, but basically they say the weed the Baby Boomers fondly remember from the 1960’s had a low THC potency and the ‘chronic’ of today (or ‘skunk’ in the UK) is a bazillion percent stronger. It’s a bullshit story, since (a) ability to test for THC potency didn’t exist until the 1970’s, (b) low THC potency cannabis is what we call ‘ditchweed’ or ‘hemp’, and (c) high THC potency ‘sinsemilla’ has always been around and a lot of those Boomers smoked it.
The danger: With BHO, we do have something that is objectively much more potent than the Boomers remember from back in the day. Whenever there is hash or hash oil available, it seems at least one person (even experienced pot smokers) passes out after a dab or suffers intense coughing fits.
The defense: BHO is a purified form of cannabis. As such, it is still as non-toxic as smoking pot. Increased potency of cannabis or BHO just means the consumer needs less of the product to achieve the same effect. This means less inhalation of smoking plant material and hot gases, so use of BHO will lead to less of the smoking-related harms of cannabis.
The education: BHO is the “sipping whiskey” of cannabis. Just as you wouldn’t chug Jack Daniels like a Budweiser, you don’t need to take lung-buster hits of BHO like you would regular marijuana.
Tonight on Action News…
The manufacture and use of BHO themselves pose little danger if done responsibly. However, not all dangers are real; many are dangers of perception only. With BHO, your local action news team gets to do a marijuana story that shows crack pipe torches used on golden sticky heroin-looking goo made from a process that blows up like meth labs.
The danger: The new unfamiliar products involved in using BHO are tailor-made for scary news footage b-roll. Most folks recognize joints and pipes, but not metal skillets or titanium nails being heated up with Coleman-stove propane torches. Without perspective, the public will associate the visuals with the use of hard drugs like crack, meth, and heroin.
The defense: Bongs looked scary and unfamiliar to the public in 1980, but we helped people understand that this new device actually cooled and filtered marijuana smoke for the benefit of the user. Prohibition forces consumers to come up with unconventional ways of using their product. New products will eventually be developed using flameless ways to heat the oil, and they’d be developed sooner without the burdens of prohibition.
The education: Many cannabis consumers require a greater potency product, just as some folks need stronger pain relievers than others. Some using cannabis for medical purposes would literally have to smoke pot every half-hour to achieve the day-long relief they can get from using BHO.
The Bottom Line on Butane Hash Oil
No matter where the discussion of BHO takes us, we must always refer to the basics: (1) BHO is just cannabis and cannabis is non-toxic with low risk of dependence in any form; and (2) any problem with BHO is based on cannabis prohibition that makes regulation and inspection impossible, increased potency more desirable, manufacture and selling more profitable, and proper education of consumers and the public more difficult.