In the midst of a massive shift in public opinion about the status of marijuana, the popularity and availability of a potent concentrate has been growing and it has many health officials worried. The substance is called butane hash oil, and right now, it’s all the rage among young cannabis enthusiasts.
What Is Butane Hash Oil?
Butane hash oil, also known as wax, honey oil or dabs, is a concentrated resin of the marijuana plant. Unlike the dried and cured flowers or buds that are commonly ground and smoked, this resin is the nearly pure extract of tetrahydrocannabinol, (THC), the cannabinoid responsible for getting a user high. The result is a product that’s about five times more potent than traditional marijuana.
The process of extracting the psychoactive component of marijuana to make hash has been around for centuries, and the modern process of using butane or another solvent to do so has been around for decades — and some medical marijuana patients prefer it for its purity. In the last several years, however, BHO has also become the substance of choice among recreational pot enthusiasts. In some ways, it is the “moonshine” of cannabis.
How Butane Hash Oil Is Made
BHO is named after the process that creates it. Marijuana flowers, leaves and stems are first strained through butane. The butane strips the plant material of its THC. The liquid butane and THC mixture is then evaporated to remove as much of the butane as possible, leaving a waxy, honey-like substance, the hash oil, that can then be vaporized, eaten or smoked.
Dangers of Butane Hash Oil
BHO is more harmful than the plant it comes from, and its rise in popularity means that more and more incidents are occurring.
Butane: The process of boiling off the butane is not 100 percent effective, meaning that traces of it exist in the resulting oil. Users then inhale this butane, which can impair the brain and nervous system, causing an increased heart rate, dizziness and loss of consciousness. Poorly manufactured batches can contain larger amounts of BHO, causing more damage. Inhaling too much butane can be lethal.
THC content: Because BHO is so pure, the amount of THC it contains makes it powerfully psychoactive. Although not life-threatening, a very large dose of BHO can lead to vomiting in addition to anxiety, paranoia and other psychological issues that can persist for days.
Manufacturing process: The most dangerous aspect of BHO is the manufacturing process. Butane is extremely volatile, and large amounts of it are used in mostly closed-room makeshift labs. Often those making BHO have only learned by watching YouTube videos; they do not have a proper setup or the appropriate knowledge of safety measures. This too often results in injury, property damage and even death. In fact, fires and explosions caused by these makeshift labs have become so common that the U.S. Fire Administration issued a message informing the Emergency Services Sector of the extraction process and the BHO labs’ threat to public safety.
A Butane Hash Oil Fatality
The amateur manufacturing of BHO has caused severe injuries and taken lives. Most recently, a 30-year-old man identified as Rasi Summers died of injuries incurred from an explosion caused by a BHO extraction accident at his home in Hawaii. The blast was strong enough to blow out windows, melt plumbing fixtures and blister the front door’s exterior paint. Despite intensive treatment at a Honolulu hospital, Summers died as a result of his injuries. His death is a grim reminder of the dangers of BHO and all clandestine drug labs, which pose a threat to drug manufacturers and any neighbors nearby.
Due to the increase of butane hash oil labs, and the danger that they pose to others, authorities are requesting that any information pertaining to these operations be reported to local police or Crime Stoppers, an anonymous tip line.