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Hash oil [Erik Fenderson/Wikipedia]
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Hash oil [Erik Fenderson/Wikipedia]

Being, in any way, a part of the medical cannabis community can be an exciting and fulfilling thing, but it comes with a heavy responsibility that’s often overlooked. We are among the pioneers of a new world, and any mistake made by one of us can reflect on all of us.

It’s for that reason, in addition to safety and health, that it’s important to conduct oneself professionally and with great care, at all times, without exception. This holds true for every aspect of the medical marijuana community, but arguably none more than BHO (butane-extracted hash oil).

Production Safety

This article doesn’t cover any details about the different methods of producing and purging BHO, and if you aren’t planning on producing BHO any time soon you can probably skip this section without missing much. However, if you are planning on producing BHO, here’s some tips to keep from blowing yourself up, starting fires, contaminating your medication or causing yourself any health problems during production.

The first tip is to always use production tools made from borosilicate (Pyrex), from whatever holds your material all the way to your purging dishes, borosilicate will always be a sure bet for safety during production. [Editor’s note: Beware, the new Pyrex no longer contains borosilicate, according to Daily Kos.] Though, in addition to borosilicate, 300 series stainless steel, copper, glass and (some people argue) certain plastic compounds could be used during the production of BHO, all these different materials come with risks.

Plastics, in all forms, have toxicity risks if used during production, though some less than others. This means that your final product not only has the medicinal properties of marijuana, but could also, potentially, harm people due to toxins pulled from the plastics used.

Metal tubes potentially pose the least threat after borosilicate, since some metals are completely safe for production. The problem you run into with metal is the potential of getting the wrong kinds of metal due to improper labeling, or getting metals coated in other chemicals. This can cause the same sort of toxicity issues as plastic materials.

Glass materials only pose a serious issue if you are producing your BHO through a concentrate extraction tube. The potential problem with glass tubes is the danger created when glass suddenly drops in temperature and is, then, put under high pressure. If the glass is not thick enough, it has the potential to shatter in the users hand, sometimes violently.

Using borosilicate tubing, specifically designed for BHO production, circumvents all these issues and guarantees an end product that doesn’t contain any extra chemicals. It is also important to use bleach-free coffee filters, if using coffee filters during your extraction process, to ensure a clean end product.

The next, and possibly most important tip, is to always produce your BHO outside, in an open space, where gasses can’t build up. Do not produce BHO inside, or in areas with poor ventilation, for any reason.

It’s not a matter of if the gasses will spark and blow up your house, if you make oil with any regularity inside, it’s a matter of when. Don’t extract BHO in a garage with the door open, where there is low ventilation. Don’t extract BHO under a kitchen or bathroom fan. Don’t extract BHO next to a window in your house.

Let me rephrase this in case people haven’t caught on, IF YOU PRODUCE BHO INSIDE, OR IN AREAS WITH LOW VENTILATION, YOU ARE GOING TO BLOW UP. DON’T DO IT! Not only will you be causing harm to yourself, as well as potentially your loved ones and neighbors; you make an entire community of sick people — who already have a hard time being credible — look like assholes! Don’t ruin it for the rest of us!

One should also avoid extracting BHO next to outdoor lights, light switches, electrical boxes, or anything else that could cause a spark. Never allow anyone with a cigarette, joint or other open flame source anywhere near a site where BHO is being produced.

With that in mind, it’s usually good to avoid producing BHO on apartment porches too, since you never know what a neighbor is doing, and one lit cigarette or barbecue in the wrong place could cause an explosion. It’s also recommended to avoid having cellphones or other electronic devices on your person.

Though the risks associated with these things are admittedly less than the risk from producing BHO in poorly ventilated areas, all of them can lead to that one spark that will turn you into a statistic they can use against us all.

The final tip for production safety is to always use a gas mask, during all stages of production. Most people make the mistake of getting your average disposable particulate respirator for protection, but this is far from enough. To protect ones’ own health during production, you need to be wearing a respirator rated for protection against organic vapors. Without the gas mask, rated to protect against organic vapor, the continued inhalation of butane vapors can cause a multitude of negative health effects.

Being a Safe Consumer

Though the risks associated with hash oil consumption are substantially less than those associated with production, it’s always possible to get BHO that has been purged improperly. I briefly covered how to spot good and bad BHO in my Toke Signals article ‘Absolute Medication: To Hash Oil And Beyond!‘, but I feel it’s appropriate to cover in a bit more detail in this article.

The first, and most obvious way, to tell if hash oil is improperly purged is viscosity. If the oil is gooey, runny, or viscous in any way, without the application of heat, there is a problem.

This problem could be that too much heat was introduced to the oil during the purging process, that moisture of some kind made it’s way into the oil during purging, or that there is still butane remaining in the BHO. More often than not, from my experience, it means there is still butane in the oil though — and for that reason I avoid any and all BHO that has this viscous consistency.

Not all solid oil is free of butane, however, and sometimes a solid hash that looks like decent shatter, budder, or wax, can actually be loaded full of butane. This often occurs when there has been no heat added during the purging process.

Though butane itself has a boiling point of 30.2° F, THC has a boiling point of 314.6° F. So, where as, a bowl of butane left out in the open would quickly dissipate at room temperatures, things don’t work the same when making BHO.

During the BHO purging process those THC molecules harden, due to the reduced temperature caused by the butane grabbing all nearby energy as it tries to vaporize into the atmosphere. When the THC molecules harden, they harden around the butane and trap trace amounts in. If some heat isn’t introduced during the purging process, to get those THC molecules closer to their boiling point to loosen them up, their will always be some amount of butane in the final hash.

There are a couple easy ways to tell if any butane has been trapped in your hash oil.

The first trick only works if you use a ti-plate or nail set up, and is only recommended if you are in a rush to take your first hit from the hash in question. Then, all you have to do is heat up your nail or plate, and as you start to take your hit, listen carefully.

If it sizzles and crackles, don’t finish the hit; just back off from the smoking device and let the hit go into the air. There is about a 50 percent chance the BHO has water or some other moisture in it, and a 50 percent chance it has butane remaining in it. Either way, the risk isn’t worth the smoke.

The second trick is to put a bit of BHO — about half the size of a pea — on the end of a bent up paper clip or borosilicate “dabber.” Then, with a plate or ashtray underneath, take a Bic lighter flame to this bit of BHO. If the oil is properly purged it will turn to a liquid and fall on to the plate below as the flame gets near without much spectacle.

If there is excessive sizzling, hissing, sparking, popping, or any other reaction, there is a problem with this hash oil and it should be avoided. Once again, the problem could potentially be moisture from the environment or some other factor the person making the BHO couldn’t control, completely unrelated to the solvent used, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially if you’re in a position of selecting or making medication for other patients.


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