Photo By Vjiced (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
What is it? Butane Hash Oil is a type of concentrated cannabis made from high-potency marijuana leaves. The way it’s made is by pouring liquid butane through a tube that contains cannabis and extracting THC from the plant matter. The THC remains in the butane until it reaches a container at the end of the tube, and because butane is a volatile chemical that evaporates at -1 degrees Celsius, all that’s left in the container after the butane evaporates is an oily THC residue. The process concentrates the THC to a potency of around 20 to 80 percent, according to researchers and law enforcement agencies familiar with the drug. The residue is known variously as Dabs, honey oil, wax and BHO.
Hash Oil has been around since at least the late 1960s, and it’s by far the most potent form of concentrated cannabis. It has been described as the “crack cocaine of marijuana” due to the instant, overwhelming high users feel after vaporizing it. The method for inhaling Dabs vapor is to heat a heavy metal surface with a blowtorch until it turns bright orange, then to touch a small drop of honey oil to the glowing orange surface, inhaling the fumes. This smoking method concentrates the psychoactive chemical in the wax, providing an immediate high that is many times stronger than regular cannabis.
One reason authorities have increased their focus on Dabs manufacturers recently is that making Butane Hash Oil frequently causes devastating fires, burning down buildings and severely injuring people. Not only is the butane that concentrates the honey oil flammable, but after it evaporates, the concentrated cannabis must be cooked. The process of cooking the wax is what usually causes fires in which entire apartment buildings have gone up in flames. When the butane evaporates, it can build up a cloud of flammable gas that ignites when the BHO is cooked.
In 2014, San Diego county experienced more than 20 fires and explosions from Butane Hash Oil manufacturing. While some users heat up the wax using an electronic cigarette, many users choose the more dangerous method of vaporizing the concentrated cannabis with an open flame. Regardless of the potency to which liquid butane concentrates the honey oil, smoking Dabs with an open flame in the same room used to make it can cause an explosion. At one BHO lab in San Diego, three people were badly burned in a butane explosion, one of them completely covered in flames as he ran from the building screaming.
The DEA has stepped up efforts to arrest Butane Hash Oil manufacturers in southern California and seven other states where Dabs cooking frequently causes explosions. Although manufacturing honey oil is illegal in California, possessing it is legal under California’s medical marijuana laws. Explosions caused by the butane that concentrates wax typically lead to charges of causing harm to human life. One recent explosion in a California parking lot was the result of a man named Dale Austin Corzine making concentrated cannabis in his car when it caught fire. He was charged with endangerment to human life as well as manufacturing marijuana.
Butane Hash Oil explosions have steadily increased over the past three years, and marijuana legalization advocates worry that the negative publicity puts concentrated cannabis in a bad light. In an article titled The Danger of Dabs, Russ Belville of High Times magazine analyzed the issues caused by accidentally igniting the butane that concentrates THC. His argument was that, although honey oil is no more harmful than ordinary cannabis, media coverage of butane explosions as well as images of users vaporizing wax with blowtorches sets the marijuana legalization cause back. Not only do these circumstantial details embolden opponents of legal marijuana, but the explosions have injured more people in 2014 than in the three previous years combined.
Another issue facing honey oil smokers is the possibility of leftover butane present in the concentrated cannabis. However, compared to raw cannabis, which rarely exceeds 20 percent potency, Dabs rarely falls below this level of potency, usually ranging from 20 to 80 percent and sometimes reaching 90 percent. This fact makes properly filtered Butane Hash Oil the purest form of marijuana available, and because BHO explosions continue to rise, the popularity of honey oil seems to be increasing.
While manufacturing butane hash oil is prohibited by law, possession of dabs or butane hash oil can be tricky. With a valid prescription from a physician, patients may possess a particular amount (which is often battled in the courts by experts and evidence after an arrest has already someone has already been arrested). To assess whether someone has a strong legal defense for either possessing or manufacturing, it’s best to contact an experienced drug lawyer to evaluate the circumstances of the case at hand.