source: By: Celia Watson Seupel, Special to CNBC
CNBC’s Jane Wells reports the first tax revenue numbers are being reported in Colorado. Pueblo County did $1 million in gross sales netting the county $56,000 in one month.
Two months into Colorado’s great marijuana experiment, a single trend may be poised to tarnish the “natural and healthy” image of legal weed: hash oil concentrate. Washington, the next state to roll out legal recreational marijuana, has banned it. Colorado is trying to regulate it.
Hash oil concentrate, a powerful distillation of marijuana’s essential active ingredients, is mixed into many new and popular cannabis products: edibles, drinks and liquids that can be “smoked” in vaporizer pens like e-cigarettes. The problem-child of concentrates may turn out to be the actual concentrate itself—a hardened or viscous mass of cannabinoids created via a process of butane-gas extraction.
Making it can be explosive. In fact, all over the country, people have been exploding kitchens and basements trying to make their own butane hash oil.
Nicholas Broms, who was involved in a drug-related explosion last November. Broms was one of the growing number of casualties from manufacturing hash oil, a potent marijuana byproduct made with butane.
And smoking it—a new craze called “dabbing,” because a little dab’ll do ya—is giving an intense high miles beyond the mellow effects of a joint.
Hash oil concentrate isn’t new, but the current version is. The recent incarnation appeared on the scene only about four years ago, according to marijuana.com.
Concentrate is an extremely potent form of THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana. According to Brian Ruden, owner of Starbuds, a marijuana dispensary in Denver, while regular marijuana might contain 15 or 18 percent THC, hash oil concentrate gets closer to 80 or even 90 percent.
The high that a user gets from concentrates is far from natural, and the method by which hash oil is made sounds anything but healthy. Marijuana trim (or sometimes bud) is infused with a hydrocarbon, usually butane gas. The butane strips the THC and some other cannabinoids out of the plant when the mix is put under intense pressure. In addition to marijuana concentrate, the goopy stuff that emerges is laced with butane. This has to be cooked down to remove the residual chemical. The result (if the cook doesn’t blow up; butane is explosive) is a glassy substance called “shatter” or “wax.”
In part, the bad press for concentrates may be a little unfair. People blowing up their kitchens trying to make butane hash oil at home doesn’t mean hash oil itself is bad. Fires and explosions all over Colorado have alarmed lawmakers and the media alike. In Aurora, where marijuana sales are still illegal, there have been four butane hash oil explosions in the past four months, the most recent landing two young men in the hospital with burns after they blew out the windows of their apartment
According to Julie Postlethwait, spokeswoman for Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, new safety rules for the manufacture of concentrates are slated to go into effect on March 2. They include ensuring an industrial hygienist or professional engineer approves manufacturing equipment, and having eyewash available on site. But, she said, they apply only to Colorado’s commercial marijuana industry. “Individuals have the right to grow their own plants.”
Can they make their own concentrate? “Yes, legally,” Postlethwait said. “It’s up to local authorities, cities and towns and counties. They can prohibit the manufacture of concentrates. I don’t know if they are.”