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California Bans Sale of Butane to Curb Hash Oil Explosions

California Bans Sale of Butane to Curb Hash Oil Explosions
PHOTO Andres Rodriguez


California Bans Sale of Butane to Curb Hash Oil Explosions

State hopes new legislation will help to eliminate illegal concentrate market.

It is now illegal to sell large quantities of non-oxidized butane in California.

In an attempt to keep illicit hash oil producers from turning the state into a scene straight out of the film “Backdraft,” Gov. Gavin Newsom recently put his signature on a piece of legislation that prevents these cooking culprits from buying enough of this stuff to go full-blown in their illicit market pursuits. However, it is not a total ban. The law, which took effect as of July 1, still allows the sale of lighters and small containers. The state hopes the new statute will help curb the amount of deadly and destructive butane-gas explosions they have experienced over the years due to people working above their paygrade when trying to manufacture cannabis concentrates.

Although California isn’t the only state in the nation having a problem with cut-rate cannabis cooks blowing themselves (and others) up in the hash oil extraction process, the state is one of the leading contributors in this mayhem. California accounted for nearly two-thirds of the illegal hash oil labs in the nation in 2017. Some reports indicate that dozens of Californians have been injured over the years due to these shoddy operations. But if you ask the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the situation is far worse than all of that. The agency claims that around 19 people have been killed and 126 injured in hash-oil fires since 2014. One suburban San Diego hash oil explosion had a man running down the street in flames, according to Reuters.

The sale of cannabis concentrates is a lucrative business nationwide. Some of the latest data from New Frontier shows that the concentrate sector was worth more than $10 billion (yes, billion with a ‘B’) as of last year. That’s nearly double from where the extracts market stood three years earlier.

Hash oil, which is sometimes referred to as “honey oil,” can be used in the creation of pot products from vape pens to wax. You may have heard these products discussed in terms of dabsshatter, budder or even crumble. What makes these products so appealing to some cannabis consumers is the potency. These aren’t for those hipster nug novices searching for the best way to microdose. No sir, these bad mama jamas can come packed with up to 90% THC.

While legitimate cannabis companies are using sophisticated equipment to produce this popular stoner spinoff, the illicit market is using more open-sourced methodologies. As with anything in this day and age, all a curious cannabis cook has to do is look to YouTube for a wealth of step-by-step video guides on how to produce hash oil. In some cases, all the materials one really needs is some PVC pipe, a coffee filter, an inexpensive can of butane and a place to summon the scientist within. Of course, take this process, toss in a little dumb*ss, mix in any number of things that could, and probably will go wrong and the next thing you know the kitchen or garage used to birth the Bride of Dabenstein is quickly transformed into the disastrous equivalent of Reactor 4. It is a problem that continues to increase nationwide, the DEA says.

But California got sick of it.

In 2017, the state legislature voted to establish limits on butane, but the measure ended up getting vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown. He was concerned that churning out legislation on the matter wouldn’t give the industry a chance to fall in line with some of the upcoming regulations. There are now more than 150 businesses in California licensed to use butane or other explosive materials to produce marijuana concentrates. These operations must pay in upwards of $75,000 per year for this privilege and adhere to strict safety regulations or run the risk of being shut down. But the industry is not infallible. Some legit cannabis operations have been fined handsomely due to hash oil explosions — some of which have led to personal injury. Some industry consultants say that most of the hash oil operations they inspect do not pass the first time through.

Still, it is the illegal operations that are the real menaces to society.

Last year, Assemblyman Tim Grayson introduced a bill intended to cripple these underground hash oil operations. Calling them “nothing short of a public safety disaster waiting to happen,” the lawmaker’s mission was one that would require butane over 150 milliliters to contain odorant, making the product worthless to those people wanting to use it to manufacture cannabis extracts. The measure eventually made its way to the desk of Gov. Newsom, and the rest is history.

It remains to be seen, however, whether butane limits will actually solve the problem. As we’ve seen with states trying to control methamphetamine, limiting the sale of critical ingredients hasn’t exactly slowed production. We are presently in yet another severe meth scourge across the United States.

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