California patients are in a quandary over BHO (Butane Honey Oil)

ButaneHoneyOil01One of the positive effects of California’s SB 420 (*1) is the allowance of “converted” cannabis into “hash oil” for medical reasons. The effect of one small dab of vaporized BHO wax can last as long as smoking a quarter gram of cannabis without inhaling most all of the non-psychoactive plant material. Butane conversion of cannabis is as safe as other industrial botanical extractions when the laws pertaining to health and safety are followed. So what’s the problem?

California has prosecuted a BHO case under strict drug lab laws (*2). The case involved “665 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of over $2 million.” The plaintiff received two additional years “as punishment for having produced concentrated cannabis by chemical extraction” and justified “by the danger his activities posed to the public at large from having used a highly flammable and volatile solvent in a residential setting in the process of manufacturing concentrated cannabis.”

GrinspoonWax002The dabbing controversy is analogous to how medical marijuana’s progress has been impaired from birth. Under California SB 420 a patient is allowed hash oil and yet the state can use health and safety laws to prosecute the making of BHO due to the “danger” involved. Notice this danger was not due the fact that cannabis was the substance being converted.

From my understanding, converting any substance with butane, even Chamomile tea, in ones backyard holds the same danger. The fact that health and safety laws pertain to controlled substances at all results from illegal drug manufacturing, i.e., methamphetamine.

The association of backyard butane extraction with the danger of illegal meth labs is real – both are very dangerous and forbidden by law. But is it the process or product that’s dangerous? Is the law against using butane conversion with anything or just with a controlled substance? Don’t get confused by the rhetoric used for frighten marijuana patients away from hash oil. That’s a red herring.

GrinspoonWax005aPharmaceutical companies legally produce methamphetamine for clinical use and I’m sure there are just as many safe procedures for extracting THC from cannabis as there are for any other botanical substance. BHO can be safely made with industrial equipment under preexisting health and safety laws.

But the not-for-profit medical marijuana laws in California are preventing hash oil from getting to patients. Unless a patient can purchase the industrial equipment to produce enough hash oil for personal medical use, say a gram a week, they have no legal access. Few, if any, patients have the financial ability for such a no profit venture.

So a legal California medical marijuana patient is allowed hash oil as long as all safety and health laws are followed. It’s the profit that legally turned the plaintiffs’ hash oil into a controlled substance, as it does for any medical cannabis as the law now stands. This, in turn, made the butane extraction illegal under health and safety laws forbidding the dangerous manufacturing of a controlled substance. Had this plaintiff followed the health and safety laws, and made BHO for his own medical use, this case would have been qualitatively different.

Zeta KiefA California medical marijuana patient is immune to prosecution for converting cannabis under controlled substance laws. The nonprofit model of California’s medical marijuana laws is preventing pure industrial hash oil from being produced legally. I hope those working on laws to further access for cannabis will place BHO in the above ground market where it safely belongs.

(*1) SB 420: “It stops arrests — not just prosecution — of card-holding individuals for possession, transportation, delivery or cultivation up to a very minimal level of 6 mature plants per patient and 8 oz of bud or conversion (that could arguably be hash or hash oil, or equivalent amounts of foods and tinctures, which have a lot of liquid weight) 11362.71(e)”

(*2) [This was a BHO case the state convicted as a drug lab for controlled substances – 2008 appeal] THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. NIALL PATRICK BERGEN, Defendant and Appellant.