Have you heard of BHO? Also known as butane hash oil or butane honey oil, this concentrated form of Cannabis separates the essential oils of the Cannabis plant from the plant material. The resulting material is extremely potent, similar to the difference between beer and hard alcohol. A serving size may be the size of a grain of rice, or less half that size for a first timer. If you accidentally take two grains of rice, you are going to have a bad day if you are not familiar with concentrates.
The buzz about BHO is that backyard operations are creating explosions which endanger the residents at the home, and potentially neighbors. These backyard extractors are looked down upon by the industry and is an unfortunate practice for three reasons.
Reason One: Backyard extractions do not use a closed loop system
BHO is popular because butane is easy to acquire and it is a high yielding solvent, meaning it is a stronger solvent. Members of the professional Cannabis industry use what’s called a closed loop system when doing extractions. Closed loop means that butane is never exposed to the air, and the solvent is recaptured at the end of the process. The closed loop systems are also able to withstand huge pressures upwards of 1000psi. Backyard extractors tend to use a $40 PVC column, while allowing the residual butane to off gas, or escape into the atmosphere. It’s no surprise that butane floating around is extremely flammable, one of the main reasons we see explosions in the news.
Fun Fact: Extractions can use different solvents such as Butane, Naptha, CO2, Alcohol.
Reason Two: Residual solvents in your concentrate
The second major problem with backyard BHO is they do not use professional purging systems. Once you have created an extract from your Cannabis material you need to purge that material of residual solvent. This is done using a vacuum chamber which is heated at a consistent temperature. This process lasts in excess of 24 hours and uses expensive equipment, but it ensures that no residual solvents are left over. Many backyard BHO operations do not go through this process, or do not purge their product long enough. The end result is butane in your lungs, and every seasoned expert will tell you this is a scary thing. Long story short, get your BHO tested for RESIDUAL SOLVENTS, high THC is great, but protect your mind and body from unsafe products.
Reason Three: Residual Metals and other materials (Mercaptan & Pesticides)
The third problem with unprofessional extraction services is that they do not use commercial food grade butane. Sometimes they use the same butane that you would use to fill up a lighter. This butane is artificially filled with many heavy metals and lubricants that isn’t found in pure butane. For example, butane from your lighter smells like rotten eggs. This is because butane is infuse Mercaptan to reduce the risk of long term leaks. Mercaptan is a chemical that is linked to brain lesions, and not something you want to be ingesting regularly. Additionally, pesticides have become a major problem. For example if a grower uses harsh pesticides on their plants and then takes 10 lbs of bud to extract into oil they are also extracting the pesticides. This concentrates the amount of pesticides by a factor of 10 in many cases, and it can be very dangerous to consume. You can read about a commercial recall in Denver here.
No reasonable person should support black market BHO, only support reputable shops and BHO concentrates tested for residual solvents. Our recommendation is seek out CO2 extracts at a local pot shop. Although this process does not yield as much concentrate from the plant material, we breathe CO2 every day. Stay safe.