By: Breana Henrigues – Hofstra Law School – Law Student Contributor
In the most recent NFL season Panthers quarterback Cam Newton brought the term “dab” into the national spotlight. One of the most successful teams in the NFL and eventual Super Bowl loser, featured a very high profile quarterback Cam Newton use a dance move called the ‘dab’ as his touchdown celebration and this thrust into the national spotlight the term “dab”. We are acutely aware that the term is associated with BHO, or Butane Honey Oil which is a new and controversial form of concentrated marijuana. BHO is one of the most common concentrated marijuana products on the market currently, both in states where marijuana is legal as well as on the black market, but just how safe is BHO, both to users as well as manufacturers, and should it be classified as a different drug?
The main source of negative media reports surrounding BHO is the process by which it is manufactured. In simple terms, finely shredded marijuana is placed into some sort of vessel, usually a metal tube, and butane is then poured or forced through the vessel. What comes out at the other end is a sticky resinous substance that is comprised of the oils, waxes, chlorophyll, cannabinoids and butane. The next step of the process is called purging; where by a number of different methods can be used to remove the butane from the oil itself. The resulting substance is extremely potent and anecdotally can contain upwards of 80% THC.
On the surface this process seems very straightforward, and one that can be done professionally quite well. However, the problem with the manufacture of BHO is that it is extremely dangerous and the majority of BHO is not being made professionally. Butane is an extremely volatile organic compound, it is extremely flammable (which explains its use as lighter fluid), and it has an extremely low boiling point, so as soon as it is poured, in most cases it changes from a liquid to a gas. In recent years there have been many deaths and injuries that have been attributed to the manufacture of BHO, due to people attempting to make it in their own homes without proper ventilation and safety precautions.
Another big issue with the way BHO is made is the simple fact that the average consumer cannot buy pure butane; the available butane contains other impurities and chemicals such as benzene which can easily end up in the final product. Obviously inhaling butane and all of the other impurities that can end up in BHO is definitely a health risk. Of course not all of the BHO that is available will have these impurities, but since as was stated earlier most BHO is made by unknown sources, there is very little way to tell until you’ve inhaled the product.
BHO is very potent, and it is rumored to have a THC content of 60-80%, which due to the route of ingestion can be nearly impossible to control the dose of THC you are receiving. While in a medicinal sense, this can be very good for people who would require immediate relief, such as those with chronic pain or severe nausea. On the other side, THC by itself has been linked to temporary psychosis and schizophrenic like symptoms, while CBD, another cannabinoid shows anti-psychotic properties. In regular marijuana, these two chemicals are usually balanced, which keeps negative effects to a minimum. In the case of BHO the unbalanced amount of THC to CBD can in turn lead to an “overdose” on this substance. While not deadly, the overdose in this sense can lead to devastating mental affects, although they usually only last as long as the user is under the influence (30-60 minutes).
Unfortunately to me the risks of BHO outweigh the benefits medicinally, since the majority of the BHO is not made in a laboratory with proper safety protocols in place. This puts many people at risk to manufacture the product, and puts the end user at risk, because even if the person who made the BHO did not blow him/herself up, it is impossible to know if the final product will be contaminated with harmful chemicals. From a medicinal standpoint concentrated forms of marijuana can be helpful however more needs to be done to improve the processes involved with this product.
Curiously, perhaps we should consider completely separating BHO from marijuana legally, since it is a completely different product. The negative press involved with the manufacturing issues of BHO can only hurt the movement to have rational marijuana laws, as well as the safety of the end user should always be taken into consideration. I think it should be classified separately due to these risks.
google news search for butane
a lot of horror stories just in the past few weeks.