Beware Consumption Of Low-Quality, Poorly Purged Butane Hash Oil

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By Rick Pfrommer, Director of Education, Harborside Health Center

dabs dabbing concentrates butane hash oil medical marijuana

Concentrating on Wellness

This year's High Times Cannabis Cup in Southern California took place Feb. 16-17. Originally slated for Los Angeles, the event had to be moved due to police-permitting hassles from downtown L.A. to Glendale before finally landing in San Bernardino. Despite logistical issues, the High Times crew and everyone else rallied, making it one of the best run and well attended of all Cups to date.

Regular readers might remember my column after last year's L.A. event, where I expressed concern about the explosion of dab culture (see The Harborside Illuminator, vol. 7). One of the most troubling aspects to me at the time was the consumption of low-quality, poorly purged butane hash oil (BHO). I was also worried about the fixation on elaborate dab gear. How was this wellness? I asked. Thankfully, this year I witnessed a tremendous improvement in the quality and purity of concentrates.

Perhaps the biggest change is the rise of a wide variety of solvent-less waxes. From our own hyperbaric pressure chamber (HBC) wax (see The Harborside Illuminator, vols. 8 & 10) and CO2 to cold-water hash (CWH), non-BHO concentrates have greatly proliferated. Today's patient has many top-quality, high-potency choices. On the BHO front, cleanliness and purity have improved considerably. Vacuum purging, using specialized equipment to remove impurities, has become standard; this has made much cleaner hash more readily available. People are also generally using higher quality butane and are now frequently utilizing closed-loop systems where the majority of butane is recaptured and can therefore be re-used. This is both safer and less environmentally damaging.

I believe cannabis undergoes a significant change when it's combined with long-chain carbon molecules such as butane: I don't think the spirit of cannabis wants to be extracted with petroleum distillates.

This year I noticed a far less fanatical focus on dabbing. Its initial novelty has given way to a more measured, wellness-oriented approach. Folks don't seem to think they have to keep doing hit after hit; one or two good dabs is enough for most to be pleasantly medicated.

I was fortunate enough to have several varieties of HBC wax--including Sweet Tooth, Buddha's Sister, and a deliciously piney Jack Herer--and I enjoyed turning patients on to this Harborside exclusive. Luminaries such as Danny Danko of High Times and Kyle Kushman of Strawberry Cough and Veganics fame were quite impressed by the HBC. The advances made in cleaning up BHO are heartening but hopefully time will see more patients turning to alternatives. I believe cannabis undergoes a significant change when it's combined with long-chain carbon molecules such as butane: I don't think the spirit of cannabis wants to be extracted with petroleum distillates. Okay, I'll get off the soapbox now.

Overall, the Cup this year seemed more concentrated on wellness. Harborside led the way with the wellness-oriented approach a couple years ago. HHC Executive Director Steve Deangelo's breakthrough article, "Wellness Not Intoxication", defined this perspective for the medical cannabis industry. In the last year, many more cannabis professionals have adopted this viewpoint. The amount of scantily clad women at the Cup has decreased markedly since its zenith a few years ago. More dispensaries and seed companies are touting CBD-rich medicine. The increase in knowledge about and use of CBD is gratifying. Harborside Health Center, in conjunction with Steep Hill Lab, was the first to re-discover and promote CBD in cannabis over three years ago. Ultimately, THC's long-lost brother (or rather, sister) might be one of our most important contributions to modern pharmacopeia. Mainstream physicians for rheumatoid arthritis, which affects over 40 million Americans, might one day commonly recommend topical preparations with CBD.

In my Boy Scout troop (full disclosure, I am no less than a geek Eagle Scout) "13" was considered a lucky number. Our scoutmaster had a whole philosophy built around the mystical and numerological aspects of 13. I therefore have a strong feeling that 2013 will be HHC's--and indeed the entire movement's--lucky year. A very good start is implemented adult-use legalization in Colorado and Washington, and the continued expansion of the medical cannabis industry into places like Arizona, New Jersey and most importantly, Washington D.C. Steve DeAngelo is from D.C., which is also where I began my cannabis career with him over 25 years ago. We've come a long way since then...

We still face many challenges. The tide, however, is turning and the sun rising again. Together we will all go forward into the bright light of a new day. One where everyone who wants and needs the benefits of this amazing plant will have the opportunity. I continue to be honored and humbled to be a part, as Harborside leads the way.

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