A cannabis extract that uses butane as the primary solvent during the extraction process. Butane Hash Oil is most commonly referred by its initials BHO, and encompasses myriad textures and consistencies. Butane Hash Oil extraction can render badder, crumble, sauce, or shatter, depending on starting material, apparatus used, and techniques applied.
“I just cleaned my banger, break out the BHO!”
“That may look like rosin, but it’s butane hash oil.”
“Can I twax this joint with some of your BHO?”
What is BHO?
Butane hash oil (BHO) is an extract, which is a type of cannabis concentrate that’s produced using solvents. A label that reads “BHO” only tells part of a concentrate’s story. Consumers can’t judge a concentrate by appearance or aroma alone.
When it comes to any concentrate, remember that the starting material will dictate the quality of the finished product. Starting material refers to the cannabis used to create the concentrate. A combination of the flower used and purity of the final product is what separates high-quality concentrates from a product that users avoid.
BHO’s consistency is primarily dependent on the techniques applied during the extraction and the post-extraction purge stages, but there are some cannabis strains that tend to produce a particular texture. Though methods vary, the goal is largely the same: Deliver the desired characteristics of the cannabis plant sans the tar- and ash-producing matter. This is accomplished through a steady series of separation and purification.
Butane is a highly flammable substance and hash oil production is extremely dangerous if done by inexperienced technicians with improper equipment and ill-equipped facilities.
How Is It Extracted?
Plant material is loaded into a tube and it is soaked in butane as a solvent to separate the oils out. However, there are more than one ways to make butane hash oil.
Dabbing: A popular method of consuming hash. A metal or glass compartment, called a nail, is attached to a specially designed bong, known as an oil rig. Typically, the nail is heated with a torch. A small amount of hash oil is placed on the nail, causing it to vaporize. The consumer then inhales the vapor through the pipe. Hash oil can also be consumed using a portable device called a hash pen or e-cigarettes rigged for hash oil.
This glossary is part of The Oregonian’s series about the growing demand for butane hash oil and how that market is met by an unregulated and largely underground industry based in residential garages, basements and kitchens.
Shatter: Typically a clear, amber and hard form of hash oil.
Wax, also known as budder or crumble: Hash oil that’s cloudier in appearance and flaky in texture.
Bubble hash: Type of hash made by dunking marijuana flowers, or buds, and leaves into a cold water bath. Leaves and flowers are placed in a specially designed bag, called a “bubble bag.” The plant’s resin glands, known as crystals or trichomes, are filtered through a series of screens. The process, which emerged more than a decade ago, is far safer than using butane, but the result is a product lower in THC compared with BHO. One estimate put the THC concentrations in the 30 to 50 percent range, well below the 80 percent for BHO.
How is butane hash oil (BHO) made?
BHO cannabis extracts are made using butane, a chemical solvent. Professional extractors use what is called a “closed-loop system” that allows the butane to travel through cannabis plant material in contained chambers, preventing the flammable solvent from entering the air. The butane separates marijuana’s essential compounds like THC and CBD and forms a potent oil that may be further refined.
Producing BHO at home is incredibly dangerous and not recommended because butane is highly flammable and can cause explosions.
Is butane hash oil safe?
Because BHO is made using chemical solvents, some question whether it is safe to consume. Regulated cannabis markets require all cannabis concentrates to be tested for traces of butane to ensure that every product on legal shelves has been adequately refined for purity and does not exceed the legal limit of residual solvent levels.
The most serious risk associated with BHO is not related to consumption, but rather, production; clandestine home setups that lack proper ventilation and closed-loop systems have been the cause of several explosions, some of which have been lethal.
Another danger associated with BHO is the use of butane torches used to heat dab rig nails. These torches should be used with caution, or alternatively, you may consider investing in torch-free dabbing setups like e-nails (electric nails).
BHO is a potent concentrate that should be approached with caution by cannabis novices. When dabbed, BHO can bring on intense effects that can lead to dizziness, anxiety, or other psychological distress. It’s a good idea to only dab when seated and to have a comforting environment to retire to in case the high becomes psychologically challenging.
Professional BHO Wax Creation
Although you are free to use stems and leaves, it is far easier to use premium-grade bud. The process of butane hash oil extraction takes the resin glands from the plant’s trichomes. The plant material is left behind.
In theory, BHO is a grand idea. You run the non-polar solvent through the weed. As it flows through the plant matter, it dissolves the resin glands immediately. Best of all, it doesn’t collect chlorophyll or other plant matter. When you finish the process, you obtain the oil mix in a container. Finally, the solvent completely evaporates into the air. The end product is a beautiful, potent THC goo with no nasty residue.
In practice, it involves expensive equipment and expertise to do it correctly. We will briefly outline the techniques used by professionals. As it is so dangerous, we are not going to provide a DIY option.
There are ‘open’ and ‘closed’ extraction methods.
This was the original method. It involves filling a stainless steel or glass tube with cannabis and passing butane through it. The result is a yellow-orange, thick oil that comes out of the bottom of the container. One the product is purified and dried, it becomes a valuable commodity.
The problem with open blasting is obvious. As there is nothing to contain the solvent, there is a risk of explosion. It is also a wasteful way to extract cannabinoids.
First and foremost, a closed-loop system is safe because there are no openings for a solvent to leak. You place solvents into a pressurized tank attached to an extraction tube where you contain the plant materials. Despite its better safety profile, you still need to check the equipment routinely. It is an expensive method, which is why amateurs don’t use it!
Dangers of BHO Wax: Butane Evaporation
The first wax that you get right after the extraction process is cloudy or hazy/opaque due to butane saturation. Pure wax/concentrate, depending on the type, is typically relatively transparent. Butane naturally evaporates on its own, but many people like to speed up the process by applying heat.
The process is dangerous whatever method you use to evaporate the butane from the wax. Butane gas is highly flammable (there’s a reason why we use it as lighter fluid).
In Colorado alone, there are dozens of verified home explosions each year due to DIY hash oil extraction accidents. Butane gas is heavier than air, so it sinks to the ground after it evaporates. Entire rooms, garages, or even homes go up in massive explosions. All it takes is a simple ignition from a pilot light, stove, refrigerator motor, or any other source of flame.
In the last five years, there were at least ten explosions or fires at facilities that extracted hash oil. This data only includes states where marijuana is legal recreationally or medicinally. By the way, the consumption/vaporization process is not without risk either.
How Dangerous Is Marijuana Wax?
Butane, in itself, is not particularly dangerous. The FDA lists it as a food additive. Some organizations use it as an artificial antioxidant, or to keep food fresh. However, there is little research available, which demonstrates how safe it is for inhalation.
If you vape or dab BHO wax that still contains butane residue, you inhale the chemical directly. What’s scarier than the butane, though, are the trace chemicals used to thin the butane out. In its natural liquid form, butane is too viscous for use in pumps. It is usually “thinned out” by harsh chemicals like neopentane and hexane, which are known carcinogens.
Another significant concern of inhaling BHO wax relates to the marijuana plant’s waxy outer layer or cuticle. When burned or combusted normally, the wax layer in weed is burned away and is not an issue.
However, it’s known that vaping does not produce a high enough temperature to get rid of the cuticle. Instead, wax accumulates in the user’s lungs and forms granulomas, which are insoluble lipid fragments. When you dab at least, you generate a high enough temperature to burn away the cuticle fragments in the BHO wax.