When I read a story about a man setting himself on fire while attempting to make hash oil, I had 2 immediate reactions: first I felt pity for a fellow MMAR licensee having their level of suffering increased while trying to save money; secondly, I thought “you idiot – thanks for giving us all a bad name” and shook my head in discust.
While I’m disappointed in the individual for focusing negative attention towards MMAR licensees by creating a danger to the public through illegal and potentially deadly actions, as well as burdening the medical system with the cost of treating his injuries, I understand their motivation – cost recovery.
Marijuana is expensive, regardless of your legal situation. Buying it from the government is no cheaper than on the street, and it’s generally of far lesser quality. Producing it yourself or through an authorized second party burdens the grower with large electric bills, while requiring a huge amount of labor, substancial infrastructure, and lots of know-how – and then you have to wait 12-16 weeks before you actually have product you can ingest, and start the cycle again. It’s a massive investment that’s insurmountable for many without a good amount of assistance. Thank [insert your deity/higher power of choice] for organizations like MedicalMarijuana.ca who help network those in need with skilled people willing to act as designated growers.
Regardless of how MMAR licensees acquire their pot and whatever the cost, they’d like to maximize their investment. Heck, it’s the cost of ‘plant based bio matter’ that drives the competitiveness of the vaporizor market.
Making hash or hash oil are the primary methods of recovering ingestable THC from what is otherwise garbage. Be it nothing more than stems picked out of the baggie, or trimmings from a grow operation, pure garbage represents lost money and marijuana smokers, legal or not, are generally a pretty ‘waste not want not’ collective.
The problem with this concept for MMAR licensee’s is that it’s still illegal to do either. Further, it’s illegal to possess the ‘garbage’ you’d make it with too. You’re allowed to hold onto the buds, but any plant trimmings, or stems have to be destroyed.
Now, if you’re just buying buds that’s only so bad – having to throw away stems you might want to recover a ‘treat’ from might be annoying, but oh well. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty minor loss. On the other hand, if you’re growing your own, or having it done for you, seeing all of those trimmings going in the garbage can be nothing less than heartbreaking. After such a large investment, I can understand the want to squeeze every bit of return out of it as possible.
Here’s where it gets technical. Making hash and hash oil are very different processes, with vastly different results, but equally illegal. Hash is most popularly and easily made by mixing trimmings with water and ice, and sifting the mixture to yield the end product. It’s a fairly simple process, and in no way dangerous to anyone (so long as you’re capable of operating a hand mixer), but the screens required to do the job aren’t cheap and you generally want a decent amount of trimmings to work with.
Hash oil on the other hand is manufactured through much more dangerous processes. Trimmings are soaked in isopropolyene and strained, or rinsed with butane, which is then reduced until the solvent is eliminated, leaving behind a sticky residue. The amount of liquid used is relative to the amount of trimmings or stems, and any amount justifying the effort to extract it can be used. The process can also be repeated to ensure extraction is maximized, and generally offers potential for higher yield than making hash. The problem is both isopropolyene and butane are highly flammable as a liquid, and explosive as a gas. Substancial venting and a safe heating source must be used to eliminate risk of fire or explosion; but, when it’s illegal and manufacturing must be done in secret, safety measures are usually the first thing to go.
I can understand why making oil is illegal for everyone – even MMAR licensee’s and designated growers – as it’s incredibly dangerous, and can yield deadly results, but why is it the same for making hash? Allowing growers and licensee’s to produce hash via approved, safe processes would allow smokers to salvage costs legally, and eliminate the temptation to use more dangerous methods.
But, it’s just one more example where politicians making laws without any firsthand experience surrounding the issues involved limits the public/society which it affects. No great surprise, and I don’t expect changes anytime soon – at least none I consider a move forward. Lateral – possible. Backward – any day now.