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The headlines are rather inflammatory: “Police:Marijuana Wax Can Be Explosive,” “Hash Oil Lab Fires A Growing, Explosive Threat In Contra Costa County,” and even the simple “Hash Oil Explosion Leaves at Least 2 Critically Burned.” The fear-mongering about hash oil explosions has been going on for a while, but the tone remains as hysterical as ever in many mainstream media reports about cannabis concentrates without any honest exploration of the root cause of these explosions: prohibition.
Let’s be clear about one thing: when pressurized petroleum products are being used as a solvent, there is certainly the possibility of an explosion or fire, and the risk of fire is still there if alcohol is the solvent being used. Because of the risk created by these and other solvents, they should be used by professionals in laboratories and similarly controlled production environments with excellent ventilation and fire-suppression systems. Sadly, the prohibition of marijuana or marijuana extracts has forced many cannabis concentrate makers to operate underground, effectively preventing most from renting safe, professional production facilities.
Knowing that the professionals make their product in less than ideal environments is probably part of what inspires less-trained folks to attempt to duplicate the process, often in residential areas. Without training and an intricate understanding of the process of extraction, a simple mistake can result in big problems. If the professionals were working in the kind of facilities their skill demands, many amateurs would be deterred from even considering a “home brew” concentrate operation. Combine that chilling effect with the diminishing financial incentive that results from lower prices and the demand for higher quality products that come with a regulated market, and there’s suddenly no longer much reason to make hash oil at home.
Granted, there are always folks willing to cut corners and break the law for profit, but as a parallel example, as the legal market now provides the average consumer with the convenience of retail alcohol, bootlegging booze has generally fallen by the wayside as a criminal practice. Sure, some folks still make hard liquor illegally. Moonshine is a well-known black market liquor that continues to resurface, particularly in rural areas, sometimes with fiery consequences. Just three years ago, five men died in an explosion in Boston believed to be caused by an illegal vodka distillation operation. Although it does still happen, it doesn’t happen that often.
It stands to reason that if folks who wanted a dab could just walk to the local dispensary and buy some BHO, the draw of black market production (which is primarily the massive profit margin) would lessen substantially. For some reason, the mainstream media doesn’t seem to see the connection between the prohibition of cannabis (or cannabis concentrates, which are not legal in some medical marijuana states) Still, even the articles with hysterical titles are beginning to adjust their attitudes about cannabis concentrates.
The Arizona-based KRQE article referenced above, “Police:Marijuana Wax Can Be Explosive,” provided in-depth discussion with people in the medical marijuana industry to counter the police warning, talking about how BHO, marijuana oil, or other forms of cannabis concentrates are safer for those with severe conditions, extreme pain, and high tolerance. This seems to indicate that at least some in the mainstream media are already aware of the medical necessity of cannabis concentrates in the treatment of some people (and that it is a harm-reduction option because the cannabinoids are consumed via vaporizing instead of crude combustion).
For previous Ladybud articles about BHO, click here.
Photo Credit: Mike Slee under (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons