Video: Flaming hash explosion follows High Times concentrates panel
Last Saturday at the High Times Medical Cannabis Cup, I sat in on panel of experts discussing the pros and cons of smoking concentrates extracted by using solvents such as butane and isopropyl alcohol. Little did I realize that only days later, I would experience the risks that come from working with flammables, courtesy of some mutant wax that could easily have turned me into a ball of fire, as seen in a video below.
While I didn't really have much to offer on the panel aside from some patient perspective and comic relief in the form of my bearded disguise, Dr. Alan Shackelford, Dr. Bob Melamede and hash experts Selecta Nikka T and Daniel de Sailles shared a wealth of knowledge on the subject.
For over an hour, we discussed the possible health issues of residual solvents left in hash, the pros and cons of using volatile chemicals for the extraction, and where the industry is going in terms of safety. The panel's conclusion? Solvent-extracted hash is beneficial medicine, but it's also only as good as the materials used to make it. And yes, there are some very real dangers.
High Times panel.
"I think they are all good for you, as long as you're not using anything that's bad," said Melamede. "If you're using dirty ethanol and you do an ethanol extract, you're going to get a dirty concentrate. If you use dirty butane...then any residues that might be in there that are themselves not volatile will be left over. Like anything else, it's garbage in, garbage out. If you put something good in, then what comes out is good."
Melamede also talked about the quality of the cannabis being important.
"If you have pesticides on your plant material, that is going to come off into that solvent. So when you evaporate the solvent, you'll actually be concentrating those things. And that is the real danger. Pesticides are typically extremely nasty in how they can affect your nervous system and potentially your immune system."
Though he was a bit more skeptical about using solvent-extracted hash without any scientific data to show its safety, Shackelford agreed that when properly made, it's probably no better or worse than other forms of hash.
"I have seen a number of patients who use concentrates...with great success for a number of different conditions," Shackelford said. "If you're heating it up and it's vaporizing or being burned, that butane is pretty much gone. Any residual [butane] would not be a problem." But what can be a problem is concentrated pesticides, herbicides or chemicals left over from impure solvents.
BHO from Top Shelf Extracts.
At one point, a patient in the audience got up and said that she had health problems from smoking too much BHO. After going to the hospital because her throat was swelling shut, she was told that an irritant had coated her throat -- likely from her smoking. She admitted that she wasn't told it was a direct cause of the butane, but said it was a wakeup call to be more aware of what she was smoking. Both doctors agreed that it was likely something other than the butane that caused her health problem.
The panel also discussed public perceptions of butane hash, as well as the increasing numbers of home fires caused by the extraction method, including a blaze in Breckenridge a few years ago. It's an unfortunate reality. People are going to blow themselves up making this stuff if they aren't careful. As Black mentioned, it's a lot like creating a batch of bathtub gin.
You can watch the video of the talk for more tips, but the two most important take-aways were: Keep away from open flames and don't be stupid.
Page down for more on the panel's discussion plus videos of the panel and that flaming hash.