Everybody loves hash oil these days, but people sometimes blow up their homes making the stuff. Here's ten things to know about the potentially deadly process of extracting the sticky substance.
1. Why people love it.
Everyone has their reasons. Hash oil usually concentrates not just a pot plant's potency but also it's volatile essential oils. For that reason, some folks find that the taste and smell of the plant come through most clear in extracted form. Many people are moving toward hash oil pen vaporizers that take user-friendly refill cartridges, which allow for relatively discrete public toking, overcome stoner obstacles like wind or rain, and don't stink up your hands with the smell of scorched cannabis flowers. Some believe that super-concentrated cannabis fights cancer and other diseases. And there's a significant portion of dabbers that simply like to get super stoned.
2. Why people hate it.
Most cannabis users probably don't want to get stoned out of their gourds. It can be too much, make for a bad experience, and agitate the soul. It can cause physiological effects such as increased heart rate, lethargy, dizziness, and strained breathing, which can even lead to panic attacks. Hash oil can make people antisocial, and some worry that dab culture is hyper-focused on ever-increasing potency and loses sight of the natural flower form—the essential form. Prohibitionists hate hash oil because it seems new and unfamiliar, presenting an opportunity for them to fearmonger an underinformed public. Of course this isn't your father's marijuana, dude, it's not the '60s any more.
3. Dangerous solvents.
Where hash is typically extracted using ice water, agitation, and a series of nylon screens, hash oil is extracted most often using butane or other flammable solvents—like isopropyl alcohol, naptha, or ethanol. In recent years, supercritical carbon dioxide extraction machines have hit the marijuana market, but their price points are beyond the means of most oil makers—and the extreme pressures involved present their own safety risks.
4. Dangerous accoutrement.
Hash oil is often ingested by heating the tip of a glass or metal "nail" inserted into a bong. Once ready, a small bit of oil is picked up with a metal poker and touched against the hot nail, causing it to vaporize. This is usually done with handheld blow torches, leaving some harm reduction advocates scratching their heads in conflicted wonder. Nothing keeps a party lively like a bunch of stoners playing with blow torches.
5. Butane explodes at certain concentrations.
If the butane-to-oxygen ratio is between 1.6-8.4%, the room is liable to explode if a spark is created. Any concentration outside that range should not explode, but if you're working in a 10% butane environment, you've got other problems.
6. Butane is heavier than air.
You may not notice butane concentrating in the room, because it sinks to the floor, lazily collecting below the rest of the air. Without proper ventilation and air circulation, pockets of butane may accumulate to explosive levels without you ever smelling it.
7. Household appliances spark.
Most standard home appliances can provide an ignition source for a hash oil production party. Gas appliances like water hearters and stoves have pilot lights—open flames that are near-certain to explode the room when the butane concentration in the air reaches 2%. A common toaster can do it too, but perhaps one of the most common ignition sources is stoners sparking a lighter.
8. Closed-loop versus into-the-atmosphere.
Modern hash oil extraction machines are often made to recapture the solvent in a closed-loop system. But most amateur oil makers compress cannabis into a metal pipe and "blast" a bottle of lighter fluid through it. What butane doesn't remain in the hash oil vaporizes into the air. Home oil makers will often use cases of this stuff at a time, blasting butane into the environment around them and quickly collecting piles of discarded lighter fluid canisters.
9. Impatientience speeds explosion.
Butane hash oil production can be explosive even when one takes appropriate safety precautions, but some oil blasters increase the risk by attempting to speed the process with heat. Once the butane seeps through the pot and spits resiny goo into a container, the solvent will naturally boil off at room temperature (30 degrees Farenheit, technically). But the goo must be worked a little to pop all the tiny bubbles of residual butane, and heat quickens the pace. So some stoners turn their kitchen burner to low and put the butane-rich slurry on top—which is like simmering a pot of gasoline—only to be reminded that fuel plus oxygen plus ignition source equals ka-boom.
10. Hash oil is pot's pork bellies.
When pot is treated like any other mainstream crop, cannabis futures will likely be in two forms: flowers and oil. But one of these—hash oil—is not only of greater value by volume, it is easier to transport and has a much wider industrial application base. Ganja product manufacturers mostly want stuff they can readily use, that they can mix in to their wares. We may arrive at the point where industrial cannabis extract is measured and sold purely by cannabinoid weight, but until then, hash oil is the industry's atomic unit.
Be careful, for pot's sake!
Dabbers are everywhere these days, and hash oil seems to be the current king, but folks should take care to get their stash from smart processors—people who use closed-loop machines that re-capture flammable solvents, or people that use supercritical carbon dioxide, which is generally considered a cleaner and safer method. And if you're blasting volotile, flammable liquids into your house—if you refuse to take it outside—open up some windows and turn on a fan or else you might kill yourself and those around you. Getting high is important work, to be sure, but it's not worth exploding your home.