Matt Rize

What is BHO and is it safe?

Published by Matt Rize


What is BHO and is it safe?

What is BHO? Simply put, BHO is a waxy concentrated cannabis extract made by pushing liquid butane (which liquefies easily) through a tube packed with frosty buds. The resulting solution is a mix of concrete oils, waxes, cannabinoids, terpenoids, and sometimes chlorophyll. Butane is a nonpolar chemical solvent made from petroleum and natural gas. Trichome gland heads and their psychoactive contents, the cannabinoids, are also nonpolar. This means liquid butane quickly dissolves the trichome heads, and cannabinoids, because trichomes are coated with a nonpolar wax and butane is a strong nonpolar solvent.

A solution of cannabinoids, waxes, and oil dissolved in butane comes out the other end. The butane/cannabis wax solution is evaporated, and the remaining BHO has a texture that varies from glass-like to oily. Post extraction treatments include washing with alcohol, whipping, and other tricks or steps to remove the butane smell, remove the plant waxes, and alter the appearance. BHO goes by many names. This is a result of the variety of textures that may occur from butane solvent extractions and the numerous post extraction treatments: honey, erl, hash oil, honeycomb, honey toast, wax, shatter, glass, whip, comb, 'tane, the list goes on. Possibly the biggest fans of smoking BHO are the same tokers who favor colorful slang. Most part-time tokers find BHO to be too strong to smoke recreationally or medicinally. :p … not me.

Camping and cooking butane have mercaptans added for the recognizable rotten egg smell. When we say butane in the extraction industry we are talking about refined odorless butane. Here is Vector Butane's MSDS, the butane product most BHO is made with. It's not toxic, but is extremely flammable. “Handling and Storage: Do not handle or store near heat, sparks or flame. Contents under pressure (aerosol can). Exposure to heat in excess of 120° F may cause cans to burst. Vapor density heavier than air and highly flammable. ”

Also of note: Summary of hazards and composition. Generally “butane” refers to both normal butane and isobutane. Vector is actually three gases including 11% propane. Isobutane and Propane may be more toxic than actual butane:

“SUBSTANCE: Butane Percent: 60.00
CAS#:  106-87-8 Synonyms: n-Butane, Tetrane

SUBSTANCE: iso-Butane    Percent: 29.00
CAS#:  75-28-5 Synonyms: 2-Methylpropane, Trlmethylethane   

SUBSTANCE: Propane Percent: 11.00
CAS#:  75-98-6 Synonyms: LPG, Dimethylmethane, Propylhydride     

EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE!  Keep away from heat, sparks and open flame.”

The problem with BHO (butane extract) is two fold. First, in CA it is illegal to make, sell, or even possess solvent extracts. Chris Conrad tried several different angles and it did not work. The court ruled that making medical marijuana solvent extracts, without a permit, is still a felony:

Here is the California solvent extract law:

Section 11379.6(a) states: "Except as otherwise provided by law, every person who compounds, converts, produces, derives, processes, or prepares, either directly or indirectly by chemical extraction or independently by means of chemical synthesis, any controlled substance - shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or seven years and by a fine up to $50,000"

Yikes, right? The key word is chemical extraction, which is used here synonymously with solvent extraction. This is different than a water extraction, as water is not considered a chemical in this legal sense. Making kif and ice water hash are both physical separations. Water is well known as the universal polar solvent, ie salt and sugar both dissolve easily in water. But whole trichome heads are coated in a nonpolar waxy cuticle (common in the plant world), and do not dissolve in water. No dissolution of trichome heads means no solvent extraction, so no felony. Three cheers for ice water hash and dry screen hash (kief) in CA! Hash hash hooray!

The second problem is that most BHO is not made under hoods in laboratories with safety protocols in place. The BHO sold in dispensaries is mostly made in backyards, motels, tool sheds, and apartments. Most BHO extractors have no safety gear other than an oven mitt. Many extractors say “just air it out, don't smoke, and you will be okay.” This is a deadly falsehood and it's time to address the issue so people can take the proper precautions, if they choose to try this at home.

People are dying, others are being severely burnt, apartments are ignited, motels are blowing up, the bad press for marijuana butane extracts is growing. Continuing this is not going to help mmj or legalization on the political stage going forward.

This 2004 Cannabis Culture article, by Reverend Damuzi, explains butane extracts as well. The Reverend Damuzi reports the death of Reverend Donny Appleby via an accidental explosion during a butane hash oil extraction.
“In October 2003, Reverend Donny Appleby, a med-pot activist and Church of the Universe clergy member, killed himself when he tried to make hash oil medicine to treat his HIV.”

California Death Related to BHO:
“Butane Explosion Kills Gilroy Man-
A 45-year-old man who suffered burns to 90 percent of his body during a butane explosion in a Gilroy motel room last week has died at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where he was hospitalized Thursday night, hospital spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said today... Gilroy police said the explosion that killed Johns resulted from the ignition of a "significant amount of butane" being used to convert marijuana into hash oil.” I lost the full text news report link, this is from 2006.

Guy dies first time making BHO:
“An 18-year-old Chilliwack teen is dead after hash oil he was cooking in the bedroom of a McIntosh Drive apartment exploded and burned more than 40 per cent of his body. The teenager... died late Monday at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital where he was taken for treatment of severe burns to his arms and legs following the Saturday morning explosion...” (link not working)

I'm not trying to say that I agree with CA Section 11379.6(a). Or that making BHO will kill you, the odds are small. But I am saying BHO deaths happen, to the old and young, too often for my liking. In my opinion BHO should not be sold in CA dispensaries as it is illegal. Both the vendors and the dispensaries legally have to dance around (aka lie) about how the BHO they sell is made. The lies are deceptive to newbie patients. Montel Williams repeatedly tells his story (crying usually) of his experience buying mislabeled BHO at a California dispensary. He smoked some and was not happy about it. He claims the residual butane in the BHO he bought at a dispensary made his nerve issues worse. This kind of press does not look legitimate, and it's not needed considering that primo hash and kief test around 50% THC.
Here is Montel's rant against dispensaries to the LA City Council based on his bad BHO experience:

There are some quality BHO extractions available. Some may even be made with lab grade extractors (ie Tamisium), but I am not going to suggest anyone make BHO at home. If you have lab access (and permission in the state of CA), then more power to you. I love smoking some primo 'tane. I just don't want to see more people die from trying this at home. And it makes me sick listening to Montel cry that BHO is not labeled properly in CA dispensaries, because he is correct. Rize UP!

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OrganaMike  (55 posts)
Thursday, May 5 2011 at 12:53a
nice and very polite : ) I can't believe anyone in their right mind would bring something like this inside.
Expert Post
OrganaMike  (55 posts)
Thursday, May 5 2011 at 12:53a
nice and very polite : ) I can't believe anyone in their right mind would bring something like this inside.
Expert Post
Bill Hembree  (102 posts)
Thursday, May 5 2011 at 5:45a
Well said Matt - I highly recommend knowing what you are doing. Having burned 38% of my body while making "Hash Oil" in 1999, I landed myself in the ICU at Doctor's Medical Unit in San Pablo via Calstar, for the beginning of a twenty-three day rendezvous with hell, narrowly escaping with my life, face and private parts. In the next month or two, when I catch up with life, I will post my story and burn unit pix in “Tales From the Script” in hopes that my saga will “shed some light” on basic chemistry 101, and what to do, and not do if you explode into great balls of fire. Until then, I should point out that I was using acetone, not butane. Additionally, take heed, when Acetone is heated to a boiling point, it depletes the air of oxygen and diminishes the brain’s capacity to think clearly, believe me…
Expert Post
OrganaMike  (55 posts)
Wednesday, May 11 2011 at 11:26p
dang bill, sounds painful
Expert Post
Matt Rize  (105 posts)
Sunday, Jun 19 2011 at 12:03a
"Free will is what I live for. If it were just up to me I would say "do what thou will" to everyone. But when free will for one person decides another's life it needs at least talked about. Now You may be on the back 40 when you spray 'tane but folks do it in their garages, kitchens and motel rooms putting anyone in a radius in real danger. So no crying 'bout the BHO, just think if the "experts" aren't talking about the tek to make it and how to prevent it nuking in Joe Public's garage you ain't gonna be an "expert" much longer as the availability of unodored butane will be over and so will BHO" J Freire
Expert Post
Matt Rize  (105 posts)
Sunday, Jun 19 2011 at 12:04a
"PS I took a HUGE pile of shit for saying PVC was the absolute wrong thing to use as a spray bomb(phthalates in the oil) also so the whole BHO issue has been a "problem"since it was introduced with only some minor improvements since.I would love it if a BHO "expert" came up with a flame retarding capture vessel that prevented the spent tane from reaching critical concentrations" J Freire
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Matt Rize  (105 posts)
Sunday, Jun 19 2011 at 12:05a
"Phthalates are the plasticizing agents in PVC they are soluble in non-polar solvents like butane I will look up ABS and see what is what there but I do know is if it is not approved for solvents it should not be used with butane.Butane is a simple aliphatic hydrocarbon like hexane I would never use hexane and any plastic but HDPE or teflon but only if glass or S/S was unavailable." J Freire
Expert Post
Matt Rize  (105 posts)
Sunday, Jun 19 2011 at 12:07a
" It's not a matter of if, it's when. The reason most don't go the same route is a matter of scale. Everyone eventually gets greedy and tries to build bigger systems. Above a certine point, you are tickleing the dragons tail. Calling everyone who gets hurt a moron is just sad. What about when it happens to you or one you love? Then there is always an excuse....good luck, and don't cry when it all end in flames. Honestly, there are far better methods. Go to school, stop reading half truths off the Internet." R Winnicki of Full Spectrum Lab
Expert Post
Matt Rize  (105 posts)
Sunday, Jun 19 2011 at 12:07a
" As I have said since THE TEK WAS FIRST PRESENTED IN PVC! that there are better ways to go about making "oil" ,or whatever slang BS term is in vogue. Now the part that will really piss some folks off, Butane is a flammamble gas first and a solvent on it's way to being a flammable gas second.Unless you are using a fire safe recovery system even dry air can ignite it(think static, think dust). You can mitigate the danger but the fact is even in ventilated areas it can make concentrated pockets that are explosive. The bottom line is taking Butane and blowing it into a vessel to evaporate it : 1) environmentally irresponsible 2) it is extremely wasteful of resources 3) The same results can be had using alcohol which can be removed in a more controlled fashion to almost eliminate risk, but requiring more patience 4)Unless done under very strict conditions is guaranteed to produce casualties as we all see occurring regularly. 5) Will continue to blow folks up until it is made illegal. Because SOME folks are careful will not stop big bro from killing BHO.And the continued "meth lab" look and results of these "darwin groupies" is doing our industry and our art a huge disservice." J Freire
Expert Post
Matt Rize  (105 posts)
Sunday, Jun 19 2011 at 12:09a
Mr Freire brings up an interesting point. Unodored butane may become unavailable, or restricted, to prevent home BHO extractions.
noahdove5  (4 posts)
Tuesday, Jan 1 2013 at 7:12a
I make it in my backyard, I prefer not to, only if its a sale. Ive had tubes leak,explode and the tops AND bottoms pop off before, until a safe commercial device is created to make hash oil properly, its 1 hell of a risk. I learned it from my best bud who has blown oil all his life with odorless butane like 200% refined, the end product is nice, but 1 time he had a cap blow off in his face, and just before that his brother said wear these safety glasses. My bud lost his eyebrows and i think to this day still picking trim out of his face. YES, its a pipebomb, all you need is a spark. It even looks like a pipebomb.
Tuesday, Jul 16 2013 at 3:07a

Alcohol can make as potent and pure an extract as any solvent, though its a pain saving the terpenes [if you want them] as its so slow to evap:/ Vacuum helps! Other than that, the ultimate is chloroform, best solvent going, clean, efficent, safe when used correctly, and very fast to evap at room temp, so terpene profile is kept!  With this, I dry ice extract first, then extract the kief, saves a LOT of expensive chloroform:/  I can see No reason to use substances such as butane, propane and any gaseous solvent! Its just not needed. Risk of these very volatile gasses is just unnescessary:/  ALWAYS OUTSIDE;/ Facemask, thick clothes, and a chainsaw, full face shield. How many bother:/  CO2 works fine, but again, the pressure involved can be dangerous, very dangerous, depending on the quality of your gear. If its good, fine, but ive seen some very shonky Sub critical setups:/ Ime happy with alcohol and chloroform, at 87% HPLC tested, from critical 47 bud[20 odd%], i doubt i will get better, and who needs to:) 

Friday, Oct 11 2013 at 12:55p
So chloroform is a good thc extraxt
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