Don't Try This At Home: Butane Hash Oil Penalties Stiffen

By David Down East Bay Express 

Making extracts of medical cannabis with butane is already illegal in California, but doing it within 300 feet of a home now comes with potentially stiffer penalties. On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 212 which will allow judges who are sentencing butane extract-makers to extra prison time, based on a new aggravating factor: being close to homes.

Dozens of home chemists have caused fires and explosions trying to concentrate marijuana using butane to make what's often called "butane hash oil" (BHO). Most notably, an explosion of an apartment building near Sacramento displaced 140 people. The Sacramento Bee reported Shriners Hospitals for Children in Northern California has treated 68 victims for BHO burns in the last three years. 

SB 212 takes existing meth lab and hash lab laws and adds the aggravating factor to sentencing. “I thank Governor Brown for his signature on SB 212. This new law will help protect our neighborhoods and schools from those who manufacture illegal drugs,” stated the bill's author, Senator Tony Mendoza.

“Not only is BHO or methamphetamine manufacturing illegal, but it is an extremely dangerous and highly volatile activity that can result in large explosions, causing extreme bodily injury, death and property damage,” Mendoza added.Concentrated cannabis’ popularity is surging across the country, but regulations have failed to keep pace with the sometimes dangerous practice. Colorado and Washington allow butane extraction subject to licensing and regulation. For example, Colorado regulations require: 

a fully enclosed room, following applicable sanitary rules, a written training manual, emergency procedures, adequate training, records of every person involved in the process. Additionally, a closed-loop extraction system capable of recovering the solvent must be used and the equipment must be certified.

• Denver Building and Fire and Fire Code requires regular inspections, operational permits, compliance with occupancy requirements, a hazardous exhaust system, identification of process through placard system, a hydrocarbon or CO2 detection system, compliance with electrical, construction, mechanical and plumbing standards and equipment that is UL listed or certified by an engineer. 

California — which has the largest pot industry in the nation — lacks any such common-sense regulations. That’s why Americans for Safe Access opposed SB 212, in favor of a more comprehensive approach. 

“Increasing penalties is unlikely to deter those engaged in risky behavior,” ASA wrote.

The law goes into effect in January.