Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Over the last few months, law
enforcement agencies have noted a marked increase in calls for service related
to the use of an improvised hash oil preparation method known within the
marijuana user community as “BHO” or Butane Honey Oil extraction. Honey oil is
a concentrated substance derived from Cannabis (Marijuana). The texture varies
from crystal (gloss) amber to gold resin (smoother). Hash oil is a resinous
mixture of cannabinoids produced by a solvent extraction of Cannabis. Hash oil
is a concentrated product with a high tetrahydrocannabin (THC) content, the
active ingredient in marijuana that produces the “high. Honey oil is a specific
type of hash oil extracted with butane and is typically smoked.
The process involves the use of an
extractor tube, which can either be purchased commercially or homemade. The
tube is typically made out of 1.75” diameter PVC pipe, steel pipe, glass or
plastic and is usually about 1’ long. If PVC or metal pipe is used, end caps
are also required. The finished appearance is similar to a pipe bomb. The extractor
tube is filled with marijuana and a volatile solvent is injected into the top
of the tube to extract a resinous mixture of cannabinoids.
Individual solvents can include isopropyl
alcohol, ethanol, methyl alcohol, and butane or isobutene. The resin collects
at the bottom of the extractor which is usually lined with a coffee filter or
other suitable screen, then removed and heated to evaporate the remaining
solvent and “purify” the end product. Alternate methods involve allowing the
oil to drip directly onto a plate or Pyrex dish which is heated to speed the
solvent evaporation process.
Since this process involves the use
of flammable and potentially explosive materials, especially butane, the hazard
of fire and or explosion is great. This is compounded by the fact that
extraction is usually done indoor to avoid detection. Vapors can collect in unventilated
spaces where pilot lights and gas stoves used to evaporate solvents provide excellent
sources of ignition. Additionally, the person performing the extraction may smoke
and/or be intoxicated which compounds the danger.
If responders are called to an
occupancy where materials and paraphernalia believed to be used for hash oil
extraction are found, they should immediately exit the structure and call law
enforcement. Ultimately a bomb squad may need to respond, especially if homemade
extraction tubes resembling pipe bombs are found. It is important to note as of
the date of this alert, operations that have been discovered have not resulted
in pipe bombs being found; what was found were, in fact, extractor tubes. This
does not mean that eventually pipe bombs will not be found. With the
understanding that drug dealers often use booby traps against law enforcement
and competing drug dealers, it is wise to err on the side of safety and take
all necessary safety precautions. These include but are not limited to the
proper use of PPE and SCBA as appropriate.
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