Ahhh, the years-old question of the legality of making butane hash oil. When the mainstream media exploded with stories of backyard or basement chemists blowing up their homes in Colorado making BHO using poor techniques, it seemed to become common knowledge overnight that to produce or even to possess any amount of hash produced with butane was a felony.
However, this raises dozens of questions: how would a police officer or a court of law know whether the hash was made with butane or CO2? Or whether it was rosin? Ideally, all extracts should be free of solvent anyway, so how is one to know? Does this mean that all extract is illegal? Does that include edibles? Edibles are technically made with a cooking oil “concentrate.” Does that mean my brownies are a felony?
Fortunately, once and for all, we have an answer. After consulting the legislative texts, both those formed for the medical laws as well as the new texts formed for recreational laws, as well as a member of General Counsel for the Legalize Maine Committee, I can report to all of you with absolute certainty:
Producing BHO is not illegal. Possessing BHO is not illegal. Neither is producing or possessing any concentrated form of cannabis. However, it should be noted that the inappropriate release of butane gas and the creation of a hazardous environment is illegal.
The current laws pertaining to the production of cannabis products are found only in the language governing the medical program, which only mentions concentrates in the form of tincture. The recreational program also makes little or no mention about stipulations pertaining to the actual production of products, only the governing factors surrounding taxation and regulation. However, the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee anticipates that there will not be any regulation of the production of concentrates on a state level. As of now, it appears that the requirements for the production of butane hash oil and other solvent-based extraction processes will be presided over by the municipalities in which those extractions are being performed.
Basically, whether or not you may be zoned to use a volatile solvent in cannabis extraction will be governed almost exclusively by municipal town offices. This is because the production of cannabis extracts falls under the general production of cannabis products in the state legislature. Whether or not you may use volatile solvents, and the regulations required to do so, will be decided upon your request by town officers. Some of the regulations will include the implementation of flame-retardant construction materials, fire suppression systems, and industry-standard extraction systems.
What does this mean for small cannabis extractors and growers around the state? It means that this is a time where the public’s knowledge of your industry will be paramount to its success. No reasonable town officer who hasn’t heard of butane extraction is going to be partial to the idea of having a chemical manufacturer in his town that could potentially cause a disaster. This is why it is crucial, if you have a desire to start a cannabis extraction facility in your town, that you present yourself to the municipal offices and begin the process of educating town regulators and administrators about what it is, exactly, that you do. Many extractors have lived in fear of their own persecution, because they believed that they could be charged a felony crime for performing solvent-based extraction. Now, we may see see extractors coming out of the woodwork, preparing to develop this vibrant industry in our state.
Why is it important that small cannabis extractors and growers step forward into the legislative spaces and courthouses around the state? Because if they don’t, you can be sure that big money and corporate cannabis will. Representatives from large dispensaries, labs, financiers and lobbies have all stepped forward to try and manipulate regulation to favor a corporate takeover. Unfortunately for the little guy, they seem to be the only members of the industry with enough spare time to come spend a few days a week in Augusta. If the regulation of butane extraction is manipulated by big-money companies, that could mean the end of the small-extraction company.
It’s now or never, and there’s a level playing field. It’s time for the mom 'n’ pop cannabis industry to start playing the game.