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Marijuana: Nederland's pot ordinance would ban making BHO in residential areas

Last week, William Breathes updated us on the efforts by residents of Nederland to come up with their own marijuana ordinance, rather than waiting for the state to do so for them.

The final version of the ordinance is currently circulating, and among the interesting elements of the text are a residential ban against the manufacture of Butane Honey Oil, or BHO, a popular marijuana extract that critics say can be dangerous to use and manufacture.

We asked Rico Colibri, a marijuana activist and member of the Amendment 64 Shadow Task Force, to highlight some aspects of what he calls the ordinance's final version.

Via e-mail, Colibri notes the way the ordinance addresses "out-of-state residents, whether it be purchases and/or cultivation by non-residents." As Breathes has pointed out, the draft regulations call for marijuana in Nederland to be sold in two ways: one for off-site consumption in sealed containers, and the other for on-site consumption. Out-of-state tourists would only be allowed to purchase one gram at a time, and only for on-site consumption.

Rico Colibri.
Rico Colibri.

"We also try to keep fees like alcohol, locally expanding access to the industry to small business owners," Colibri goes on. In addition, Nederland will allow "certain residential zoning to be licensed as manufacturers/cultivators as long as they pass local inspections. So essentially, caregivers and patients could license their at-home grows." The latter was done "in part because of the rather small size of the town and local culture," he explains.

And, he continues, "we also address the dangerous manufacture of BHO in residential zoning."

True enough: Here's the language from the current draft:

It shall be unlawful for any person to extract marijuana concentrates using any industrial-grade solvents such as but not limited to butane, diethyl ether, hexane, naphtha, petroleum ether, propane or natural gas or super-critical CO2 on any property zoned residential unless authorized by a special review use pursuant to section 2-684 of this article.

Why such caution? Because of the potential for fire. Take the explosion in Breckenridge that prompted a 2009 post about the risks inherent in using butane.

Here's how marijuana advocate Timothy Tipton detailed the process of making BHO for us back then.

"Honey oil is made or extracted using bud or leaf matter in a cylindrical metal tube that is set on top of a glass Pyrex plate," he said. "At the end of the tube is a fitting that would accommodate a butane cartridge, and as that butane cartridge is released into the tube with the marijuana matter, the butane leaks through onto the Pyrex plate, which has a film on top of it. Over time, the butane airs off and all that remains, with the exception of residual matter, is honey oil that is scraped with a razor blade off the bottom of the plate after the butane has successfully evaporated."

It doesn't always, though.

"A common problem associated with the use of this therapy revolves around the persons participating in the extraction process not having gotten rid of all the extracted chemicals," he said. "So there's very little understanding of the chemical makeup of the honey oil, and whether it has residual butane, petroleum or chemical products that may be detrimental to our patients' health and welfare."

Continue for more about Nederland and BHO, including two videos.

The residue question was a major reason why Wanda James was so anti-butane in a 2011 interview. But during a BHO discussion at 2012's High Times Cannabis Cup, Dr. Bob Melamede held that solvent-extracted hash can be beneficial medicine -- but it's only as good as the materials used to make it.

"I think they are all good for you, as long as you're not using anything that's bad," Melamede said at the time. "If you're using dirty ethanol and you do an ethanol extract, you're going to get a dirty concentrate. If you use dirty butane...then any residues that might be in there that are themselves not volatile will be left over. Like anything else, it's garbage in, garbage out."

Breathes discovered this firsthand back in April 2012 when he purchased what was described to him as in-house butane shatter oil at a local dispensary he was reviewing. The following video shows what happened when he placed a chunk on a heated titanium nail:

Such risks should be taken seriously, Tipton argued in our 2009 interview. In his words, the manufacturing process "needs to be done outdoors in a safe environment with the realization of butane's volatility and the possibility of fire or explosion. Because one spark as all of that butane is being released has the potential of creating disaster."

Should Nederland's ordinance go through as envisioned, such a catastrophe won't take place in a residential district -- as long as folks are following the law.

Here's the 2012 panel discussion about solvent-extracted concentrates featuring Melamede and Breathes.

More from our Marijuana archive circa 2011: "Butane hash has hidden dangers, says edibles maker arguing against controversial solvent."