Butane, used as a solvent in making hash, is among the more controversial substances for medical marijuana users. Experts like Westword medical marijuana reviewer William Breathes, believe butane extracts are safe when done properly. But Wanda James, co-owner of the cannabis edibles company Simplypure.com, is 100 percent anti-butane, and she's encouraging fellow manufacturers to stop using it before something terrible happens.
James and her husband and partner, Scott Durrah, are prominent members of Colorado's medical marijuana community. For instance, both appeared (along with Breathes) in The Daily Show's May 2010 segment on the state's pot scene. She's also not afraid to speak out against what she sees as problems in the industry, as opposed to taking an it's-all-good approach. And that's led her to target butane.
"We've done a lot of research," James says. "We're a chef-driven company, and Scott has taken a look at what edibles are and who's eating them. We're concerned about how we can continue to help patients heal.
"We know butane hash is very popular. Lots of edible companies and dispensaries use it, and there's lots of disagreements going back and forth, with people who like it saying that if it's done correctly, there's less than 1 percent butane left in the finished product. But people throw out these percentages without being able to say if they're accurate or not, and without knowing if even 1 percent butane might be harmful."
This concern is heightened for patients whose immune systems have been compromised, James maintains. "If you're going through chemotherapy, anything that's reducing your body's ability to deal with chemicals and solvents is the last thing we should be giving to people," she believes. "There's no way of knowing if there's a problem until someone has an adverse reaction to it, and then, the only way the consumer would know if it wasn't done right is if every batch was lab-tested for what's contained in it. And I don't know of any edible company out there that's testing every batch of butane hash that's made."
Another potential factor "is how many edibles you're eating," she continues. "If someone with lung cancer or someone going through chemo is eating a lot of these edibles with solvents, what does that 1 percent mean over the course of a week? And the last thing we want in this industry is for anyone -- even one person -- to be harmed by an edible."
For these reasons, Simply Pure eschews butane hash in favor of bubble hash, "where we do a cold extraction of the cannabanoids from the plant material," James explains. "It's done with ice and water. There are no solvents, nothing added to it."
Why doesn't every company take a similar approach? "It's extremely labor-intensive," James says, "and it's also expensive, because you have to buy the equipment to make it happen. Quite frankly, making edibles with butane hash leads to a dramatically cheaper product, which is why it's been popular in the marketplace. But it's popular without consumers understanding what they're doing. So many people say it's safe, but we don't really know that."
What about the potent jolt butane hash offers? James thinks "a lot of the high you get from a butane extraction may not always be from the quality of the cannabis. Some of that may be from the butane that's in it."
Besides, "the point of medicinal edibles is not to be high. The point is to get the THC and the cannabanoids into your system so that they can do the most good when it comes to pain relief, relaxation, relieving muscle spasms and so on. A lot of people do eat edibles to get a sustained high, but if your high is coming from a solvent-based gas, then it becomes the opposite of what medical marijuana is supposed to be about."
James knows taking such a public stance against butane may bother some of her peers. "A lot of people are afraid to stand up, because they don't want anyone to think they're attacking other people in the industry," she acknowledges. "And we're not attacking anyone in the industry. We think it's phenomenal, and we want to see it continue to be phenomenal. But our concern is that if anyone is harmed by something containing butane, it could bring down the entire edibles industry. And we want to make edibles safe for every patient: younger people, older people, people on chemo, people with HIV."
Her bottom line? "The medical marijuana movement is supposed to be about natural healing. And if we're talking about holistic, natural healing, there's no place for butane in that equation."
Page down to read Simply Pure's press release about butane, including links to articles and references.
Simply Pure press release:
SIMPLY PURE. PATIENT FOCUSED AND WHY WE DON'T USE BUTANE
Butane in Cannabis edibles could be dangerous for patients
Denver, CO -- While there are many safer extractions for Cannabinoids, too many medical marijuana centers and infused product manufactures have chosen the cheaper, more toxic method of butane extraction.
According to Simply Pure Master Chef Scott Durrah, "Simply Pure is leading the edible industry by offering patients not only a healthier choice, but also a healing alternative. With 100% organic, vegan, gluten-free products created by Real Chefs with the added ingredients of super foods such as quinoa, and functional foods such Coconut Oil, Simply Pure's sole focus is keeping the patient medicated holistically, not harmfully. We use a cold extraction method, which adds no solvents and is 100% organic and safe for patients. We feel a number of edible companies are putting our industry at risk by offering cheaper methods. "
Commercial butane is not something to play with as it has been strongly linked to heart muscle sensitization; it basically can make the heart super sensitive to adrenaline and can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death, even if you have previously used it without adverse effects. It can even cause harmful psychoactive effects.
In fact, when you think you are medicated from a butane extracted product, often times part of that "high" feeling is generated from the solvent itself and not from the quality of the cannabis. At Simply Pure, we believe there needs to be some changes with regulation on infused products to protect the patient and inform the MMC owner.
Outlawed in California, Butane is a flammable solvent used in Colorado to extract the resin from the plant material. The filtered residue is collected as a soluble concentrate, commonly referred to as Butane Honey/Hash Oil (BHO).
The ease of availability and low cost makes Butane extractions attractive to some, but the implications can be dangerous and life threatening. Solvents can dissolve the cell membrane and continued ingestion can damage internal cells. This is specifically dangerous to the heart and brain.
According to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on Butane, the warning clearly states:
Butane -- Potential Health Effects: Irritation, nausea, vomiting, headache, drowsiness, symptoms of drunkenness, tingling sensation, suffocation, convulsion, coma.
The potential health effects after our body metabolizes Butane into Sec-Butanol are gastrointestinal issues, including, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. However, the real seriousness lies in the long term effects, which may cause sudden collapse, coma, respiratory failure, liver and kidney failure and even death.
Butane extracted products are certainly not something you would prescribe to a sick patient who is seeking a NATURAL alternative remedy like Cannabis.
Chef Durrah simply advises, "Use butane to refill your lighter, nothing more."
CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT
In 2008, the California Supreme Court found Defendant Niall Bergen guilty of manufacturing by chemical extraction a controlled substance. He was fined and is serving a prison sentence. Section 11379.6(a) of the California Health and Safety Code makes it unlawful to engage in the chemical extraction of a substance as part of the process of manufacturing a controlled substance. It reads: "Except as otherwise provided by law, every person who manufactures, compounds, converts, produces, derives, processes, or prepares, either directly or indirectly by chemical extraction or independently by means of chemical synthesis, any controlled substance specified in Section 11054, 11055, 11056, 11057, or 11058 shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or seven years and by a fine not exceeding fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).
http://www.osha.gov/dts/chemicalsampling/data/CH_222200.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hash_oil http://www.cannabislawinstitute.com/cli/Cases_&_Briefs_files/People%20v.%20Bergen,%20B203793%20Los%20Angelese%20Super.%20Ct.%20No.%20MA0377724%20%2808%3A2008%29.pdf
ABOUT SIMPLY PURE
Launched on Jan 3, 2011, by Scott Durrah and Wanda James, Simply Pure Cannabis Edibles is changing the edible market by producing lab tested, 100% organic, vegan and gluten free products for Medicinal Marijuana patients. Simply Pure is a chef lead company that prides itself on safe, effective and most importantly flavorful cannabis edibles. They have been the featured on CNBCs "Marijuana USA, the NBC Nightly News and Tom Martino show on Denver's FOX 31. http://www.youtube.com/user/simplypurebuds?feature=mhum#p/a/f/1/KFrGYaWt2S4 http://www.youtube.com/user/simplypurebuds?feature=mhum#p/a/f/2/nE9_yjnGJ10 http://www.youtube.com/user/simplypurebuds?feature=mhum#p/a/f/0/GaJSN0VPXUw
More from our Marijuana archive: "Wanda James's advice to critics of The Daily Show's Denver weed story: 'Chill.'"
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.