Marijuana: Inside proposed rules for hash and concentrates production

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This month, state officials are hashing out just who can and can't make marijuana concentrates in Colorado -- setting safety guidelines for producers and consumers for both the recreational and medical marijuana industries.

Most rules for the recreational and medical marijuana industries were set months ago, but the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies determined that the Colorado Department of Revenue needed to clarify a few areas, including hash-making.

So DORA created a follow-up rulemaking committee that will wrap up its work later this month -- but not before public comment on the proposed rules, which, for the first time in Colorado, differentiate between the processes used to create shatters, waxes, ice-water hash and infused edibles.

The Concentrate Production Safety Working Group, comprised of MED officials, physicians, law enforcement, food hygienists, labor representatives and pot business owners, posted the draft rules last month. Among the more interesting points:

Critical-fluid extractions would be defined as extractions that use a "hydrocarbon solvent," which includes CO2 extractions as well as n-butane, heptane and propane; other critical fluids may be allowed by the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division at a later date. With the exception of CO2 extractions, all critical-fluid extractions must be done using a closed-loop system that recovers the gasses -- which means no more BHO made from disposable cans of lighter fluid.

All critical extraction facilities would also be required to have lab-grade vent hoods and exhaust systems installed. Glycerin, rubbing alcohol and ethanol are categorized as "solvent-based" extractions but would be treated much the same way as critical-fluid extractions with regard to producer and consumer safety.

Water-based concentrates would be narrowly defined as ice-water or dry-ice hash. The proposed rules also define "fat-based" concentrates, an interesting new phrase for things like pot-infused butter and edible cooking oils. Interestingly, the rules don't discuss dry-sieving and then pressing the kief into pucks -- arguably the world's oldest method of hash-making.

The rules would also codify just who can and can't produce each type of concentrate. Grow and dispensary licenses currently only allow water-based extractions, and even then, they must be conducted in a clean, designated area. To make BHO or shatter oil, though, shops will have to have a Marijuana Infused Products manufacturer license.

Continue for more about Colorado setting rules on hash and concentrates. MIP license-holders will have to come up with written operating procedures, as well as quality-control measures for their extractions. That includes creating a training manual for new employees with step-by-step instructions on production, safety and clean-up. Businesses will also have to track exactly who worked on a batch of concentrates and when they produced it. Edibles companies would have to ensure that employees are washing their hands before handling the products and (as before) do all their work in approved industrial kitchens, with food-grade ingredients.

To help enforce these regulations, the MED is proposing to begin randomly testing samples from dispensaries for things like residual pesticides, mold and such leftover solvents as butane. The samples would also be tested for potency. If a sample fails the test, the dispensary would have to destroy the entire batch (the same rules apply to growers). Dispensaries that have already purchased from that batch would also have to destroy their products.

The last regs have been sorely lacking in the industry from the people allegedly overseeing it. And as we found out (the hard way) back in April of 2012, when a dab of "shatter" from 420 Wellness exploded into flames on a hot titanium nail, not everyone is making clean concentrates. We later had the sample tested for THC and it came out at around 10 percent, lower than most flowers.

Written public comments will be accepted through November 13. E-mail your thoughts to dor_ruleform@state.co.us. Public comment and testimony is scheduled for 9 a.m. November 18 at the old Supreme Court chambers of the State Capitol, 200 East Colfax Avenue in Denver.

And they do want your comments, specifically about chemical solvents. This was posted on the MED website yesterday:

Additional Comments on Concentrate Production: The Marijuana Enforcement Division requests additional public comments related whether the following solvents or other, non-listed solvents should be permitted for use: ethyl acetate, hexane, methane, ethane, liquid oxygen, nitrous oxide, pentane, liquid nitrogen, chloroform, or petroleum ether. Additionally, the Marijuana Enforcement Division requests additional public comments about whether only professional grade, closed-loop extraction systems capable of recovering the solvent should be permitted.

Armchair chemists should have a field day with this. Read both the medical concentrate proposed rules and recreational concentrate proposed rules over at the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement website.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Davirak Ky faces child abuse and assault charges for giving teens marijuana cookies" and "Marijuana: NAACP backs bill calling for feds to respect states' pot rights."

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