All or nothing: California needs to take a solid stance on marijuana

BY: DANIELLE CARSON

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It’s like beating a dead horse. Of course, a Californian college student is gung-ho for the complete legalization of marijuana. But now, it’s a matter or life and death. Well, sort of.

An article in the Los Angeles Times Thursday revealed a sad truth about the unregulated marijuana industry: Butane hash oil chefs are burning in lab explosions, almost as much as buyers burn their product.

In a little over a year, 17 chefs and bystanders have landed in burn centers after these cooking accidents, a toll far worse than meth lab explosions, according to the article.

I’ve witnessed the hash making process before, and it’s obviously not the smartest process to undergo in one’s own home. A tray full of crystallizing butane and resin—known as butane honey oil— sat on my friend’s table, stinking up the room with the faintly pungent gas as it evaporated, making an amber goop of nearly 70% THC content, compared with 20% of most marijuana.

Dabs have gotten popular more recently because stoners are no longer happy with getting high from the natural herb. Frequent smokers will do dabs because the high blasts any developed tolerance out of the water, bringing on an eventual blissful brain death.

The ingredients — simply butane, shake and water— as well as the product itself are as legal as the buds, but “blasting” in one’s own home is illegal under current law. However, the patchy regulation has black market chefs suffering while the demand for underground oils is still burning.

According to Section 11358, "Every person who plants, cultivates, harvests, dries, or processes any marijuana or any part thereof, except as otherwise provided by law, shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code."

While patients with medical cards are exempt from this, butane production still falls under a different subsection: The use of Butane as a processing solvent has been illegal since the Bergen decision in 2008. Under Colorado state law, there are safer ways to make the hash oil in the same way that plant extract oils are made, in a properly ventilated room and in compliance with health and safety codes.

This safer system doesn’t exist in unregulated California, where friends of Mary Jane worry that black market wax is tested only by the dabbers and blasters themselves, and may contain impurities due to being improperly evaporated.

So where are California dispensaries getting the hash oil? Best guess is, not legally. Nor from Colorado, because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and transporting it across state borders is therefore a federal offense.

There are ways to get around it. In other states like Washington, dispensaries get around manufacturing hash oil by adding just a drop of something else such as olive oil or glycerin, turning it into a “marijuana-infused product” such as weed lollipops or space brownies.

Our system simply doesn’t make sense. If marijuana is still lingering in the twilight zone between legal and illegal, the production will remain underground while non card-holders will feed the demand for the often dangerous production. The Californian black market therefore pulls the profit from the state and goes instead to the big dogs of blasting.

While there are no clear answers to who really produces the hash oil sold in dispensaries, one thing we know for sure: legalization may save some lives.