A law that would limit a key ingredient in some of the most popular products sold at marijuana dispensaries has made it to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who can veto or sign the bill.
AB 1120, by Jim Cooper of Elk Grove, would treat butane — an ingredient in cannabis concentrate products (dabs, wax and THC oils, for instance) — the way some ingredients of methamphetamine production are treated: It would limit the amount sold and track who's receiving the ingredient.
The legislation could impede aspects of the voter-approved recreational pot legalization and new state medical marijuana rules, both of which are expected to go into effect in January and both of which allow concentrated pot products. Some experts say those products account for as much as 60 percent of the sales at local marijuana retail collectives.
The bill seeks to limit sale of butane to 600 milliliters a month for each customer. That amounts to about 20 ounces — not nearly enough for larger-scale concentrate producers. It also would require sellers to keep records on buyers.
"This type of 'point-of-sale' regulation works," according to a fact sheet for the bill. "It has a proven track record in the detection and dismantling of methamphetamine labs by tracking pseudoephedrine sales."
It's unclear how the governor will respond, but his office was instrumental in drafting final rules for state marijuana retailing — rules that will allow concentrates to be sold.
Butane is used as a solvent to produce or "extract" THC concentrates from often low-grade pot, rendering it even more potent than gourmet strains. The process creates cannabinoid oil (CBD), honey oil, dabs, shatter, wax and even the essential component of many edibles, such as brownies. Liquid, shatter, oil and wax concentrates often are used in portable vaporizers. "It is our understanding that there is no regulation regarding butane in the state regulations," a spokesman for Cooper said via email.
Cooper said the bill is aimed at an outbreak of honey oil lab explosions, which started around 2010. Amateurs using highly volatile butane have been known to blow up garages, apartments and hotel rooms — meth lab–style.
"Too many people are being injured or killed by illegal BHO labs," Cooper said in a statement. "Many of these labs are in people’s homes and apartments, posing a serious threat to the safety and well-being of innocent families living nearby,”
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Ruben Honig, executive director of the independent group of marijuana businesses known as the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force, said via email: "These kinds of accidents are a terrible byproduct of an unregulated cannabis market."
But he and other legalization proponents say professional labs following best practices are a far cry from the trailer park.
"While this is a well-intentioned bill, the most important thing jurisdictions can do is license extraction using volatile solvents, so that only vetted, professional manufacturers undertake this difficult task," Honig said. "The state was smart to include extraction using volatile solvents as a license type, and we hope all other jurisdictions will follow suit."
The legislation is supported by California Professional Firefighters and a past foe of legal weed, the California Police Chiefs Association.