As reported on our sister blog The Informer yesterday, state senator Lou Correa has proposed a ban on cannabis concentrates, specifically on butane hash oil.
Also known as wax, these concentrates can contain up to 80% THC.
This is a bad idea, for a number of reasons. In fact, it's a terrible idea.
For starters, the cat is already out of the bag when it comes to wax. A large percentage of Californians who smoke weed regularly have tried it, and a great many of them prefer it to regular marijuana.
The high is more intense and lasts longer. It's also more efficient; a little bit lasts a really long time.
The problem with making it illegal…
…is that it will just push the market underground. In fact, that's pretty much where the majority of L.A. dispensaries already operate. The 135 pot shops deemed legal by Measure D last year will likely stop selling butane hash oil if the bill passes, but the other 500 or so have little to lose, as they are already staying open illegally.
So the proposed ban on concentrates is basically just another example of government pushing something onto the black market, instead of figuring out how to make it safe.
And make no mistake, the stuff is often not safe.
You may have heard about the spate of explosions caused by stoners trying to make wax at home, following dubious instructions from YouTube videos. (Though far less complicated than making meth, the process isn't easy.)
Making it illegal will cause fewer dispensaries to be willing to sell the stuff, and hence fewer professional extraction artists willing to make it.
The result will be more of these underground geniuses experimenting with highly flammable butane in their garages and basements.
Of course, the wax manufacturing process has been illegal in California this entire time, even if the pot shops that sell it are doing so legally. The people who extract butane hash oil from cannabis do so at considerable risk, and therefore some aren't as safe as they should be. In fact, the butane content can be very high. (Which is why, I believe, the first time I tried wax I felt horrible, delirious and weak after just one hit. Others have had similar experiences.)
Nonetheless, if this bill passes, the professional extraction artists who do care about butane content are probably off to Colorado, leaving Angelenos with crappier, homemade product that is more likely to make people sick. But if California regulates the wax extraction process, as Colorado has, L.A. could avoid both butane-heavy wax and unnecessary explosions.
Sen. Correa should include a provision in the law that legalizes extraction of medical butane hash oil, and mandates extraction facilities be inspected and their products' butane content regulated. Few people will want to make wax at home if high-quality stuff with fewer than 50 parts per million of butane is available at every dispensary.
So, what's the other argument for making it illegal?
The California Police Chiefs Association, a sponsor of the bill, claims that BHO has “no medicinal value.” Huh? Marijuana has two active ingredients: THC and cannabidiol. While wax contains more THC and less of the anti-inflammatory cannabidiol than traditional marijuana, the National Cancer Institute identifies THC as the ingredient that pre-clinical studies have shown to damage cancer cells, relieve pain, reduce nausea and stimulate appetite.
Yes, the munchies! Hilarious, we know, but it's less funny when it's helping your grandmother on chemo eat enough to survive.
For cancer, AIDS and MS patients who don't like the feeling of harsh smoke on their lungs and don't want to mess around with edibles — which are often entirely unpredictable — medicating with wax and a vape pen is the answer.
Overall, think about it this way: If the Department of Public Health had never hired restaurant inspectors, would it make sense to abruptly shut down every single restaurant because some have roaches in the kitchen?
When it comes to public safety, regulation – not prohibition – makes the most sense.