The Colorado Legislature is concerned about recent explosions and is looking to reign in home production of concentrates, particularly butane hash oil. Though I understand the public safety concerns, I equate them to those faced at the introduction of turkey fryers.
A draft of the proposed bill included restrictions on home production of cannabis oil using alcohol. This was particularly concerning because alcohol extraction is the primary method used to produce oil for medical use. Many parents and patients consume medicine that has been processed using alcohol.
Here are excerpts from my February 2 letter to the bill’s sponsor Rep. Foote regarding Colorado’s proposed legislation banning home concentrate production:
My greatest concern for patients is the restrictions on alcohol production. A 16-ounce limit for alcohol is unreasonably restrictive. When Denver established their laws, they were intending to ban alcohol production completely, but settled for the minimum amount they could get a single parent to agree to, which was 16 ounces. That is an extremely small batch, and very time consuming for patients to be producing on a regular basis in order to get the medicine they need.
Yes, there are some dangers in working with grain alcohol, but they are significantly less than with other solvents. Chefs and home cooks use alcohol in cooking every day. Some people make their own herbal tinctures and essential oils using techniques requiring alcohol.
The restrictions and penalties for home distilling of alcohol, which we know is a danger, are minor. First offenses incur a $250 fine. It’s interesting to note that there is an underground distilling community in Colorado.
In my opinion, restricting the use of alcohol in producing what is a now legal substance, marijuana, is a serious over-reach that will likely unfairly impede the ability of some patients to produce the medicine they require.
At a minimum, the limit should be set at 1 gallon (128 ounces), with clear guardrails stating that alcohol for personal use (beer in your fridge, schnapps in your freezer, wine and whiskey in your liquor cabinet) are not included. I don’t want parents to be unfairly targeted because they have alcohol and marijuana in the house.
Unfortunately, the regulated medical marijuana industry is not in a position to provide for the needs of many seriously ill patients for a variety of reasons. It is imperative that patients and caregivers continue to have the ability to produce their own medicine.
I’m happy to say that the most recent draft of the bill, yet to be introduced, now specifically excludes alcohol in the ban. In other words, barring any amendments, patients and caregivers will continue to be allowed by the state to process medicine using alcohol. Local governments, like Denver, could implement stricter regulations, however, so we need to be aware.
The bill does ban the use of solvents with a flash point below 100 degrees, but excludes alcohol. It effectively bans butane and propane but allows for CO2.
I still say that education and technology will do more to improve public safety regarding hash oil explosions than criminal penalties.
For more about this, read my earlier post: My crazy comparison of hash oil explosions to turkey fryers.