California Bill Could Disrupt Cannabis Concentrate Production by Limiting Butane Extraction
One signature from Governor Jerry Brown would restrict butane purchases like methamphetamine precursors and shake up the state’s entire cannabis industry.
Published on September 18, 2017

California’s recreational and revised medical marijuana markets are set to explode at the beginning of next year, but as regulators and retail shops prepare for the world’s largest green rush, a piece of legislation has made its way to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk that, if signed, could throw a giant wrench into the state’s sizeable cannabis concentrate and edible industry.

According to the L.A. Weekly, Assembly Bill 1120, introduced by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, would put heavy restrictions on butane, the most popular solvent in cannabis extraction production, used in large quantity to produce dabbable wax, shatter and oil, in addition to edibles and other concentrates such as vape cartridges.

If Governor Brown signs AB1120, butane would be treated much like Sudafed and other previously common and commercial methamphetamine production precursors. Under the proposed regulations, butane purchases would be limited to 20 oz. per person per month, or two standard sized canisters, with a state sales register to track those purchases. 

And while concentrates have been given the go-ahead from the state’s recreational and medical regulators, including the Governor’s office, AB1120 would put that segment of the industry squarely behind the eight ball.

Not only do concentrate and edible producers use butane, but consumers often use commercially accessible torches and butane to consume their dabs - and with Cooper’s bill tracking and capping purchases at 2 cans a month, a huge swath of legal cannabis users would be required to give their information to the new state database and curtail their use to fit state purchasing standards, even if they’re dabbing solventless products like the currently popular rosins.

Still, Cooper and other supporters of the bill claim that curtailing and keeping track of butane sales will help cut down on the highly explosive results of untrained home extraction labs. Since butane hash oil became popular in the early 2010s, amateur cannabis chemists’kitchens and garages have been catching fire or blowing up thanks to butane’s highly volatile nature.

"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,”

But by cutting purchasing power, Cooper’s law would also restrict California’s perfectly legal cannabis businesses, who do their extractions in labs with plenty of safety equipment and precautions. Instead of restricting butane use across the boards, Ruben Honig, executive director of the independent group of marijuana businesses known as the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force, argues that lawmakers should instead focus their resources specifically on illicit extractions, and not the state-approved businesses prepared to handle the flammable gas.

"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."

Methamphetamine precursors were given restrictions in part because meth labs explode, but also because they produce a deadly drug that is still illegal in every single state. With legal weed set to be the state’s largest legal cash crop for the foreseeable future, correlating butane cannabis products with meth is not a good place to start.

Outside of the existence of those volatile solvent licenses, Governor Brown’s office has not made a public statement about their intentions to sign or veto AB1120.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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