Butane hash oil (BHO) is a potent cannabis concentrate derived from extracting cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant using butane as the solvent. The final product can be an oil, wax, budder, shatter and more.

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The extraction process is risky and should only be done by professionals with a deep understanding of the procedure. Still, people die or are severely injured from the process of making hash oil each year.

If you’re purchasing BHO from other producers, it’s important to make sure you’re getting quality stuff. There is a lot of room for error when extracting that could lead to contaminants in the final product

While butane hash oil waxes and concentrates are super potent and commonly used in dabs, the dangers associated with their use and production warrants further explanation. 

Macro detail of cannabis concentrate live resin (extracted from medical marijuana) isolated over white on a dabbing tool IStock / rgbspace

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BHO Extraction

When extracting butane hash oil, you’re getting all the aspects of the weed without the actual plant. Proper extraction will yield the same cannabinoids and terpenes that were present in the flower.

Wax can be made up of regular flower you’d save for smoking, or a mishmash of leftover components from trimming the plants, like stems and leaves. These are parts that you’d otherwise, no matter how desperate, not consume.

The cannabis is placed in a long tube or pipe, followed by the addition of butane. The THC and cannabinoids are then extracted into a dense and potent mass of goo.

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The whole process seems easy enough to do it at home, but hopefully, all the news stories and anecdotal internet comments about accidental BHO bombs will scare even the savviest at-home wizards to not attempt it, because the biggest danger is the next part.

Butane Evaporation

At first, the extraction will be a little cloudy because it is saturated in butane. After the butane has purged, it should be more of a yellow-gold color, sometimes called “butane honey oil” due to its resemblance.

Butane evaporates naturally on its own, but some people don’t want to wait so they apply extra heat. Butane is highly flammable and could potentially cause an explosion either way, but adding extra heat just increases the risk.

Close up of cannabis oil concentrate aka shatter with dabbing tool isolated against white background IStock / rgbspace

Improper ventilation is often attributed to the explosions caused by BHO extraction. The dangerous combination of high flammability and a tendency for butane to sink is what makes it so risky. If you’ve filled your space with butane and then haphazardly create a spark on the stovetop or really need to hit the bong, you risk blowing out your windows and walls or an even worse fate.

Done properly without any explosions, the wax is ready to be consumed after cooling off. Evaporation is not the only risky part of BHO, though. There are some caveats to consuming BHO as well.

Risks of Consumption

If the wax has not been efficiently cleared of its butane content, the chemical is directly inhaled each time you take a hit. Butane is typically thinned out by carcinogenic chemicals which are never a good idea to inhale, so it’s crucial that if you’re going to use BHO, you get it from a good source.

Well-produced BHO will not explode a living room (because it is not made there), nor will it be contaminated with residual butane. Next time your buddy says he cooked up a good wax, think twice about the risks before sparking up.

The BHO High

Not to be a downer, but there’s one more risk with using butane hash oil. Maybe you’ve already purchased some wax from a reputable source, bypassing many of the risks associated with it. You’re ready to get high.

If you’re not a seasoned stoner or used to using concentrates, you’re going to want to start slow, lest you end up like the star of an anti-drug commercial and your dog is asking you to stop smoking weed in plain English and you regret every step that has brought you to this point because you're just. too. high. Consider yourself warned.

Seriously though, concentrates can have nearly 90% THC content. Unless you’ve built up an extreme tolerance level, a dab’ll do ya. And make it a small one.

A woman getting ready to do a dab of cannabis shatter extract. iStock / AYEHAB

Benefits of Using BHO

There are risks associated with BHO from early production all the way to consumption. That doesn’t mean people should avoid butane hash oil altogether, though. The best way to stay safe when using BHO is to ensure it’s been purchased from a licensed dispensary.

Medical marijuana patients are a demographic that benefit greatly from access to BHO. If they’ve been using cannabis for a long time, they’ve probably built up a large tolerance, so using small amounts of butane hash oil can ensure they get a potent dose.

Since it is so potent and fast-acting, users with both chronic or acute pain can benefit immediately after taking a hit.

Recreational users with high tolerance levels may find BHO to be a great option for keeping the high going. So long as it’s used responsibly, it’s an easy way to get really high really fast.

Final Thoughts on BHO

While we went over a number of risks associated with BHO, there are still plenty of reasons to use it and users should make that informed decision on their own. With scarce data to offer solid answers regarding the safety of BHO, all we can do is use our best judgment.

Don’t make it at home, don’t buy it from a random person you find on the street, and don’t start big if you’re not used to concentrates.