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Could Excess Butane or Ethanol in Cannabis Concentrates Pose Health Risks in Ohio?

The world of medical marijuana can be a confusing and even overwhelming one. The long-standing beliefs and new research constantly butting heads is sure to leave some people wondering what the best course of action may be. Now, with concentrates, topicals, and flowers available for purchase in Ohio, it’s easy to see why some people may want some guidance. 

Do you live in Ohio and have any questions about medical marijuana or obtaining a medical marijuana card? The team at DocMJ is here to help! Speak with us at 877 899-3626 for more information, and take our eligibility survey to see if you pre-qualify for a recommendation today!

How Does Butane and Ethanol Get into Marijuana and is it Safe?

At first glance, you may be wondering how butane or ethanol can even make their way into marijuana. If you are purely a full flower smoker, and rarely if ever use marijuana concentrates, it may surprise you how exactly these other forms are created. 

Butane is used, unsurprisingly, to make a concentrate known as butane hash oil (BHO). BHO is known by other more common names as well, such as liquid THC, dabs, wax, and shatter. All of these can carry incredibly high amounts of THC, well beyond seventy percent by concentration. However, as many of you likely know, butane is highly flammable, and though this is useful in many applications (as its flame can reach temperatures nearing 2000 deg. C), it can also be very dangerous, especially for those making the concentrates. Injuries, burns in particular, are common among less experienced extractors. 

BHO is a popular form of marijuana due to its high concentration and ease of use. For reference, a particularly potent sample of BHO can have four times as much THC as a flower. It may also be ingested via vaporizer, which is the only legal way to inhale marijuana in Ohio. As far as the safety of BHO goes, state programs have set standards in place regarding butane specifically for this reason. Luckily, the relative toxicity of butane is low [1], but high levels of butane have been found in some products. Signs of butane exposure include both CNS and cardiac effects including drowsiness and overall impairment. These may be difficult to detect in those using BHOs with high THC content, so care is required. 

Ethanol is similar to butane; in that it is used to make certain concentrates. In Ohio, tinctures are a very popular form of marijuana that may use ethanol it its production. To make a tincture, marijuana plants may be cut and soaked in solutions of varying alcohol concentrations depending on the chemicals most desired for extraction. After a period of days to weeks, the liquid (which should now contain most of the compounds originally in the plant matter) is separated from the solids and stored for later use or sale. These tinctures can contain THC, CBD, and many of the smaller (but still important) cannabinoids that pure concentrates may lack and can be used to fight inflammation, anxiety, and other ailments [2]. 

Inhalation of alcohol, while dangerous, is very unlikely, but we will still consider some of the potential effects and other dangers that may come in to play. First, again like butane, is flammability. Ethanol has a low ignition temperature, though again, this is unlikely. Ethanol is also unlikely to be ingested at all when using professionally made concentrates as modern equipment gets most, if not all, of the ethanol out. This can be done in several ways, such as keeping extraction temperature low or using certain solvent recovery techniques and means that there is a very low danger regarding ethanol in any of the products at your local dispensary. 

When are Butane and Ethanol Concentrates Dangerous?

So, in most modern cases, professionally made concentrates pose no threat to both users and producers, but some house-made concentrates are still produced. To be clear, these concentrates are illegal to produce in Ohio and for good reason. As we saw previously, making almost anything using butane or ethanol has a probability of combustion, and is, of course, dangerous. These concentrates also generally lack the high caliber production methods of their dispensary counterparts, meaning that high levels of butane and ethanol may be leftover, and their exact levels would be unknown without further testing. 

What are the Benefits of These Extracts?

Buying any form of marijuana from a state-sponsored dispensary is very unlikely to be dangerous. In fact, for some people, these concentrates are a necessity and are much better choices for their lifestyles than buying and vaporizing plant matter. BHO, for example, allows users to get much higher levels of cannabinoids in their systems very quickly. So, users with higher tolerances may find more success with these forms. 

Ethanol-based concentrates are also very useful, with tinctures particularly so. Tinctures can contain full-spectrum concentrates, meaning that all available cannabinoids are present. This means that they can be used to help many of the same illnesses as the marijuana plant itself, including PTSD, chronic pain, and anxiety [3] By using a dropper to carefully place a few drops under the tongue, the cannabinoids in marijuana are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and are able to bypass the digestive system altogether (an important factor in pharmaceuticals). Studies have also found that sublingual application also increases bioavailability and drug response [4]. This is likely due to tinctures bypassing first pass metabolism, which allows the cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream unchanged. 

In Conclusion

Both butane and ethanol are commonly used in the production of marijuana concentrates. While both have the possibility of getting into the final product, modern equipment and standards make this very unlikely. On the other hand, the concentrates made from these chemicals can have very helpful properties, including ease of use and privacy. Concentrates allow users to get higher doses in shorter times and tinctures are very accessible and discreet. If you have any concerns about chemical levels or the processes used to produce any medical marijuana products, speaking with a certified medical marijuana doctor or other professional is recommended. 


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