Legal Pot Prompts a Question: What About Hash?

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  • SEATTLE (AP) — Jim Andersen has a 40-year history with hashish, the concentrated cannabis sometimes referred to as the cognac of the marijuana world.

    When he served in the Air Force in Southeast Asia, he said he smuggled it home in his boots. When he was in grad school in California, he made it with a centrifuge in a lab after hours.

    So when Washington was on the verge of legalizing the sale of taxed pot last fall, Andersen decided to move back to his home state and turn his hobby into a full-time, legitimate paycheck — a business that would supply state-licensed, recreational marijuana stores with high-quality hash oil.

    “Every major culture that has marijuana associated with it has hash associated with it as well,” said Andersen, whose company, XTracted, already has two Seattle locations serving medical marijuana dispensaries. He said his business would help prevent such pot extracts from ending up on the black market.

    Substance abuse experts are concerned that such increasingly popular, extremely potent and potentially dangerous pot extracts will be sold and that state regulators’ interpretation of the recreational marijuana law will allow people to buy vastly more hash than they need for personal use.

    That, they fear, will increase the chances that some of it will end up in the black market out of state.

    “It’s a concern not just for our kids, but for kids in neighboring states as well,” said Derek Franklin, president of Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention.

    The legal-weed law, passed by voters last fall, allows adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of dried pot, 16 ounces of pot-infused solids such as brownies, or 72 ounces of infused liquids such as soda. When the state-licensed stores open sometime early next year, that’s how much people will be allowed to buy.

    The law precluded the sale of pure hash and hash oil, but didn’t specifically address concentrated marijuana sales. That’s led to a conversation about hash’s place in the new legal-pot world.

    The regulators at Washington’s Liquor Control Board, who are charged with overseeing the creation of the new legal pot industry, issued draft rules this month saying hash and hash oil can be used in “marijuana-infused products” — even if the product that’s being infused is just a drop of olive oil or glycerin, for example.

    In effect, the stores can get around the ban on hash- or hash-oil sales by simply adding a minuscule amount of some other substance to what is otherwise nearly pure THC, the primary high-inducing compound in cannabis.

    Hash oils can sell for $40, $60 or more per gram, depending on quality — meaning more tax revenue for the state. If such extracts are considered a “marijuana-infused product,” people would be allowed to buy up to 16 ounces of oils in solid form, or 72 ounces in liquid form. Such transactions could run tens of thousands of dollars.

    “When we set the 72-ounce limit, we were thinking about marijuana juice or tea, not a high-potency extract like that,” said Alison Holcomb, the Seattle lawyer who primarily drafted Washington’s law.”

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