Legal Pot Prompts a Question: What About Hash?

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Holcomb said it will be up to state lawmakers to adopt new ceilings on marijuana concentrate sales early next year — before the state-licensed stores open for business. The Legislature could also tweak the law to allow for sales of pure hash and hash oil — something hash makers would like to see.

They say if they have to adulterate their product with even a drop of olive oil or glycerin, customers might instead turn to medical dispensaries or the black market.

In Colorado, which also legalized recreational pot last fall, stores will be allowed to sell hash and hash oils.

“Our goal is to replace marijuana prohibition with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, who led Colorado’s legalization campaign. “Some marijuana consumers choose to use more potent forms of marijuana, just as some alcohol consumers prefer a martini or glass of scotch over a beer.”

The term “hash” covers a variety of marijuana preparations, but is generally the compression or concentration of cannabis resin rich in THC.

The preparations can involve anything from the simple shaking of the resin off the plant and pressing it into bricks to the use of stainless steel, closed-loop extraction systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars, use butane or carbon dioxide as a solvent and turn out oil that is more than 90 percent THC.

Drug-abuse prevention advocates argue the proliferation of extracts has also coincided with a dramatic rise in marijuana-related emergency room visits, often for severe panic attacks. According federal figures, there was a 62 percent jump in marijuana-related emergency room visits nationally from 2004 to 2011 — from 281,000 to 455,000.

There have also been explosions as home chemists try to make hash with sometimes dangerous solvents.

Hash oils, which are already sold at medical marijuana dispensaries around the country, can be taken by medicine droppers in liquid form, or by vaporization in the solid forms known as shatter, glass, budder or wax. By means of a metal wand, users place a “dab” about the size of a grain of rice on a glowing-hot metal stem of a pipe and inhale the resulting cloud, which delivers a powerful, nearly instantaneous high.

Andersen said many users prefer it because it gives a “cleaner” high: No plant material is burned, and people know right away what the effect is — rather than waiting an hour or more for a pot-laced brownie or other edible to kick in.

“Dabbing” has become ever more popular over the past decade; a festival in Denver this weekend (7/13-14) was devoted to it. Ralph Morgan, owner of OrganaLabs in Denver, with two medical marijuana dispensaries, said hash and other concentrates now make up nearly one-third of his business.

“This is the way the industry is going,” he said.

(Photo: AP)

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