The Advantages of Closed-Loop BHO Extraction

vacuum purged shatterMarijuana extraction technology has changed rapidly over the last few years thanks to a greater demand for concentrates and wide-spread decriminalization and legalization. The black, tarry “oils” that were once acceptable forms of “hash” have all but disappeared (apparently some poor fools are still smoking that toxic ‘Rick Simpson Oil’) and in particular, the development of closed-loop extraction technologies has represented a paradigm shift in the way both producers and consumers approach concentrates. At this point, closed-loop butane extraction is the best, most efficient method we have for extracting THC and when set up properly, it provides a scientific level of safety and control that can yield the highest quality products possible.

Closed-Loop Extraction is Safer

The most obvious advantage to a closed-loop extraction setup is that it provides a much greater degree of safety than “open blasting.” BHO extraction has gotten a bad rap over the last few years because plenty of stupid, inexperienced stoners try their hand at open BHO extraction and end up on the news because they blew themselves up. A closed-loop extraction is just that– it’s completely sealed off so that no butane can escape the system into the surrounding environment (thus avoiding filling the room with butane, though proper ventilation is always necessary, closed-loop or not). 

Closed-Loop Extraction is More Efficient

Closed-loop systems will naturally be under greater pressure than open systems which, while not directly affecting solubility in any meaningful way, does increase the interface time between the raw marijuana and butane thus allowing for a more complete extraction.

Closed loop systems also allow for a more precise control of temperature which does have a direct effect on the solubility of THC into butane– though there are two ways of thinking about it. While an increase in temperature of the butane does allow for greater solubility of THC (and thus a more efficient extraction), it also increases the amount of water in the product (as water is just slightly soluble in butane), though thorough drying of the raw material and solvent could combat this.

Rather, many extraction artists choose to cool the extraction column to sub-zero temperatures which, while decreasing the solubility of butane, prevents many of the undesirable plant fats and waxes (and water) from making it into the solvent. This is a choice method since it avoids the need to “polish” or de-wax later using a cold ethanol wash. Closed-loop extraction systems also prevent butane from being needlessly evaporated and some systems even offer the ability to recover butane, allowing solvent to be used many more times without needing to be recharged.

Closed-Loop Extraction Yields The Highest Quality Product

The great Budweiser-endowed beer-scholar Charles Bamforth says with regards to taste in what is good, “to each her own,” but it’s hard to deny that the strongest, most flavorful, most cosmetically pleasant concentrates have been produced through closed-loop extraction. The only products that seem to come even close are the most carefully crafted, ultra-fine ice hashes which can hardly be seen as representative of an efficient extraction method.The use of these technologies is always accompanied by temperature-controlled vacuum purging which is the other half of the art & science of MMJ extraction. The vacuum purge is used to remove butane below the taste threshold of 3ppm, far below any level that could be considered dangerous to anyone.

While concentrates still have some legal-grey area, even in states where marijuana is legal, these advantages to closed-loop extraction are the reasons why the most forward-thinking states– states like Colorado– are creating regulations that will impose industry standards requiring closed-loop extraction for the safety of everyone.

If marijuana helps you and you live somewhere where it isn’t legal, you should move to Colorado (seriously!). Let’s stop open blasting once and for all, it’s just not very good.

How To Make Perfect Cannabutter Every Time

It’s always disappointing when your edibles don’t work and regardless of where they came from, the problem is usually that THC was not infused properly. THC is a fat-soluble molecule meaning it can be dissolved into  butter to form weed butter or cannabutter but many of the popular methods circulating on the internet contain serious procedural flaws that yield disappointing and unreliable results (most of which have to do with temperature control).

With this one-pot method, you will be able to make perfect cannabutter every time– it’s low mess and we’ve got the science to support why this is the best method for making cannabutter. So without further adieu…

Step 1: Gather Materials
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You’ll need:
1. Butter (for this tutorial we’ll use 1 stick aka 1/4 lb)
2. Marijuana, preferably mids or higher, an 1/8th per stick of butter (you can adjust this to taste… if I’m making smaller edibles like cookies I like to make them weaker so you can eat more without going full-space-cadet)
3. A pot
4. Water
5. A Grinder

Step 2: Boil The Water
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Fill your pot about half full of water and bring it to a boil. While that’s heating up, grind up the weed to maximize the surface area that will come in contact with the butter (this will increase the efficiency of our extraction).

Step 3: The Extraction
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This is where the magic happens! Once the water has reached a rolling boil, add your ground-up weed and butter and throw a lid on there (our pot above could use some more water). Water boils at 212°F and will not get much hotter (even with the lid on) and as it just so happens, this is an excellent temperature for extracting and decarboxylating THCA to its psychoactive form THC. Caution: Watch the heat level! Maintain a boil, but make sure that the heat is not so high that it will cause the water and ingredients to boil over. Below is a chart showing the rate of decarboxylation of THCA suspended in n-hexane with respect to time:
decarboxylation-graph-1-11

as you can see, too little heat leads to significant amounts of unactivated THC but too much heat for too much time causes a degradation to the overall THC content. Since a little decarboxylation will take place during the process of baking, the ideal cannabutter is not 100% decarboxylated.As both theoretical and experimental data suggests, it takes ~90 minutes to achieve optimal extraction and decarboxylation of the raw plant material.

Step 4: Be Cool, Baby!

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Make sure the pot cools off before sticking it in the fridge where you keep your food

After you’ve boiled the water and butter and weed for 90 minutes, take it off the stove and let it cool off a bit before setting it in your fridge (you don’t want to heat your fridge up too much now!). You only have to leave it in for a few hours but I tend to leave it overnight. Some people prefer to pour the butter and water through a strainer or cheese-cloth into another container (to filter out some of the plant material)… but then this wouldn’t be a one-pot extraction would it? Besides, who needs another mess to clean up?

Step 5: Final Product
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Once the pot is chilled you’ll now have a beautiful green disk of cannabutter floating on top of the water with most of the plant material sitting on the bottom of the pot. Carefully remove the disk with a knife by cutting around the edges until you can lift it out of the pot. Don’t worry if it breaks into the pieces, they’ll just float on top of the water so you can fish them out with a fork or spoon. You’ll probably have some plant material stuck to the underside of your cannabutter disk– I just lightly scrape this off with a knife. I don’t go crazy about getting every little speck out because its not noticeable in the final baked product and sometimes… I’ll just leave it leafy to add a hint of earthiness and weediness to chocolate edibles (seriously! It’s pretty subtle).
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Step 6: Bake And Be Baked
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That’s it! Substitute this cannabutter into your favorite recipes and see what you like! (pro tip: 1 stick of butter = 1/2 cup of shortening, make sure to mix everything really well or some bites will be stronger than others). Remember that internal baking temperatures are always much lower than what you set your oven at (cookies tend to reach internal temps of 200°F) so do not bake at a lower temperature in an attempt to avoid degrading the THC! If anything, baking at regular temperatures will help decarboxylate any remaining THCA into THC!

I hope this method serves you well! No more ruining crock pots or sitting over a hot pan of oil just to get sub-standard results… 90 minutes with the lid on and stick it in the fridge– you’re done!

The Truth About CBD Oil and Other Cannabis Cures

Hamlin's_Wizard_OilWith 23 states currently supporting some form of legal Marijuana (with more on the way) and the Feds leaving state rights alone, Marijuana is in a unique place. Despite being a multibillion dollar industry, major corporations have been forced to sit on the sidelines (to avoid federal problems) while smaller businesses and entrepreneurs  have been able to take advantage of the semi-legal status of marijuana– largely without regulation of any kind.

As a result, the market has been flooded with numerous products and cures that claim to possess a wide array of medicinal properties. Unfortunately, unlike medicine that’s produced in a highly-regulated laboratory setting according to standardized “good laboratory practices” (GLP), most of these cures are being made in back-yards and garages with chemicals purchased at the hardware store by less-than-qualified “chemists” like Rick Simpson (except in Colorado where they’ve adopted some very smart regulations regarding the manufacture of concentrates). In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the more common treatments available and consider their benefits from a scientific perspective.

CBD Oil

This was perhaps the hottest growing MMJ product of 2014. It’s been known since the 1960’s that THC wasn’t the only active component in Marijuana and by the 90’s, doctors had discovered two separate cannabinoid receptors in the brain (usecbd-oild for a natural cannabinoid produced in our brains called anandamide) and had come to realize that these “complimentary” cannabinoids played an important part in Marijuana’s medicinal properties as THC. In 2007, an article published in The Journal of Chemistry and Biodiversity outlined the benefits of one in particular: Cannabidiol otherwise known as CBD. It appears to exhibit many of the desired medicinal properties found in marijuana without any psychedelic effects but unfortunately decades of selective breeding for THC have made CBD concentrations low in comparison to THC.

The most effective way to consume CBD is through concentrate… HOWEVER… There’s no feasible, practical way to separate CBD from THC so these oils are essentially regular extracts of “high CBD” strains of marijuana, some purporting to be as high as 17% CBD with little to no THC (<1%) (though such measurements are not particularly accurate and should be taken with a grain of salt). There has been some controversy with people selling hemp oil as a medicinal equivalent to CBD oil (since hemp is legal to ship anywhere in the US but CBD is not) but it’s well documented that hemp does not contain enough cannabinoids to have any beneficial effects.

Rick Simpson Oil

Allow me to preface with this: Never ingest Rick Simpson Oil (RSO). I had always heard mention of Rick Simpson Oil (it became popular after his documentary Run From The Cure gained traction in “alternative medicine” circles) but never understood exactly what it was until I visited Rick Simpson’s website today. Words cannot express the horror I felt as I read through the site with my hands on my head, occasionally letting out an audible “oh my god” as I studied his methodology and procedure.

The man is just plain uneducated and the product he’s been encouraging is downright dangerous for consumption. Where did Rick Simpson get his chemistry education? By inhaling too much aerosol while spraying adhesive on asbestos covered boiler pipes and falling backwards off a ladder. Let the stupidity of that sink in. The man should have won a Darwin award but amazingly he survived– though not without head trauma requiring medication. After years of taking said medication, Rick claims he was miraculously cured by ingesting a marijuana concentrate he created himself using paint thinner and that later, that the same oil would be used topically to cure Melanoma. Seriously. And people desperate or stupid enough to overlook both science and common sense bought in to it. But what makes RSO dangerous? Rick Simpson claims he uses “light aliphatic naptha” (aka petroleum ether) or “99% Isopropyl alcohol” and confidently states that “for a solvent to be effective, it should be 100% pure and 100% pure alcohol is hard to find.” Rick Simpson is an idiot.

1. Medicinal-grade petroleum ether for drug manufacture, which is really just a mixture of straight-chain alkanes (pentane, hexane, heptane, etc.), is nearly impossible to obtain if you’re not a legitimate laboratory doing 100% legal chemistry that would involve such a solvent. I know this because it was difficult to obtain solvents like this even while working for the chemistry department of a well-regarded state university, it is never sold with no questions asked. And by definition, petroleum ether is mixture of solvents. So much for needing the solvent to be “100% pure”

2. We know that in fact, what Rick thinks is “pure” petroleum ether (sold as paint thinner) is very likely adulterated with actually toxic, carcinogenic chemicals like benzene and toluene or in the best case scenario, contain some mixture of ligroins (heavier hydrocarbons like octane, decane… essentially gasoline) which would have too high a boiling point to effectively remove without the use of a vacuum pump. How do I know this? Because I’m an actual chemist and took all of 5 minutes to read the Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS) for all available Napthas/Petroleum Ethers/Benzines/ aliphatic hydrocarbon solvents available for purchase in any form. Nice going, Rick.

3. There’s no such thing as 100% alcohol, there will always be some water present because water and isopropyl form an azeotrope. Way to keep it scientific, Rick. Also, as anyone who’s ever tried quick was isoprpyl hash (QWISO) could tell you, it’s very unpleasant to smoke and the isopropyl would evaporate far below the temperatures required to carboxylate the concentrate for oral consumption though a quick hot bath could potentially yield an effective topical product– if such a thing even exists. That’s just from one paragraph from his page (I could go on), you really should read it if you get a chance. *Spolier alert* a 2×2 piece of wood and rice cooker are involved. AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

Real Medicine

When it comes to obtaining a concentrated dose of cannabinoids, there is no more proven method than directly smoking or vaporizing potent marijuana or for a stronger dose, BHO extract that has been vacuum purged. As I mentioned earlier, Colorado has adopted new regulations that require bho manufacturers to used closed loop systems and vacuum purging which not only reduce the chance of explosion; they make for better extracts with less than 30 part per million (ppm) of butane present (far, FAR below safe food levels approved by the FDA.

The reason butane is the solvent of choice is because of how easily it is removed from the final product. Any significant health benefits seen after the use of the above mentioned products is likely due to the amazing ability of the human body to regenerate itself… marijuana merely eases the discomfort of With no regulation, the marijuana industry is essentially the wild west of business. Be careful who you trust out there, it’s up to you not to ingest toxic chemicals. Remember… “When in doubt, smoke a joint”

Your First Dab Rig: What You Should Know Before You Buy

your first dab rigSo you’ve taken a few dabs and decided you want a setup of your own– welcome to the wonderful world of dabbing! Just as concentrates have evolved over the last few years, so too have the pieces with which to enjoy them and the sheer number of options available can be intimidating if you’ve never owned a rig before. In this article, we’ll explain the basic mechanics behind dabbing and arm you with all the knowledge you need to enjoy picking a dab rig that will serve you well for years to come. Let’s get started!

The Basicsdomeless-titanium-nail-oil-rigjpg

Your standard dab rig these days will consist of three parts: a glass piece, a heating element (called a nail), and a torch lighter with which to heat your nail. When done properly, dabbing is more akin to vaping than smoking because very little of your concentrate actually combusts. As a result, many of the characteristics that make a piece good for smoking make it a poor choice for dabbing. As opposed to cooling smoke, cooling vapor causes it to condense back into liquid form which leaves you with an abundance of “reclaim oil” along the sides of your piece– while still potent to a significant degree, reclaim is unpleasant to dab and many people dispose of it. To avoid this, the ideal rig is small and has minimal diffusion to allow most of the vapor to enter your lungs.

Bonus: small simple dab rigs also tend to be cheaper… economic and efficient. But before you go choosing your piece, you need to think about the most important part of your rig– the heating element aka the nail.

The Nail

At the heart of your dab rig is the nail; it sits on your piece and after heating it with your torch, it heats your concentrate above the point of vaporization. Depending on your preferences, you have four choices of material: quartz (fused silica), glass (borosilicate), ceramic, and titanium. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence floating around the internet, the science behind these materials is well understood. The truth is, your choice of material will have minimal, if any, effect on flavor. Rather, the material will affect how hot your nail gets and how long it stays hot.

As a chemist and experienced glass-blower, it’s hard for me to recommend a glass (borosilicate) nail since it doesn’t retain heat well and is guaranteed to break at some point– sometimes by shooting a hot chunk directly in your direction. The coefficient of thermal expansion on ceramic nails also means they too will break eventually, though they’re more likely to do so in a less dramatic fashion. The leaves two real options: quartz and titanium.

Titanium vs. Quartz

quartz and titanium nailYou can’t go wrong with either and it all comes down to preference. When picking your first rig, I recommend getting a Ti nail because they’re impossible to break and they stay hot for longer. The problem with Ti nails is that they can be overheated to the point that they start to burn some of your concentrate. Even when this does happen, the combustion is still minimal compared to smoking but this is why its a good idea to pick a rig with just a little water diffusion. Some people have suggested that you can overheat your nail to the point of generating toxic levels of Titanium oxide but rest assured– the nail would need to be a white hot 2,100°F… 500 degrees above the point at which your borosilicate glass piece will begin to melt into a flaming pool on your coffee table– don’t worry about it.

While it’s nearly impossible to overheat a quartz nail, they do cool down quickly which can lead to taking cool hits where you essentially melt the concentrate without vaporizing much of it. It’s as frustrating and disappointing a way to waste your expensive concentrate and as a result, I tend to recommend sticking to a Ti nail until you’ve become more comfortable with setting up and operating your rig.

Dome vs. Domeless

It might seem counterintuitive but I recommend you get a domed Ti nail for your first dab rig. The Ti nail gets up to around 800°F and when you’re really, really stoned, it’s nice to have something protecting your hand (or other things) from accidentally touching your hot nail. Domed nails are also smaller which allow for less heating time.

Torch

You’re going to need torch to heat your nail and that torch should use no fuel other than butane. Propane gets too hot too fast and is just generally a bad thing to keep around the house. You can go to home depot and grab something in the pluming section but I recommend getting a smaller torch with a more manageable flame so you don’t end up heating up the glass on your piece too… which leads to another good point: choose a piece that gives you room to heat your nail (you want the nail to extend out an inch or two). If you find yourself too intimidated by the torch, you’re not out of options! You might consider getting a pen vape or an e-nail.

To Each Her Own

While I recommend a small water pipe with a domed Ti nail as the ideal first dab rig, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and by all means if you enjoyed your experience using a different rig, you should do what makes you happy! There’s no wrong answer when it comes to what you like.