Hash oil, also known as honey oil or cannabis oil, is an oleoresin obtained by the extraction of cannabis or hashish. It is a concentrated form of cannabis extracts containing many of its resins and terpenes – in particular, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other cannabinoids. There are various extraction methods, most involving a solvent, such as butane or ethanol. Hash oil is usually consumed by smoking, vaporizing or eating. Hash oil may be sold in cartridges used with pen vaporizers. Preparations of hash oil may be solid or colloidal depending on both production method and temperature and are usually identified by their appearance or characteristics. Color most commonly ranges from transparent golden or light brown, to tan or black. Cannabis retailers in California have reported about 40% of their sales are from cannabis oils.
One form of hash oil
|Product name||Hash oil|
|Source plant(s)||Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, Cannabis ruderalis (rarely)|
|Part(s) of plant||all|
|Geographic origin||United States|
|Active ingredients||Tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabinol, tetrahydrocannabivarin|
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Hash oil is an extracted cannabis product that may use any part of the plant, with minimal or no residual solvent. It is generally thought to be indistinct from traditional hashish, according to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (Schedule I and IV), as it is "the separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant".
The tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of hash oil varies tremendously, since the manufacturers use a varying assortment of marijuana plants and preparation techniques. Dealers sometimes cut hash oils with other oils. Following an outbreak of vaping related pulmonary illnesses and deaths in 2019 NBCNews conducted tests on different THC vape cartridges and found cartridges containing up to 30% Vitamin E acetate and trace amounts of fungicides and pesticides that may be harmful.
Hash oil seized in the 1970s had a THC content ranging from 10% to 30%. The oil available on the U.S. West Coast in 1974 averaged about 15% THC. Samples seized across the United States by the Drug Enforcement Administration over an 18-year period (1980–1997) showed that THC content in hashish and hashish oil averaging 12.9% and 17.4%, respectively, did not show an increase over time. The highest THC concentrations measured were 52.9% in hashish and 47.0% in hash oil. Hash oils in use in the 2010s had THC concentrations as high as 90% and other products achieving higher concentrations
- Cannabinoids: THC (~ 30%) and THCA (~ 60%).
- Monoterpenes (~ 5%): β-pinene, myrcene, β-phellandrene, cis-ocimene, terpinolene, and terpineol.
- Sesquiterpenes (~ 5%): β-caryophyllene, humulene, δ-guaiene, γ-cadinene, eudesma-3,7(11)-diene, and elemene.
The form of the extract varies depending on the extraction process used; it may be liquid, a clear amber solid (called “shatter"), a sticky semisolid substance (called "wax"), or a brittle honeycombed solid (called "honeycomb wax").
The hash oils made in the nineteenth century were made from hand collected hashish called charas and kief. The term hash oil was hashish that had been dissolved or infused into a vegetable oil for use in preparing foods for oral administration. Efforts to isolate the active ingredient in cannabis were well documented in the nineteenth century and Cannabis extracts and tinctures of cannabis were included in the British Pharmacopoeia and the Pharmacopoeia of the United States. These solvent extracts were termed cannabin (1845), cannabindon, cannabinine, crude cannabinol and cannabinol.
So called "butane honey oil" was available briefly in the 1970s. This product was made in Kabul, Afghanistan and smuggled into the United States by The Brotherhood of Eternal Love. Production is thought to have ceased when the facility was destroyed in an explosion.
Traditional ice-water separated hashish production utilizes water and filter bags to separate plant material from resin, though this method still leaves much residual plant matter and is therefore poorly suited for full vaporization. Gold described the use of alcohol and activated charcoal in honey oil production by 1989, and Michael Starks further detailed procedures and various solvents by 1990.
Large cannabis vaporizers gained popularity in the twentieth century for their ability to vaporize the Cannabinoids in cannabis and extracts without burning plant material using temperature controlled vaporization. Colorado and Washington began licensing hash oil extraction operations in 2014. Small portable vape pens saw a dramatic increase in popularity in 2017.
Hash oil is consumed usually by smoking, ingestion, or vaporization. Smoking or vaporizing hash oil is known colloquially as "dabbing", from the English verb to daub (Dutch dabben, French dauber), "to smear with something adhesive". Dabbing devices include special kinds of water pipes ("oil rigs"), vaporizers and vape pens similar in design to electronic cigarettes. Oil rigs include a glass water pipe and a hollow tube (called a "nail"), with an indentation on the side which is sometimes covered with a dome. The pipe is often heated with a gas blowtorch rather than a cigarette lighter.
Hash oil is produced by solvent extraction (maceration, infusion or percolation) of marijuana or hashish. After filtering and evaporating the solvent, a sticky resinous liquid with a strong herbal odor (remarkably different from the peculiar odor of hemp) remains.
Fresh, undried plant material is less suited for hash oil production, because much THC and CBD will be present in their carboxylic acid forms (THCA and CBDA), which may not be highly soluble in some solvents. The acids are decarboxylated during drying and heating (smoking).
A wide variety of solvents can be used for extraction, such as chloroform, dichloromethane, petroleum ether, naphtha, benzene, butane, methanol, ethanol, isopropanol, and olive oil. Currently, resinoids are often obtained by extraction with supercritical carbon dioxide. The alcohols extract undesirable water-soluble substances such as chlorophyll and sugars (which can be removed later by washing with water). Non-polar solvents such as benzene, chloroform and petroleum ether will not extract the water-soluble constituents of marijuana or hashish while still producing hash oil. In general, non-polar cannabis extracts taste much better than polar extracts. Alkali washing further improves the odor and taste.
The oil may be further refined by 1) alkali washing, or removing the heavy aromatic carboxylic acids with antibiotic properties, which may cause heartburn, gallbladder and pancreas irritation, and resistance to hemp antibiotics; 2) conversion of CBD to THC. Process 1) consists of dissolving the oil in a nonpolar solvent such as petroleum ether, repeatedly washing (saponifying) with a base such as sodium carbonate solution until the yellow residue disappears from the watery phase, decanting, and washing with water to remove the base and the saponified components (and evaporating the solvents). This process reduces the oil yield, but the resulting oil is less acidic, more easily digestible and much more potent (almost pure THC). Process 2) consists of dissolving the oil in a suitable solvent such as absolute ethanol containing 0.05% hydrochloric acid, and boiling the mixture for 2 hours.
One pound of marijuana yields from 1/5 to 1/10 of a pound of hash oil. The oil may retain considerable residual solvent: oil extracted with longer-chain volatile hydrocarbons (such as naphtha) is less viscous (thinner) than oil extracted with short-chain hydrocarbons (such as butane).
Colored impurities from the oil can be removed by adding activated charcoal to about one third to one half the weight or volume of the solvent containing the dissolved oil, mixing well, filtering, and evaporating the solvent. When decolorizing fatty oils, oil retention can be up to 50 wt % on bleaching earths and nearly 100 wt % on activated charcoal.
In Canada, hash oil – defined as a chemically concentrated extract having up to 90% THC potency – was approved for commerce in October 2018. In the United States, regulations specifically for hash oil have not been issued as of 2019, but hemp seed oil – along with hulled hemp seeds and hemp seed protein – were approved as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) in December 2018, indicating that "these products can be legally marketed in human foods for these uses without food additive approval, provided they comply with all other requirements and do not make disease treatment claims".
As of 2015 the health effects of using hash oil were poorly documented. Cannabis extracts have less plant matter and create less harmful smoke. However, trace amounts of impurities are not generally regarded as safe (GRAS). In 2019 following an outbreak of illnesses additives added to THC oil vape pen mixtures were found to be causing breathing problems, lung damage, and deaths.
Most of the solvents employed vaporize quickly and are flammable, making the extraction process dangerous. Several explosion and fire incidents related to hash oil manufacturing attempts in homes have been reported.
The LD50 for THC (Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol) is not precisely known, as there have been no recorded fatalities. Hash oil can contain up to 80% THC, though up to 99% is possible with other methods of extraction. While health issues of the lungs may be exacerbated by use of hash oil, it is not known to cause side effects not already found in other preparations of cannabis.
When exposed to air, warmth and light (especially without antioxidants), the oil loses its taste and psychoactivity due to aging. Cannabinoid carboxylic acids (THCA, CBDA, and maybe others) have an antibiotic effect on gram-positive bacteria such as (penicillin-resistant) Staphylococcus aureus, but gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli are unaffected.
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