By Restricting the Sale of 'Nonodorized' Butane Will AB 3112 End Unregulated BHO Extraction in Cali?

If you thought there was a drought in California on black market flower in recent months, you may want to prepare for a possible disruption on the extract side of things coming down the pipe soon.

Though cannabis extraction techniques and methods continue to evolve, solvent based extractions using butane as the catalyst remain among the highest yielding and most potent, making them increasingly popular with both the manufacturers who create these products and the consumers dabbing them.

Originally signed last September by former California Governor Jerry Brown, Assembly Bill 3112 took effect on July 1st of this year, effectively labeling butane gas as a “controlled substance” and establishing strict rules about how it can now be sold and who is eligible to buy it.

AB 3112 is clear and succinct in its intent, stating in the 2nd paragraph:

This bill would make it unlawful to sell to any customer any quantity of nonodorized butane.

Ok, let’s unpack that, and the rest of the language found in the bill that is now state law.

First, nonodorized butane.

Large scale cannabis extractors stopped buying pallets of Power 5 years ago and found commercial grade suppliers of larger tanks of their gas blend of choice at better prices. Anyone who has spent even a minute around the stuff knows that it does in fact have an odor, however faint, but AB 3112 will be adding mercaptans or other odorants to saturate the gas with an unmistakable, and probably rather unpleasant odor. Most volatile gasses are odorized so that we can sense if there is a leak nearby, but up until now, virtually unlimited amounts of “odorless” butane has been a click , text, or call away for wax makers, regardless of their legal standing.

That bit about “any customer any quantity” does come with a caveat, though. There are a few exceptions to the rule.

First are the wholesalers. Of course they need to be able to buy it, both odorized and otherwise. The new law will also still allow butane-fueled lighters and reasonably sized refills for those lighters to be nonodorized. But another niche is carved out specifically for the legal cannabis industry, and it is the dead giveaway that this law is aimed directly at curbing black market extracting.


Throughout the Prop 215 era in California, nearly all cannabis extraction experimentation was taking place in warehouses, garages, basements, and backyards up and down the state. There were no million dollar labs or Canadian investors bankrolling hash making operations. It was truly an amazing time to be a part of the medical marijuana market and watch the techniques and the end products evolve so quickly. Unfortunately, it was a dangerous time for those on the supply side of the equation, as trial and error is a risky game with extremely flammable gas.

The growing pains that the hash making community experienced all too often came in the form of a fire or explosion when a spark from something as simple as static on a shirt ignited a pan full of volatile butane, rocking neighborhoods and making bad headlines.

In San Diego, for example, officials estimate an average of 30 such incidents each year that they chalk up to substandard safety procedures by illegal extract artists.

So, will AB 3112 spell the end of the outlaw BHO maker in the Golden State?

No, probably not

Yes, the mercaptans added to the gas will be hard, if not impossible to distill or refine out of the tainted 'tane completely. Additionally, though single nonodorized “lighter refill” cans of Power 5 … ahem… fueled black market extracting for years and will still be available to the masses, the waste of overhead costs and empty cans and the fear of “Mystery Oil” have rendered that option unfeasible for anyone making more than a personal headstash.

Also, like any other law, there are loopholes and this particular law has no teeth to really discourage people from exploiting them. The penalty for buying or selling nonodorized butane is a $2,500 fine.

How the state plans to police this new change to an old industry (gas & fuel) appears to be by dangling that measly fine over the heads of the wholesale and retail companies that deliver this gas to the marketplace. But is it really their job to police this change or to act as an unwilling surrogate to not only law enforcement, but to the Bureau of Cannabis Control, an agency overseeing a completely different industry?

Capitalism finds a way

You can’t imprison butane gas behind bars or chainlink.

Look for these mainstream gas supply companies to draft a basic waiver which, once signed by the customer, indemnifies that gas-peddler from anything that happens once the product leaves their premises. ”Just sign right here swearing you’ll do no evil and we’re off the hook and you’ve got your highly refined butane.”

Of course, the loophole that we discovered quite some time ago was to find out who makes the best solventless rosin around and stick to that! Now, it is safe to say that 99% of the dabs that grace our personal PeliNail bangers are some form of fire rosin – no butane needed.

For those that insist on buying BHO in all of its glorious forms, you might see a stutter in the market soon but we predict it’ll be business as usual before too long.

The fact is, this new law (like the rest of Prop 64) will really only hurt medical marijuana patients, particularly those that make their own medicine. Prop 64 already restricts each adult to just 6 mature plants. Six plants grown properly can potentially yield way more weed than one person can smoke, but if they ingest their cannabinoids in other ways (edibles, topicals, oils, etc.) then that is not a lot of plant material to work with. So that plant count is bad enough, but AB 3112 adds insult to injury by making it impossible for the average patient to get nonodorized butane in any feasible quantity without skirting or breaking the law since they will not be state-licensed cannabis companies. This is legal weed.

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