How They Extract THC From Cannabis

Cannabis preparation knowledge is becoming commonplace

The global cannabis acceptance trend has brought a lot of knowledge about the plant to the forefront. Today, a quick internet search can teach an average surfer a lot more than a researcher knew about the plant a few decades ago. With this new found openness of the cannabis industry, a lot of new innovative products and preparation methods are quickly becoming the commonplace.

Cannabis oils are one of those products gaining popularity. The cannabis plant is already believed to carry several medicinal benefits, and these beliefs are supported by ample anecdotal evidence. Oils contain a number of different cannabinoids, but are most popularly classified based on their THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol) content -- THC oil and CBD oil, respectively.

THC is known for its phsychoactive effects that create that euphoric, “high” feeling that’s mostly associated with the cannabis plant, and which has been the cause for its illegality for so long. CBD, on the other hand, lacks these psychoactive effects. And although THC has its medicinal properties as well, CBD is believed to have even more and is more welcome as a medicinal substance by the medical community given its inability to intoxicate its users.

THC oils are sought for the specific purpose of euphoria, making them more of a recreational product than the CBD oil counterpart. These concentrated THC oils are used for cannabis edibles and are also inhaled using vapourisers.


Ready-made THC oil cartridges for vaping. Source

Extracting THC oil can be done in different ways, including:

  • CO2 extraction;
  • Alcohol extraction;
  • Dry sieving;
  • The ‘rosin’ technique and more.

Of all the methods though, the butane THC oil extraction method is the most popular, producing what is known as BHO -- Butane Hash Oil.



How is THC oil extracted with butane?

Butane is a highly flammable gaseous fuel, which raises eyebrows as to why it’s used to prepare THC oil. However, the final product of the BHO process is said to be free of butane, and thus good enough for consumption.

First, cannabis is packed into a glass tube or cylinder, with a screen of some sort placed on one end to prevent the marijuana from falling out. The glass tube is then placed over a glass container where the THC oil content will be collected. A butane torch is then used to blow butane into the tube from the other end, heating the marijuana and extracting its oils and resins in the process, which are deposited into the glass container.


Marijuana stuffed inside glass tubes, ready for the BHO extraction process. Source

At this point, the extracted oils and resins still contain butane. To complete the process, the solution must be heated in water that’s close to boiling. This will bring butane bubbles to the surface, which will then pop and evaporate, freeing the oil of contaminants.

Although the process supposedly frees the oil of butane, making it safe for human consumption, there are other concerns associated with the BHO extraction process.



BHO extraction method concerns

The BHO extraction method is quite popular in factories and homes. However, given the highly flammable nature of butane, accidents can certainly happen. It’s not uncommon to hear of THC oil production facilities erupting into flames in severe explosions, neither should it be surprising given the fuel being used.

In the United States alone, given the legalisation of cannabis in more than half of the country for either recreational or medical purposes, more of these BHO extraction explosions have emerged, sending workers to hospitals with severe burns and destroying factories. 

If this is the case in actual THC oil extraction facilities, then one can expect even more dangers when the process is tried at home. Perhaps if extracting THC oil is on the agenda, alternative methods should be applied.



Alternative THC oil extraction methods

As stated earlier, there are different THC oil extraction methods besides the popular BHO extraction method:

  • CO2 extraction: This involved heating up liquid CO2 and passing it through your cannabis, which results in the extraction. It’s a complicated process that’ll likely be quite difficult at home.
  • Alcohol extraction: This method is also flammable, given the use of alcohol (usually ethanol). The cannabis is soaked in the ethanol to extract the oils.
  • Other methods include dry sieving (using the Kief, sieving it back and forth until you have only trichome crystals, and pressing it into hash), the rosin technique, and even using water. These methods are all performed without the use of solvents that extract the THC oil, but they can serve the purpose.



Final words

Using butane to extract THC oil requires a very careful process. The flammable nature of the solvent in this case has caused several accidental explosions in actual THC oil extraction factories. Although the method is very popular and can be used at home, it’s not advisable.

Besides the dangers, the BHO extraction method is said to produce THC oils that are harsh on the throat when vaped and inhaled, compared to alternative methods such as CO2 extraction. Look into other methods if possible, or simply buy your THC oil ready-made, choosing the product that was manufactured via a process that produces the types of vapes you desire.