Hash oil, also known as honey oil or cannabis oil, is an oleoresinobtained 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.
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.
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.
The following compounds were found in naphtha extracts of Bedrocan Dutch medical cannabis:
- 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 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”).
Traditional ice-water separated hashish production utilizes water as a solvent, though this method still leaves much residual plant matter and is therefore poorly suited for full vaporization.
So called “butane honey oil” was available briefly in the 1970’s. 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.
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.
Colorado and Washington began licensing hash oil extraction operations in 2014.
Vaporizing hash oil, known as dabbing. The quartz piece is heated and a small amount of hash oil (seen on the end of a piece of metal) is placed in the encircling dish, where it vaporizes.
Full extract oil in an oral syringe.
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”), and vaporizers 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.
The oil can also be sold in pre-filled atomizer cartridges. The cartridge is used by connecting it to a battery and inhaling the vaporized oil from the cartridge’s mouthpiece.
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.
Hash oil produced in California, referred to as shatter due to its very thick and glass-like consistency
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.