Ever since marijuana was first discovered, cultivated, and ingested a few thousand years ago, people have strived to find stronger and more concentrated forms of the drug. Hash is one such potent preparation, but an even more concentrated form of the THC-containing resin found in marijuana is hash oil. The term hash oil is misleading because most hash oil is merely a resin extract derived from marijuana.
Hash oil may have first hit the streets in 1970 in San Francisco. In that year, an oil was produced called “the one.” This oil was made from the flower-tops of top-grade Mexican weed, had a dark brown color, and really packed a wallop with a THC concentration of 13 percent. (Even the best Colombian weed rarely had a THC concentration of more than 4 percent.) The oil was then sold in five gram vials for about $150 and came complete with that other innovation of modern technology, the pyrex hash oil pipe. Today, all this seems very elementary, but there was a time when hash oil wasn't packaged in colorful boxes and sold in dispensaries that look like apple stores.
Although the techniques for making hash oil have been common knowledge among chemists for many years, most of the information on the subject has never filtered down to the average marijuana enthusiast. With just a few important safety precautions and materials that are readily available anywhere, anybody can do their part to fight the commercial markets by making their own hash oil.
Before outlining the six simple steps for making hash oil, a few words have to be emphasized about the need for being careful. The marijuana resin extraction process that I'm going to outline basically calls for heating your marijuana in a solvent, usually alcohol. Alcohol solvent fumes, when inhaled, can cause sickness and even death. For this reason, make sure that you follow the instructions carefully for trapping the fumes under a plastic cover. It is also a good idea to work in a well-ventilated area and to keep a fan handy to blow any stray fumes away from you.
The second danger that you have to watch out for if you are making hash oil is the danger of fire or explosion. Alcohol solvent fumes are highly flammable. Make sure that you use an electric stove or hotplate whenever you are heating marijuana in an alcohol solvent. Gas stoves or bunsen burners are immediately ruled out.
The last thing to bear in mind is that the alcohol solvents that you are going to be boiling your weed in are highly toxic. The procedure outlined in this article, for making sure that all the solvents are removed from the hash oil solution, must be completed before you sample your new creation. A good general rule of thumb is not to try these techniques if you're wrecked or naturally accident-prone. If you just give some thought to what you're doing, however, it is a simple matter to turn a load of grass or hash into hash oil. Here's a tried-and-tested method of making hash oil that really works:
Step 1: Toasting the Stash
If you are starting with marijuana, the first thing you should do is remove the seeds and cut the stems short with scissors. Crumble the manicured marijuana between your fingers and place it on a cooking sheet in an oven preheated to 250°F for about 10 minutes. When the marijuana is properly toasted, you should be able to easily crumble it into a powder. If you are starting with hash, heat it at a low heat in the oven until it begins to smoke slightly. It is also then easily crumbled or ground into a powder. You'll have to work quickly at this point, because once the grass or hashis crumbled it will quickly decrease in potency if left exposed to the air.
Step 2: Pulverizing the Stash
Even after the grass or hash is crumbled, it is a good idea to put the material through a blender at low speed. (If you're blending hash, make sure that you only put a small quantity in the blender at a time.) This blending will complete the process of rupturing the plant's cell walls which allows the oil to be extracted more readily.
Step 3: Refluxing
The oil contained in your grass or hash is extracted by refluxing (boiling, for you non-chemists) in a solvent. The hash oil (containing THC, trace elements of chlorophyll, and various other substances which contribute to the oil's taste and smell) is dissolved by the solvent while the cellulose parts of the plant are left untouched. When the refluxing process is completed, you just strain away the starter stash, evaporate away the solvent that is mixed with the oil (alcohol solvents have a lower boiling point than hash oil so they'll evaporate away before your oil), and Voila! Hash oil. It's as simple as that, but since it's dangerous to boil solvents because of their flammability, a home version of what is known by chemists as a lab condenser and ventilating hood must be constructed. Here are the things you need to build your own refluxing apparatus:
1. A heavy-duty hotplate or an electric stove
2. A large, deep tub for boiling water
3. A large stew pot, approximately one-half as wide as the tub, complete with lid
4. A smallpot, preferably stainless steel, to hold the powdered stash and solvent solution
5. Several one-inch strips of rope
6. Some large polyethylene trash bags 7. Some large rubber bands or an inner tube cut into one-inch-wide rubber bands (large enough to fit around the stew pot)
8. Some ice cubes
Fill the tub half-full with water and place it on your heating unit. Place lengths of the rope on the bottom of the tub for the stew pot to rest on. The reason for this is to keep the stew pot from resting directly on the bottom of the tub and heating up too quickly. Place the pulverized grass or hash into the stainless steel pot and cover it with, solvent (more on solvents in a moment). The ratio of material to solvent should be 2:1 and the combined solution should fill two-thirds of the small pot. This small pot should then be placed inside the stew pot and covered with the stew pot's lid in an upside down position. The garbage bag should be cut into a piece of plastic that can cover the stew pot and extend at least one-third down the side of the pot. Secure the bag to the stew pot with the two large rubber bands, being careful to leave some slack in the bag. Take your ice cubes and pile them on top of the upside-down lid which is now covered with the plastic. Turn on the hotplate or electric stove and let the water in the tub come to a boil. Inside the apparatus the refluxing process is getting underWay.
All of this might sound like a lot of hassle for nothing, but take my word for it that all the parts of this procedure are here for a reason. The product is heated in a “water bath,” rather than on the heating unit directly, in order to maintain a constant temperature of 212°F. The ice cools the lid of the stew pot so that when the fumes rise inside the apparatus they hit the cooled lid, condense, and then drip back into the pot/solvent solution as a liquid. The plastic bag protects you by completely sealing in the fumes and by acting as a kind of thermostat. As pressure builds up under the bag, the bag inflates slightly, drops ice into the boiling water, and lowers the temperature back to a safe level. After three to four hours of refluxing, most of the essential oils in your stash will be dissolved in the solvent.
Now, about the proper solvent to use in the refluxing process! Although there are several different solvents that will work, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each one. For example, the most widely used solvent for this process is methanol. It has the advantage of being available in most drugstores, but methanol fumes are very dangerous. Any inhalation of the fumes will make one sick, and continued inhalation can cause permanent injury or death. One must be particularly careful about removing all traces of methanol in the oil solution (more on this in a moment). Methanol evaporates at 190°F, and is a desirable solution to use as a solvent because it does not dissolve the water-soluble tars. These tars give your oil undesirable taste and burning qualities.
A second solvent which is effective is rubbing alcohol. Since rubbing alcohol is usually 70 percent isopropyl alcohol and 30 percent water, this solvent will dissolve a lot of water-soluble substances that you'd rather not have in your oil. You'll get about twice the hash oil yield with rubbing alcohol than you'll get with methanol, but the oil will only be about one-half as potent. The advantage to this solvent, however, is that it's the solvent that's most readily available, and it's much less toxic and explosive than methanol. If you're going to put your oil through Step 6, however, you can use rubbing alcohol at this point and still end up with oil just as concentrated and just as potent as the oil you get by using methanol. Because of this, I would recommend this as your best bet for a solvent.
There are two other common solvents, but they have some serious disadvantages. Ethanol (pure grain alcohol) has the extraction properties of methanol while being much safer to work with, but since it's heavily taxed and the major ingredient in liquor, it's hard to find in most states. Finally, there's petroleum ether (which is used in Step 6). This is the most “selective” solvent, so you’ll get half the yield but twice the potency of oil extracted with methanol. The trouble with “pet” ether, unfortunately, is that you could make bombs with it as it's so explosive. You don’t even want to think about “pet” ether when there's a flame around. You're better off if you use one of the alcohol solvents for the refluxing process, and “pet” ether later in the purification stage.
Step 4: Soxhleting
After you complete the refluxing process outlined in Step 3, it's important to remove any oil-laden solvent that is still in your stash. Get a vegetable drainer that fits on top of your stainless steel pot. Place coffee filter paper in the drainer and pour the soggy pot/oil/solvent mixture into the drainer. Some of the oil and solvent mixture will drip through the paper immediately. To do a complete job, however, place the stainless steel pot with the drainer on top in the stew pot once again and reassemble with refluxing apparatus. When the heating unit is turned on again, you're basically doing to your marijuana what a coffee percolator does to coffee grinds. As the oil/solvent mixture begins to boil, the alcohol fumes rise, hit the ice-cooled lid, and drip back down through the stash, collecting all the remaining traces of oil in the product.
When the soxhleting process is completed, it is necessary to cool the apparatus before disassembling it. You'll want to make sure that all the fumes have condensed into liquid. Just set the stew pot in some ice water for a few minutes and you'll be safe.
Step 5: Solvent Removal
Now that you have a combined hash oil/solvent solution, it's important to get the solvent out of the solution before you can smoke it. This is done by replacing the soggy product in the vegetable drainer (you can throw it out now because it's worthless) with a small pan. Reassemble the refluxing apparatus and bring the water bath to a boil. This time, the fumes from the solvent will rise, condense, and drip back down to the collecting pan. To be perfectly safe, however, remove the stainless steel pot containing the hash oil (after cooling the apparatus as in Step 4) and fill the stew pot with cooking oil. Place some water in your hash oil solution and place the stainless steel pot containing the solution in the stew pot with the cooking oil. (It's a good idea to use the rope strips again at the bottom of the stew pot so that the stainless steel pan isn't sitting directly on the bottom of the stew pot.) Bring the cooking oil to a boil (and for God's sake, be careful not to burn yourself), and wait until the water which you put in the hash oil has evaporated. When the water has gone, you can feel sure that all the solvent has been removed, too, since all the solvents we've been talking about evaporate at a temperature below that of water. Whatever is left in the stainless steel pot is ready for smoking.
Step 6: Purification
The oil that you have at the end of Step 5 will be dynamite, but some people want to take things one step further. By using a petroleum ether refinement technique, you can get a much more potent concentration of oil if you’re willing to have less of it.
Mix the oil with alcohol at a one (oil) to five (alcohol) ratio and then mix the results into a like volume of water. Add some petroleum ether equal to one-half the water used. Place this solution in a large glass jug that comes with a screw-on cap. Tighten the cap and turn the jug upside down. After waiting a moment or two, turn the jug right side up, and open the cap to relieve any pressure that has built up. Repeat this process about 20 times, releasing the cap each time after turning it over, and then let the jug sit for awhile. After about 20 minutes, three distinct layers will appear. The bottom layer will be alcohol and impurities; the middle layer will be ether; the top layer will be hash oil dissolved in ether. Drain off the top layer, add some more “pet” ether to it, and repeat the above process over again. When this is completed, the ether layer should remain clear after inverting. Draw off the top layer once again, and put it in your old, stainless steel pot with the vegetable drainer and collecting pan on top. Reassemble the refluxing apparatus, including the water bath, and slowly bring to a temperature of 140°F. After evaporating and collecting the ether for future use, put the stainless steel pot with the hash oil in a boiling water bath for a few minutes. This will make sure that the oil remaining in your steel pot doesn’t have any traces of ether left in it. The oil that is left in your pot will probably be more potent than anything you’ve ever run across. Use it sparingly and with caution. Unlike smoking marijuana, it is possible to OD on enough hash oil. You won't believe how little of this oil you’ll need to be wiped out.
There are a number of unusual things you can do with your hash oil after you've made it. For one thing, you can make “hash oil pills” by combining the purified oil with an equal amount of butter, mixing in some filler like flour, and then putting the whole thing into a Contac capsule. The butterfat carries the oil directly through the membranes of your stomach and intestines into your bloodstream.
If you are interested in turning your oil into the proverbial “honey oil,” you can do that, too. Weigh out a little of your oil and combine with ten times its volume of pure methanol. Add some granulated activated charcoal equal to one-half the weight of the oil you put in the solution. After mixing well and filtering through coffee filter paper, the alcohol is removed by evaporation in the refluxing apparatus. The residue will be a thick, translucent amber oil with the appearance and consistency of dark honey.
If hash is your thing, you can take your oil and mix it with finely powdered grass. You can vary the consistency of the hash by varying the ratio of oil to grass. Figure about 15 percent oil to 75 percent grass for your average street quality hash. If you raise the oil percentage to 40 percent, you will be seeing stars.
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