If you like your cannabis extracts of the ‘tane soup variety, then Colorado is soon to become your own personal Campbell’s factory. Beginning January 1, the limits on butane and other volatile solvents are going to be raised. Not by a little, by a lot.
The limit on butane in marijuana concentrates is currently 800 parts per million in Colorado. But in the new year, it’s shooting up to 5,000 ppm, making for an astounding 525 percent spike.
Other solvent regulations loosening up include raising the limit for heptanes in concentrate from 500 to 5,000 ppm. Xylenes are going from a 1 ppm limit to 2,170 ppm restriction, making for a 216,900 percent increase. The hexane limit is rising from 10 to 290 ppm, toluene is going from 1 to 890 ppm, and benzene, potentially the most toxic solvent affected will have its limit raised from less than 1 ppm to less than 2 ppm.
So, why is this happening? It’s not totally clear. The change comes at the surprise to both many regulators and industry professionals. It was made on the recommendation of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)’s Environmental Epidemiology, Occupational Health, and Toxicology Branch.
Mike Van Dyke, the branch’s chief, told Leafly that the changes were not made in response to industry pressure. “In fact, in the workgroups, if we heard anything from industry, I think we heard the other side, that these were too high,” he said, “which is an uncommon place to be.”
According to Van Dyke, the changes were simply made in conjunction with medical findings on exposure to these solvents. The initial limits were made “fast and furious,” he said. “There were times you came up with numbers because that’s what you came up with at the time,” whatever that means. In the past, Van Dyke has cited this scientific article which he says gives evidence to support the relaxing of solvent regulations.
Though concentrates under the new laws may not be less healthy (at least according to some current scientific understanding), other qualities may change. “Consumers are going to feel like they might taste it,” he said, referring to the high amounts of solvents like butane. “They might smell it.”
Some are concerned that the CDPHE might have jumped the gun on this ruling. “Can’t you err on the side of caution, though?” asked Jeffrey Raber of the testing lab The Werc Shop in Pasadena. Jane Stewart, the marketing manager for another testing facility, SC Labs in Santa Cruz, fears the ruling could have effects in California. “Because we live in a state that’s unregulated, California is oftentimes looking to Colorado, Oregon, or Washington, states that maybe have regulatory bodies in place that are a little bit ahead of us,” she said. “I wonder how all the regulators came to those decisions. would love to know more. It would be very important to my business.”