Possession of hashish is legal for state’s medical-marijuana patients, not that law enforcement seems to know
American puffers have always had to deal with the fact that law-enforcement officials traditionally make a distinction between marijuana in plant form and concentrated derivatives such as hash and kief. Now that California has legalized marijuana for medicinal use, that distinction continues to send innocent patients to jail for possession of hash and other concentrates, despite the fact that they are clearly authorized by Proposition 215, according to former state Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
“Concentrated cannabis or hashish is included within the meaning of ‘marijuana’ as that term is used in the Compassionate Use Act of 1996,” Lockyer determined in a 2003 ruling.
Nevertheless, hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear about a valid medical-marijuana patient getting arrested for possessing concentrates. Local authorities seem to be unaware of the law. Sacramento Police Department spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong, when asked if hashish and other concentrates are permitted under the state’s medical-marijuana law, told SN&R that “If it’s the same substance as hash, then my narcotics sergeant told me it’s illegal.”
Leong called several days later to say he had since learned that it is legal.
Why the confusion? Part of the blame goes to hashish’s exotic past. Decades ago, state and federal governments made possession of hashish a felony because it was an imported substance that was erroneously equated with opium. Hashish is nowhere near as potent as opium, but today many states and the federal government still classify it as a felony, with sentences as high as 10 years for possession of more than 1 gram.
The origins of hashish can be traced to its use by ancient Persian and Hindu cultures as a sacrament and as an indulgence for the mind, body and spirit. Sultans, sheiks, priests and most Eastern royalty considered raw marijuana to be a crude product, not fit for consumption. It was hard to store and keep fresh a large bundle of plant matter.
Hash is pure resin, an oil, which stores longer and isn’t a bulky, leafy pain in the ass. Most Middle Eastern hash-producing countries grow cannabis for extraction purposes only. For instance, in Morocco, cannabis cultivation is on the rise, but almost all of it is harvested to produce hashish, the country’s No. 1 export.
One method these farmers use to extract the “kif” (female pollen) includes having naked women run through the fields. In doing so they become covered in resin. Then comes the erotic and tedious job of wiping the women down and saving the ball of goo that has been collected. Most of the other methods use some variation on dry extraction using silk screen to collect the pollen crystals and then pressing the crystals into blond hash.
To extract more potent concentrates, the female pollen most be further processed. In the past, the “blow yourself and your neighbors up” method employed alcohol in a double boiler and highly flammable petroleum-based solvent. Public safety is always a valid defense for authorities to clamp down, but fortunately, Proposition 215 has really opened up the avenue for experimentation into new safe and sane ways to obtain hash and hash oil.
The most popular way nowadays is cold-water extraction. The process uses extraction bags, which can be purchased at most local head shops and some hydroponic stores. These bags have a silk-screen bottom sewn into them; every bag has a different micron count. The bags range in price from $160 to $600 and come in 5 gallon and 32 gallon sizes.
The bags are inserted into the appropriately sized container, according to the number of microns, from smallest to largest. The top bag holds the material—shake, buds, leaves—and a fair amount of ice. Add water and stir with a broomstick or a drill with a paint-mixing attachment for at least 15 to 20 minutes, and scrape the residue in the bottom bag. To obtain the maximum yield, repeat two to three more times. Remove the residue one last time, dry the material out, and voilà! Homemade hashish.
Many medical-marijuana patients find that concentrates are far more effective for treating their particular symptoms. However, it’s worth repeating that some of the state’s law-enforcement officials haven’t been brought up to speed on the law, which is why patients should keep their doctor’s recommendation on them at all times. And if you don’t have a recommendation, you just might be looking at a serious felony.