It was a space-cake honeymoon destined to come down. Because sulfur’s almost always a downer, isn’t it?
Sure, sulfur tastes good in kala namak sulfur salt — the stuff that can make a convincing vegan egg. But anywhere else? Sulfur sucks.
Instinctively, we avoid it because it is horribly toxic for the human body. Until 10 years ago. That’s when we started gobbling down sulfur like happy little piggies.
So why? How could it be that in just 14 years – scarcely an eye-blink of mammalian evolution – did we suddenly, unwittingly, start ingesting it without paying attention?
One answer, with a lot of names:
Cannabis concentrates. That’s where sulfur found its Trojan horse. If you use any of these products, you’re probably sucking down sulfur like a rube every day.
It’s not the pot. It’s not even the extracts and concentrates themselves. It’s all the “un-pure” butane we soak the cannabis in to extract the good stuff.
Butane is an amazing solvent. It’s cheap. It’s efficient. In its purest form (i.e., actual, molecular n-butane) it’s among the cleanest solvents chemistry has ever devised. That’s why people use butane to create all the amazing concentrate products that have emerged over the past decade.
But it’s never been more important to keep your eye on ingredients lists. Because butane isn’t just butane. It’s butane plus (you guessed it) residual sulfurs.
Look, you’re cool. You probably already know how cannabis concentrates work: you take a column full of bud and flood it with liquid butane to extract the good stuff. Then the butane evaporates, leaving behind a potent, golden nectar: butane hash oil (BHO), and all the products we love.
When you use a cannabis concentrate, you have no idea how much sulfur was involved in the extraction process. But it matters. Because by the time the extraction is complete, sulfur concentrations have gone exponential.
While butane evaporates, all those sulfur compounds are left behind. As a result, sulfur quantities climb to dizzying heights: up to 500 ppm (parts per million). That’s 500-800x higher than sulfur concentrations in the original butane solvent.
So, while all these gleaming gold concentrates might look diamond-pure, a closer inspection reveals something different. After all, it takes a jeweler to call a cubic zirconia.
This isn’t breaking news. People know about the sulfur problem in butane. But the differences in quantities and concentrations have largely gone overlooked – by the cannabis industry, by regulatory bodies, and by consumers, who are too often the last to know.
Adam Hopkins, founder and CEO of Puretane, aims to change all that. He has a connoisseur’s eye for the important details — and it’s fixed squarely on butane.
“Any health risks of high sulfur content undermines the benefits of cannabis,” Hopkins says. “And removing them elevates the entire cannabis experience.”
Clean flavors and natural aromas are essential for enthusiasts, who want to savor every attribute the growers take such pains to cultivate. It stands to reason that sulfur would run roughshod over those delicate terps and buds. Especially when sulfur concentrations run up to 17 times higher than necessary. Because it’s possible to get those pesky sulfurs out of the butane! But most people don’t bother.
Hopkins’s butane product, Puretane, reports 99.9998% pure butane. To achieve those uncharted levels of pure butane gas (and 70/30), he credits his state of the art molecular sieve. Five 8 foot columns each with different impregnated zeolites which filter the butane 24 hours per day, 7 straight days per 18,000 gallon batch at the Puretane lab in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. The resulting products butane canisters have the lowest sulfur levels in the industry, and Hopkins has the certificates of analysis to back it up.
“We partner with AMRI Labs in Casper, WY – the most highly regarded testing laboratory in the U.S. – to quantify how pure our product really is. Impurities come in at just .03 ppm. The rest is nothing but butane. And we have the COA’s to prove it.”
Hopkins isn’t the only one sold on the importance of clean butane. His customers are some of the best BHO producers in the business. We spoke with the lab director from Vancouver based Mama G’s, where they insist on highly pure butane for their concentrates.
He’s unequivocal. “The differences are huge,” he says. “With other butanes, I had to run the gas through my filter, clean it, then run a dryer to remove the water. I often had to run tons of dry ice to make everything flow properly”
“With Puretane, we can process right from their tanks. There’s no need to clean or distill it, or dry it out before we can run. Zero dry ice. The outcome is sick. The craziest pure crystalline THC we’ve ever produced. We get better yields, purged out at lower temps so as to not drain terpenes into the atmosphere, and zero sulfur in end products.”
So if sulfur is such a problem in the BHO industry, where are the regulators? There are laws regulating the use of pesticides in growing cannabis, which is great. But so far, legislators have ignored the only other input in the system: the butane.
Quite simply, Puretane is the best butane for extraction, and Hopkins is ahead of the curve. “A tremendous amount of the butane used for extraction comes from China and Korea,” he says. “And now a growing amount from Turkey and Poland…Why? because it’s cheap.”
“Sulfur is horrible for the human body. This is a public health issue that is being grossly overlooked, mostly because consumers are simply unaware of the dangers, but we are working with regulators in several states to make sure the solvents are regulated just like pesticides and heavy metals are.”