Marijuana legalization isn't as simple as The Man giving you the OK to smoke that joint, or pack that bowl, or hit that bong, or whatever your preferred delivery method may be. Though Colorado and Washington have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, there are still plenty of technical fineries to work out before the new rule of law settles in and feels natural. For example, what are authorities to do about hash?
Critics of marijuana legalization have often accused more liberal legislators of confusing the pot of yesteryear with the pot of today, and they're right to make a distinction. Today's weed is much more potent than it was back in the '60s, as we reported previously. In 2009, concentrations of THC in marijuana averaged close to 10 percent. In the 1980s, it was only 4 percent. The critics of marijuana legalization who bring this up are opposed to the idea that today's pot can even be considered the same drug as what the Beatles smoked in the late 1960s.
By the same reasoning, hashish is a major concern for marijuana legalization opponents, and even for some supporters. Hashish, or hash, is just cannabis -- and yet it isn't. Hash is actually a marijuana product, made of compressed or purified trichomes collected from the buds of the female cannabis plant, that contains much higher concentrations of THC than simple, unsifted buds or leaves. If today's marijuana is more potent than it used to be, then hash is decidedly more potent yet -- which has substance abuse experts in the new free weed states concerned.
"It's a concern not just for our kids, but for kids in neighboring states as well," said Derek Franklin, president of Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention.
The marijuana legalization that passed in Washington last fall allows adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of dried pot, 16 ounces of pot-infused solids like brownies, or 72 ounces of pot-infused liquids such as soda. And by sometime early next year, people will be able to buy up to those amounts in state-licensed stores.
The legal-weed law does not include pure hash and hash oil. However, it doesn't address concentrated marijuana sales in and of themselves, which leaves a whole lot of wiggle room for those looking to buy, sell, or possess something more potent than the average bong hit.
Regulators at Washington's Liquor Control Board, which now oversees the creation of the new legal weed industry in the state, issued rules stating that hash and hash oil can be used in "marijuana-infused products." A rule like that has the eyes of hash enthusiasts lighting up over the implication that a hash-infused product composed of 99 parts hash, one part oil would swim right under the arm of the law.
Then there's the liquid limit mentioned above. Hash oils can sell for $40, $60 or more per gram, meaning that a theoretical 72 ounces of hash oils would pull in a hefty price — which guarantees hash products a solid place in the emerging marijuana market.
"When we set the 72-ounce limit, we were thinking about marijuana juice or tea," said Alison Holcomb, the Seattle lawyer who primarily drafted Washington's law, "not a high-potency extract like that." Holcomb says any possible new limits on marijuana concentrate sales will be in the hands of state lawmakers early next year, before the new legal weed stores open for business. Of course, there's always the possibility that lawmakers will elect to allow the sales of pure hash and hash oil, as is the case in Colorado.
"Our goal is to replace marijuana prohibition with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol," said Mason Tvert, a leader of Colorado's successful legalization campaign. "Some marijuana consumers choose to use more potent forms of marijuana, just as some alcohol consumers prefer a martini or glass of scotch over a beer."