The popularity of all cannabis extracts (aka concentrates) has been consistently on the rise in all states with legalized recreational or medical cannabis.  In fact, in a 2017 study of the California Cannabis Market, BDS Analytics found that concentrates make up 25 percent of California dispensary sales, behind flowers (55 percent) but before edibles (12 percent).   And this data only covers the medical market! As the recreational market ramps up here in California, that figure will most likely increase. So, as we move forward in the world of cannabis extracts, let’s go back to the beginning and look at where, how, and when this all started.

The Origin of Cannabis Extracts

The modern history cannabis extracts are fairly shadowy and vague, though humans have been making cannabis infusions and extractions for thousands of years.  In fact, some form of cannabis tincture existed in US pharmacies from the 1800s (until the cannabis prohibition)

Extracts in the 20th Century

MK-Ultra 1950-1960s: According to World War II Intelligence documents, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) incorporated a THC acetate “truth serum” into its interrogation program. 

Photo by Matt Briney

The man in charge of this program, George White, utilized cigarettes laced with hash oil-laced (along with LSD and other drugs) to interrogate various prisoners.  George White’s use of these methods continued through the 50s and 60s in a program known as MK-Ultra.

Books on Hash Oil in the 1970s:

In the early 1970s, a brief overview of how to make “cannabis honey oil” was written about by a man named D. Gold, in his book, Cannabis Academy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking. In Chapter 8 of his book, Gold recommends using pure alcohol and activated charcoal for extraction, stating, “The solution is filtered through fine filter paper and the alcohol is removed by evaporation. The residue is a translucent amber oil with the appearance and consistency of dark honey.”

Four years later, the author Michael Starks further expounded on the method for hash oil preparation in his 1977 book, Marijuana Chemistry: Genetics Processing and Potency.  In Chapter 6, Stark describes hash oil extraction using various solvents including chloroform, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and others, and even includes a table of Common Cannabinoid Solvents, as well as description of lab apparatus and procedural details.   

Extracts in the 21st Century

The First Appearance of BHO:

The use of butane for cannabis extraction was first detailed in a 1999 article released on, entitled, “Hash Honey Oil Technique.”  This article describes “open blasting,” which is a very dangerous extraction method that exposes the highly flammable butane.  The article is still available online, but with plenty of disclaimers at the top, letting reader’s knowledge of the potential dangers involved in open-blasting.

The Invention of Budder (and the Rig) in 2003:

In 2003, a Canadian man who called himself The Budderking created an extract known as “budder” through utilizing a variety of alcohol refinements involving.  What’s more important about his creation, though, is that he also introduced a small unit created to make vaporizing the extract easier (an early version of the “dab rig.”) Eventually, his procedure and his vaping prototype made their way to other markets in Colorado and California and caught on.  Eventually, in 2009, the equipment and tools (rigs, vape pens, etc) needed to vaporize BHO and other concentrates were being mass-produced, making it easier for consumers to consume and increasing the demand for extracts even more.   

Photos by

The Closed-Loop System:

In 2008, after several in-home explosions due to BHO, an appeals court decided butane extraction was extremely dangerous and should be prosecuted under a statute intended for meth and PCP labs, which meant that anyone caught extracting using butane could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.  However, the popularity of processing (and smoking) BHO continued to increase, and, with it, came new technologies. Eventually the expensive, but safe, closed-loop system (CLS) for extracting and concentrating cannabis was invented.  

Example of a closed loop extractor
(photo by

Extracts Make their Competition Debut in 2010:

In 2010, hash oil products made their debut at the US High Times' Cannabis Cup.  At that time, only a few people competed, but now, hundreds of extract companies bring their products not only to the High Times’ Cannabis Cup, but to shows and competitions all over the United States (wherever cannabis is legal).


Companies have been focusing their efforts on developing better, safer, and more efficient extraction methods and technologies. The use of CO2 and supercritical extractors has been gaining ground for several years and more advanced closed-loop systems for BHO are available from a wide variety of companies.  In terms of safety, quality, and options for the consumer, we sure have come a long way since MK-Ultra.

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