Dear Herb: I Want to Make Homemade Cannabis Extracts Using Ethanol. Is That Legal? Health Canada Says “No”

Article by Leaf News

Dear Herb: I want to make homemade cannabis extracts using ethanol. Is that legal? Without a licence, "organic solvents" can't legally be used to create cannabis extracts. Does that include high-strength alcohol? As Colorado celebrates pot holiday, marijuana tourism divides state Cannabis and ingredients for making infused cannabis are displayed during a Cannabis cooking class in Denver, Colorado, on Thursday, April 18, 2013. The cannabis is mixed with Everclear alcohol and then it is boiled until the alcohol no longer remains. (Werner R. Slocum/MCT)

Dear Herb: I understand that we can’t use butane to extract cannabis concentrates at home, but what about making homemade cannabis extracts using high-strength alcohol such as Everclear? Is that allowed? — Looking for Facts on Extracts

Dear Looking: Thanks for asking. Before I get into the answer, let’s briefly review the issue for readers who aren’t keen on cannabis extracts.

Certain methods of creating concentrated cannabis extracts involve the use of solvents, substances that dissolve the plant material. Some common solvents used in extracting cannabinoids from cannabis are butane, propane, supercritical carbon dioxide and ethanol (i.e., high-strength alcohol such as the Everclear you mentioned.)

A sharp-eyed legal eagle would notice that ethanol isn’t explicitly included in that list of organic solvents. Does that mean it’s legal to use ethanol for home cannabis extraction? I put the question to Canada’s favourite government cannabis regulator, Health Canada.

First, Health Canada’s spokesperson confirmed that ethanol is indeed a permitted solvent for holders of federal cannabis licences. (If you’re curious, check out this Health Canada list of solvents that details how much residual solvent can be left over in cannabis extracts produced by licence holders.)

But for an unlicensed person, Health Canada clarified that ethanol is not a permissible solvent under the Cannabis Act.

“This is because organic solvents may be considered dangerous by posing a risk of fire and explosion… High concentrations of ethanol would meet the definition of being ‘highly or extremely flammable’ and, as such, unlicensed individuals are prohibited from using concentrated ethanol to extract cannabinoids for personal use.”

Read the full article here.

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