Council to ponder butane possession and sale restrictions

In 2007, Arcata Firefighters put out a blaze at an Arcata grow house just before it reached this stack of butane canisters. Arcata Eye file photo

Mad River Union

CITY HALL – The Arcata City Council will discuss a possible ordinance to regulate the sale, possession and/or use of butane at its meeting Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 736 F St.

Butane is used in processing concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). A staff report states that it is “prevalent in the City of Arcata,” and notes explosions, fire, property damage and injuries associated with butane hash oil or “honey oil” extraction in Arcata.

Several cities have adopted ordinances that limit the resale and possession of butane in order to minimize property damage and personal injury to those involved in the manufacturing process, to first responders and to innocent bystanders.

Possible restrictions could restrict quantities sold or possessed and that a retailer could purchase or acquire. Butane resellers could be required to identify on the bill of sale the date, quantity, brand, type of sale (wholesale or retail) and the purchaser’s identification name and/or address, maintain sale records for a period of time and provide the records of sale to the city on request.

Policy and environmental implications will be evaluated if the council moves forward with a specific ordinance. See staff report, below.

 

City Council staff report

STAFF REPORT – CITY COUNCIL MEETING September 07, 2016

Honorable Mayor and City Council Members Karen T. Diemer, City Manager
Karen T. Diemer, City Manager
August 31, 2016

Discuss Potential Ordinance on Butane Sales.

RECOMMENDATION:

It is recommended that the Council discuss and provide staff direction regarding a potential ordinance that would regulate the sale, possession and/or use of butane.

INTRODUCTION:

The use of butane in the processing of concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in cannabis) continues to be prevalent in the City of Arcata. Arcata has a history of explosions, fire, property damage and injuries associated with this activity. Several cities have adopted ordinances that limit the resale and possession of butane in an effort to address the health and safety concerns of butane.

BACKGROUND:

Several regions of California have experienced an increase in explosions caused by the use of refined butane in the manufacture of “honey oil” (also known as hash oil). These incidents have caused considerable property damage and personal injury to those participating in the manufacturing process, to first responders and to innocent bystanders.

The use of refined butane is done to dissolve the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) resin from cannabis plants, which concentrates into a liquid/oil form as a result of the butane’s stripping process. The stripping of the THC through use of refined butane causes flammable butane vapors to accumulate low to the ground and remain exposed to ignition sources. Studies suggest that 99.5% of the extracted THC butane mixture will volatilize into the immediate area and remain in a form that is odorless and latent to the human eye and only detected through a combustible gas instrument.

A butane extraction lab using refined butane can present a serious hazard to property and persons, including first responders and innocent bystanders, and such conditions present grave risk of loss where potential ignition sources are present, resulting in an explosion.

The resale of refined butane occurs at levels that are only relevant to the manufacture of oil from cannabis. Such sales and possession of butane are being regulated by cities to prevent the use of butane in the manufacture of honey oil where such activity presents grave dangers and adverse health risks to the occupants and the first responders therein.

DISCUSSION:

A review of several California city ordinances revealed some standard regulatory measures that the Council may want to consider including:
Quantity Restrictions

  1. Restriction of the quantity in any single sale transaction of butane ranging from 600 ml (21 oz.).
  2. Restriction of the quantity that any one person could have in their possession, custody or control ranging from 600 ml (21 oz.).
  3. Restriction in the quantity that a customer of a retailer could purchase or acquire per month ranging from 600 ml (21 oz.).

Tracking of Butane Sales

  1. Requires resellers to identify on the bill of sale the date, quantity, brand, type of sale(wholesale or retail) and the purchaser’s identification name and/or address.
  2. Require resellers to maintain sale records for a period of time (typically 2 years).
  3. Provide the records of sale to the City upon written request.

POLICY IMPLICATIONS:

Policy implications will be evaluated if the Council moves forward with a specific ordinance.

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW (CEQA):

Environmental review will be evaluated if the Council moves forward with a specific ordinance.

BUDGET/FISCAL IMPACT:

Enforcement of any ordinance would be incorporated into the existing budget.

ATTACHMENTS:

Sample Butane Ordinances (PDF)

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