Master Blasters

Go inside Skunk Pharm Research, a hash school where extract artists teach eager students how to make their own concentrated medicine.

By Elise McDonough

Originally published in the May 2014 issue of High Times

For less than the price of a gram of wax, anyone with an Oregon Medical Marijuana Patient card can sign up for a public class and consult with an elite group of extract artists in the Pacific Northwest who believe in sharing their wisdom freely with all who seek it. Known as Skunk Pharm Research, these industry-leading innovators demonstrate safe extraction techniques in a suburban Portland backyard, and they also publish a renowned blog constantly updated with accurate information, experimental results, and answers to all the questions a newbie BHO enthusiast could possibly have.

lf acetateThe Skunk Pharm classroom consists of a picnic table under a portable carport surrounded by a flourishing vegetable garden, and an isolated 12' x 12' miniature laboratory that the crew built themselves from the ground up, even including the massive, metal-clad security door. The compact space is outfitted with an array of instruments and glassware, a vacuum oven and a gas chromatograph; it may be small, but it serves the purpose, since the biggest draw is not the campus, but Skunk Pharm’s knowledgeable team of instructors.

“I came to BHO because it is medicine. I have been self-medicating with cannabis for PTSD and the pain from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome dislocations for 40 years,” Carla explains. “My mom was an advance-stage Alzheimer’s patient who needed mood enhancement and sleep aids. The only thing that helped her was BHO. There was nothing else concentrated enough to deliver a high enough dose of medicine into her system.”

A confident, outspoken, occasionally sassy woman with a background in electrical engineering, Carla met the men who would later join her to form Skunk Pharm through an underground forum for cannabis caregivers. She describes the difficulty of watching Alzheimer’s transform her mother, Pat, into a stranger, although caring for her was made somewhat easier once her mom was “ingesting two to three grams of BHO per day, as well as vaporizing and using topicals.”

Pat became less combative and more cheerful and cooperative as a result. She experienced cognitive improvements and would speak, play jokes on people, and act appropriately with others. Carla was able to discontinue many of the pharmaceuticals her mother was taking, and Pat was able to enjoy her 83rd birthday party.
“She changed the opinion of an entire team of physicians,” Carla recalls. “The doctor who signed her recommendation had never signed one before, and said she ‘wished all Alzheimer’s patients were on cannabis.’” Before beginning the regimen of cannabis concentrates, Pat had been given three to six weeks to live. Instead, she lived for another four years, finally passing in July of 2012.

A former Marine and retired engineering-program manager who designed and installed processes, equipment and factories in the aerospace industry, J.D. is a plainspoken gentleman whose country accent and casual demeanor belie the intensity of his intellect. Known as “Greywolf” on the Skunk Pharm site, J.D. answers many of the questions asked about extraction processes. Double knee-replacement surgery has made it difficult for him to sit or stand without pain, while smoking too much bud over the years has left him with a developing case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which can lead to trouble breathing.

“I miss getting high, but I’m not willing to be in pain,” J.D. says, explaining that ingesting BHO orally and vaporizing oil concentrates boosted his tolerance to the point that he hasn’t experienced a high from cannabis in years. He began by making oil for himself and then for a friend who suffered from a brain tumor. After his friend passed, J.D. kept making concentrated cannabis oil for other cancer patients pro bono, and the idea for a research and development laboratory evolved from there.

The youngest member of the Skunk Pharm crew, Joe is a quiet, unassuming teddy bear of a man with a degree in biotechnology. His father suffered from pancreatic cancer, and Joe would sometimes drive hundreds of miles to procure quality meds for him, enduring dry times and an inconsistent supply. “The doctors gave him six weeks,” Joe recalls, “but he lasted 18 months. I think BHO qualifies more as medicine than smoking a plant. You only need one or two dabs versus having to inhale a lot of vegetable matter, which can be very hard on the lungs.”

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