The ongoing search for a “bigger, better high” has turned marijuana into an explosive and deadly nightmare
On the heels of the regrettable new marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington, a new trend has emerged that is raising alarm in state legislatures. More and more people are beginning to use hash oil concentrate. This substance – known as Wax, Honey, Shatter, or, more commonly, Dabs – began hitting the shelves of the newly legalized recreational pot dispensaries shortly after the laws were passed. And it has become popular. So popular, in fact, that the weed shops are having a tough time keeping it on the shelves.
Hash oil concentrate, which got the nickname “Dabs” because “a little dab’ll do ya”, is an extremely powerful substance that is made by distilling the essential active chemicals in marijuana that gets the user high. The draw for pot smokers is the highly concentrated levels of THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, which gives the user a far more intense and longer lasting high than the traditional methods of ingestion. Normal marijuana might contain around 15%-18% THC concentration. Hash oil concentrate, on the other hand, can contain upwards of 80%-90% THC levels.
Marijuana users have long been creative in finding ways to smoke pot. From the older days of corncob pipes and rolling joints, to the hookah fad in the 70’s, to even using apples as disposable pipes, pot smokers will always find a way to use their drug. Hash oil concentrate isn’t really that new, and has already been used in edible like cookies and brownies for some time. Until fairly recently, there hasn’t really been an effective way to directly ingest hash oil concentrate other than those snacks or drinks. But now, someone has discovered a way to smoke hash oil concentrate.
Bathtub Chemistry: Why Dabs are Dangerous
The biggest problem with the production and use of dabs is found in the concentrate itself – or, more accurately, in the chemical process used to make it. Pro-marijuana advocates have tried to convince us of the “natural and healthy” benefits of smoking pot, which are debatable at best. With hash oil concentrate, the high that the user gets is miles away from natural, and the process necessary to extract it is not healthy in the least.
The production of hash oil concentrate requires the “chemist” (a term used quite loosely) to infuse the trimmings from a marijuana harvest with a hydrocarbon. The most widely used chemical for this is butane gas, which is highly flammable. After the butane-laced marijuana is put under intense pressure, a thick, goopy substance remains. But this syrupy mixture still contains butane, which must be removed. How do they remove it? By cooking it. Combining high heat and butane. What could go wrong?
All over the country, people have been destroying kitchens and basements in blasts that rival those of meth labs. Fires and explosions have been sending these bathtub chemists to emergency rooms and burn clinics at an alarmingly high rate. In Aurora, CO, where all marijuana is still illegal, four butane hash oil explosions were reported in just four months time. But, with the growing demand for this quasi-legal substance, the number of injuries and extensive property damage will be sure to rise.
Washington has already banned the manufacture and sale of this product, and Colorado is looking to regulate it. Which is a step in the right direction, albeit a small one. However, loopholes in the recreational marijuana laws do not prohibit people from attempting to make their own hash oil concentrate, which is creating a black market for dabs, even in the states where pot is legal.
Which leads to another major problem with dabs – quality control. In a specialized environment with a trained chemists and engineers, the problem of explosions might be controlled or even eliminated, but the majority of hash oil concentrate is produced in less than ideal conditions. These bathtub chemists have no ability to control the factors that would be more manageable in an actual manufacturing facility. This means that the level of THC varies from one batch to another. And if the level of that chemical varies, the level of the other chemicals involved will also vary.
Smoking dabs requires, of all things, the use of blowtorches. As if the use of butane in production was not enough, now a standard cigarette lighter won’t even cut it for smoking pot. Furthermore, if the “cook” doesn’t get all of the butane gas out of the wax, the user is putting yet another dangerous chemical into their brain, and at high levels of concentration. And that is the best-case scenario. Worst-case, the hash oil is still volatile, which may also lead to a fire or small explosion, causing more injuries and property damage. All in all, from production to use, hash oil concentrate is a highly dangerous drug. When it is all said and done, Dabs could end up being the Crystal Meth of Pot.
Dabs on the Rise
The popularity of hash oil concentrate among younger marijuana users is a big concern for health care professionals. The younger a person is when they begin to indulge, the more likely it is that they will become addicted. In the case of Dabs, the difference in the levels of THC concentration between hash oil and normal marijuana has been compared to going from a glass of beer to a glass of liquor. There have even been reports of people literally being knocked unconscious after just one hit of hash oil concentrate. At a NORML event in California, one person almost cracked their skull on a sidewalk and another broke two teeth after passing out cold from “dabbing”, according to accounts from witnesses (NORML is a pro-marijuana advocacy group).
Yet, despite the dangers of this new trend in marijuana use, people in their mid-twenties and younger are seeming to prefer hash oil and vaporization techniques as opposed to just smoking the flower of the marijuana plant. Even as pro-marijuana advocates tell us that THC and marijuana use is safe, harmless and non-addictive, dabs have shown us otherwise.
If you have any suspicions that your child, spouse or a loved one might be using this or any other dangerous and addictive chemical substance, don’t delay. Give us a call. We can help.