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Is 'Dabbing' the Crack of Pot?

  1. Rob Cypher
    Butane hash oil, a potent marijuana concentrate, is gaining popularity. So why does it split the pro-pot community?

    Butane hash oil (BHO)—also known as dabs, honey oil, wax, oil, shatter, or budder—is a potent marijuana concentrate that can exceed 80% THC content. Growing in popularity in recent years, BHO is hailed by some as “the future of cannabis” while others fear it could harm the image of the legalization movement. "It is very, very potent," Nick, 21, a Physics and Applied Math double-major and avid pot smoker from New York, tells The Fix. "It's like the first time you smoked. Every single time."

    BHO is produced by one of two methods: “open” or “closed." The open method involves packing a stainless steel tube with marijuana and "blasting" the tube with butane (an extraction solvent). The resulting extract—a thick, yellow-orange oil—trickles out onto a pan. This method can be dangerous: FEMA reports increasing incidents of explosions across the US caused by clumsy hash oil production attempts. The closed system, a safer method, uses a machine called abutane oil extractor—which is also used to perform oil extraction frombotanical herbs like lavender and mint to produce aromatics, infusions, and tinctures. Consuming BHO is known as "dabbing," and usually involves the user touching the concentrate onto a heated surface (like a nail) and inhaling its vapors. Some dabbing paraphernalia resembles traditional meth or crack pipes, which Nick says could "freak out a lot of parents once dabbing gets huge."

    Dabbing comes with potential health dangers, including inhalation of "dirty" butane. An editorial in the High Times claims that only butane that is "quadruple-refined or better" is suitable for ingestion. However, there are no across-the-board standards for purity. Another risk is ingesting harmful contaminants that may have been infused into the concentrate during the extraction process, like pesticides, herbicides and fungi. "It depends on who's been growing it and what they used," according to Dr. Bob Melamede, associate professor of biology at the University of Colorado, and president and CEO of Cannabis Science, Inc. "If you have contaminants on your plant, that's going to come off into the extract." Still, he believes the dangers are minimal and says "there isn’t any evidence that inhaling residual hydrocarbons like butane are dangerous—at least in small amounts.”

    The pro-pot community is somewhat divided over dabbing. Dale Gieringer, PhD of NORML in California, says there has been a recent uptick in hospitalizations for cannabis overdose, which he attributes to rising use of BHO. "Things like this never happened until the popularization of hash oil in recent years," he writes in a letter to O'Shaughnessy's. "The dangers are dire enough to merit a special warning." Others, however, praise BHO's medical merits. Daniel “Big D” de Sailles, a partner at Denver dispensary Top Shelf Extracts, tells the High Times it's practically a miracle remedy. “I’m a 100% proponent of BHO, because I’ve seen it make people’s pain just evaporate," he says. "As medicine, it helps with both harm reduction—it practically cures withdrawal symptoms in people who are alcoholics or addicted to speed or pharmaceuticals— and pain management. It works every single time, and it’s easier to regulate your dosage.”

    But some pro-pot activists worry that BHO could harm the herb's reputation, setting back the legalization movement at a time when public acceptance of pot is at an all-time high. “Seeing teenagers wielding blowtorches or blowing themselves up on the evening news might incite a new anti-pot paranoia that could set the legalization movement back decades," writes High Times senior editor Bobby Black, who notes that the techniques used to produce dabs "bear an eerie resemblance to those used for harder drugs like meth and crack." Meanwhile NORML's executive director, Allen St. Pierre directly attributes BHO's popularity to marijuana’s still mainly illegal status. "Contraband product tends to become more potent under prohibition,” he tells The Fix. “This appears demonstrably true for cannabis, as the more the government commits resources and energy to ban cannabis, the more potent the herbal drug has become over the years.”

    Victoria Kim
    The Fix
    June 28, 2013



  1. Crystal_Queen
    Hash Oil is over 30 years old.
    It's just never been marketable.
    People don't want to pay 200$ for a smudged nail. LOL
    most stoners would lose it, or not know how to smoke it, or get paranoid that its laced...

    Most hash smokers prefer making it themselves, for themselves,
    and so long as it's done right basically reduces lung damage to 0%
  2. [éS]Infinite
    I found the title slightly annoying because I find 'dabs' are no different from smoking regular pot or hash, albeit with a slightly stronger punch. Mind you, I'm not smoking huge globs of the stuff.
    It's not until I escape my bubble and realize not every one has the same cannabis tolerance as me, and for some a single light toke of hash oil could send them over the top. But I suppose the same can even be said of some cannabis flowers.
    As the article states, hash oil serves many specific beneficial purposes, but it is certainly not for everyone. A little knowledge goes a long way and if powerful extracts are related to an increase in hospitalizations related to cannabis 'overdose' hopefully people catch on and the trend regresses.
  3. Rob Cypher
  4. [éS]Infinite
    I wouldn't compare synthetic cannabinoids to hash oil extracts, they provide very different effects. Hash oil is essentially just concentrate of the plant, it's the equivalent of an extract on morning glory or hawaiian baby woodrose seeds for LSA, or an extract of psilocin and psilocybin from mushrooms. It's still very much the same active compounds you would be ingesting if they were raw cannabis flowers, but since they're concentrated you require much less, which is where the issues arise as some individuals do not know how much less is required. The effects from raw cannabis flowers and from hash oil extracts are exactly the same, but one requires more to be ingested than the other.
    And yes, some careless individuals attempting these extracts (as with any extraction which uses a flammable solvent) have blown themselves and their homes up. It's unfortunate but certainly avoidable.
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