It’s become a daily occurrence. Customers visit Hugs Alternative Care, a medical-marijuana dispensary in Sacramento, Calif., and ask for “dabs.” They are referring to butane hash oil, an especially potent form of marijuana, also known as “honey,” “honey oil,” “wax” or “earwax” because of its sticky, amber-colored appearance. “We don’t carry oils or waxes,” Hugs manager Cathy Romer tells them.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that the demand for dabs is out there.
The marijuana industry’s latest “it product,” dabs has been moving from the fringe into mainstream consciousness for years, although many card-carrying medicinal-marijuana users and even some law-enforcement officials know little about it.
High Times magazine featured dabs on its July cover, teasing it as “pot’s most powerful high.” Vice — the media company that recently accompanied Dennis Rodman on a diplomatic trip to North Korea to meet Kim Jong-un — has released a mini-documentary on the subject.
What makes dabs unique is the concentration of THC, the chemical that gives pot users a high. Donald Davies, a former manager of Sacramento dispensary Canna Care, said dabs can be 70 percent THC, compared with high -end cannabis plants, which register between 15 percent and 25 percent.
Dab makers soak cannabis in butane or alcohol to extract THC from the plant. After collecting a liquid, they boil off the butane and the remains solidify into what looks like tree sap. Users then “dab” or prick the waxy substance with a needle to pick it up, place it on the tip of a special pipe and ignite it with a small blowtorch to release fumes.
Products loaded with THC have been available for decades, carrying the name hash oil or honey oil. But even “regular, old-school hash” was often limited to 50 percent THC, Davies said. The use of butane makes the difference.
Addison DeMoura, a co-founder of the cannabis-analysis lab Steep Hill in Oakland, Calif., said dabs’ potency benefits many of the sickest patients who cannot smoke cannabis to manage pain and help with appetite.
Many collectives are selling more butane hash oil than weed, he added.
“If a patient cannot smoke and needs to get the medicine, they can simply put BHO into a cup of tea and consume it that way,” he wrote in an email. “The fact that the product is a concentrate makes it easy to infuse and consume. Dabs are part of the progress and the future of consumption.”
However, Davies said dabs are rarely used for medicinal purposes.
“For the most part, 99 percent of the market for dabs is recreational. … It’s definitely for the younger crowd,” he said.
The production of dabs has become a concern. A Feb. 7 news bulletin from the U.S. Fire Administration, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said THC extraction had caused an increasing number of fires, explosions and reported burn injuries in “states with legalized use and availability of medical marijuana,” particularly on the West Coast.
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