editors note [I did the first section of this story.]
“Dabs” — The future of recreational marijuana? A concern to some but welcomed by others, “dabs” remain shrouded in mystery for many.
A “dab” is a highly concentrated form of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) or CBD (Cannabidiol) that is derived from synthesizing marijuana. Many other drugs such as cocaine, Methanphetamines, and ecstasy use a synthesis process to intensify the effect of the drug.The term dab comes from the amount of concentrated THC and CBD used to achieve a “high.”
Experts agree that the use of dabs is on the rise in America.
Wax, crumble, shatter, honey oil, butter … none of these names conjure images of Willie Nelson toking marijuana out of an apple or Bob Marley exhaling a bellow of thick smoke with beaming red eyes. With exploding mobile homes, butane extraction methods, and a substance that resembles a designer drug bought and sold in small coin baggies, “dabs” are replacing the image of peace signs, rolling hills of lush green marijuana plants, and VW buses making a break for the state line.
With Oregon’s newly passed law — legalization of recreational marijuana — it appears cannabis culture will be ushering in a new age July 1. As many Oregonians look to incorporate marijuana into the general dynamics of our society, many are hopeful
the drug will boost the state’s economic vitality, lower incarceration rates, and possibly take money out of the pockets of criminal organizations.
Opponents seem to agree the new law sets dangerous precedents; ultimately standards seem to be slipping into a drug induced “purple haze” that could affect many in society. Either way one feels on the matter, life will not be the same.
The stereotype of a long-haired hippie sneaking off to the alley for a dubie is morphing into a closed-door society of dabbers.
Dabs culminate from a process of stripping marijuana plants of the many microscopic trichomes that cover the entire surface of the plant. The trichomes contain THC and CBD, the compounds that give a mind and body high.
There are a plethora of ways to make dabs. There is much debate on what the “cleanest” or “purest” forms of dabs truly are, since most methods involve using a solvent containing harmful chemicals. The most common way of extracting the trichomes is using butane to get the product BHO, or butane hash oil.
Producers use alcohol, water, CO2, propane, and dry ice among other solvents. With the large array of solvents comes a larger array of techniques to wash the trichomes off the plant matter.
The end process includes vacuum purging, which removes the majority of solvent residue and can provide the producer with almost 100 percent THC or CBD. With a quality purger, the only other trace materials in the oil will be plant matter.
Strains with higher CBD levels are used for the medical-marijuana industry.
“Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound in cannabis that has medical effects but does not make people feel ‘stoned’ and can actually counter the psychoactive effects of THC,” according to ProjectCBD.org Director Martin A. Lee. “After decades in which only high-THC cannabis was available, CBD-rich strains are now being grown by and for medical users.”
ProjectCBD.org is a non-profit educational program for the promotion of CBD for medical use.
CBD does not give you a mental high and is known to combat multiple illnesses, including nausea, seizures, psychosis, inflammation, tumors and cancer cells, anxiety, depression, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Dabs are sold on the streets and in dispensaries. According to Jonathon Brown, a medical marijuana grower and former LBCC student, in Oregon the price can range from $25 to $40 a gram on the streets and as high as $60 in the shops. Some places have been known to price their oil in the $100 range. Compared to marijuana buds, concentrates are almost twice as expensive.
For oil to be sold as medicine, Brown tests for solvents either in-house or in a laboratory. High quality or medical grade oil may have a low solvent level in ppb (parts per billion), requiring a more sensitive test than a standard lab test that determines levels in parts per million (ppm).
Brown uses a more sensitive test because his patients prefer the purest oil. The competition is to see who can produce the best dabs. Most dispensaries keep their recipes top secret if made in-house.
Considering that most concerns around the use of dabs are related to the extraction process which entails the use of a significant amount of butane, it is only reasonable to address the potential health risks a user might incur as a side effect from ingestion.
From ScienceDirect.com under “Addictive Behaviors,” a study by Mallory Loflin and Mitch Earleywine showed that “despite press reports that suggest that ‘dabbing’ is riskier than smoking flower cannabis, no data address whether dabs users experience more problems from use than those who prefer flower cannabis.”
From an article in High Times, Russ Bellville explains that “someone who smokes too much weed may get the munchies and fall asleep, but someone who over-dabs can end up passing out or puking their guts out.”
Other physical risks seem to manifest during the onset of the “high” as an experience of anxiety.
Although the feel of taking dabs can “promote a feeling of comfort between friends, it can promote anxiety between strangers,” said an OSU student who asked to remain unnamed.
“I was all in my head and my body was just really heavy,” said an LBCC student who also asked not to be named in this article.
The high of a dab was also described as similar to that of edibles, and that the intensity of taking a dab placed it in a realm of being “the designer drug of marijuana.”
With the advent of dabs, traditional pot smoking may begin to decline. Concerns about using dabs and their long-term effects include addiction, lack of motivation, isolation from “the real world,” and an increase of social anxiety. Although it has been argued as physically not possible to become addicted to marijuana, with this new form of synthetic refinement the possibility of addiction is prominent in conversations and articles.
As stated in Claire Doan’s article on KCRA.com, drug addiction specialist Jon Daily said, “The symptoms of wax, dabs, or butter include psychotic breaks, having hallucinations, seeing things that are not there, hearing things that are not there, having tactile sensations like something’s crawling under my skin. It’s much more addicting. I think there’s going to be psychological ramifications to come. I think we’re going to see more psychosis with it, more anxiety with it. We’re going to see more sleep problems with it.”
“I’ve had a 240-600 mg oxycodone habit, quit cold turkey and never once had withdrawal symptoms similar,” said an unnamed Corvallis resident who has experienced dab withdrawals.
The prominence of dabs at parties seems to be pretty low, staying more in the end of a “kickback” vibe, no physical activity other than smoking is tied to dabbing. Dabbing is the activity. Taking a dab or not can be the deciding factor of how a person feels for the next six to 10 hours.
For some it has become a normal part of daily life but for most dabs are regarded as a crossroad. The sense of exclusivity that follows dabbers hints at the fact that the dab scene is fairly exclusive.
“Casual dab smokers are hard to find,” said the OSU student.
Part of the exclusivity is due to the cost of dabs, while the other part is the cost of obtaining a “dab rig,” which consists of using a blowtorch to heat a metal platform that is attached to a glass water piece. Together they resemble the taboo of smoking crack.
“It sneaks up on you, and then you’ll just be like, ‘Oh shit!’” said the OSU student.
Smoking marijuana has come a long way since “Reefer Madness,” an anti-marijuana propaganda movie was made in 1936. It has turned from a simple joint-smoking session to “dabbing” out.
Although this “dab” life is becoming more common, it is still marijuana and therefore illegal to smoke, for now.
Under Measure 91, concentrates made at home are illegal to produce, possess or smoke. Homemade production or possession of up to a quarter ounce of homemade “dabs” is considered a Class B misdemeanor, which could result in six months in jail and maximum fine of $2,500.
If caught with more than a quarter ounce of homemade “dabs” it is considered a Class C felony, which entails at least six years in jail and a maximum fine of $125,000. However, “dabs” made at a state-licensed cannabis retailer are legal to possess and smoke.
At A Glance:
—For more information
— pictures of dab user