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What You Need to Know About Marijuana ‘Dabbing’

A look at ‘dabbing,’ a new trend in marijuana consumption.

Credit: Annapolis Patch
Credit: Annapolis Patch

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As marijuana makes its way into the mainstream, many Americans are debating its benignity.

There is one offshoot of the new wave of cannabis known as ‘dabbing,’ however, that’s been arousing concern.

Dabbing is the method of inhaling butane hash oil (BHO), sometimes referred to as the “crack of pot,” for a stronger, faster tetrahydrocannabinol (a.k.a. THC) high. Butane hash oil also goes by “ear wax,” “honey oil,” “shatter,” “budda,” and “dabs” (among other names). The words ‘dabs’ and ‘dabbing,’ most commonly used to descirbe this type of BHO consumption, derive from the process, which involves placing marijuana into a tube and forcing a solvent through it.

When the solvent, typically butane, evaporates off, it leaves just the marijuana plant’s resins with THC levels reaching about 80 percent. Users heat up a piece of metal, often a titanium nail (super hot with the likes of a blowtorch), place a ‘dab’ of BHO on the end, and inhale the smoke created when the BHO evaporates.

All these actions arguably mirror the heating of a crack pipe, which perhaps helps explain why it has garnered the “crack of marijuana” reputation.

But is it dangerous? Marijuana proponents are split.

Dale Gieringer of NORML, a California non-profit dedicated to reforming marijuana laws, says there has been an increase in the number of hospitalizations for cannabis overdose of late and insists that this “never happened until the popularization of hash oil in recent years. The dangers are dire enough to merit a special warning.”

The practice is relatively new, and its dangers – and possible medicinal benefits – are still being contested. The most troublesome aspect appears to be the inclusion of butane, which is both dangerous to work with because of its flammability and unsafe to ingest.

Rolling Stone’s William Breathers writes “as long as it's made by pros, BHO is just megastrong weed – and probably reasonably safe.” For a drug that’s still illegal in most states, “as long as it’s made by pros” is a huge qualifier.

It all seems akin with the mega-powerful trends with legalized drugs: the high-alcohol ice beer that was all the rage in the 90s, the energy shots now that deliver a bigger jolt of caffeine than anyone ever deemed necessary a year ago, or Four Loko, the insane offspring of both trends. Each delivers a surge that can take someone who’s used to using a drug in moderation by surprise. And that’s when horrible accidents can happen.

So, is it crack? No. Is it something parents should legitimately be more concerned about than traditional marijuana use? Yes.

How do you think we should talk to kids about newer, more powerful drugs? Tell us in the comments or in a blog post.

GM December 07, 2013 at 09:43 AM
Hmmm, just curious -- If this is something that parents should legitimately be concerned about, was there a good reason to go into so much detail in this article about exactly how to go about using pot in this way? I suppose the absence of pictures or a how-to video are worth noting, but the instructions provided in the article seemed overly thorough if the intention of the article was to warn people to stay away from this rather than to encourage people to try it out. The quote from Rolling Stone certainly did nothing to reinforce the notion that this is a dangerous thing.

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