The Dabbing Debate - What‘s the deal with Butane Hash Oil?
November 13th, 2013
Categories : Blog
Dabbing is on the rise. It is already extremely popular in the US and it‘s beginning to catch on in Europe. But dabbing stirs up controversy; what exactly is this new trend, and what does it mean for the cannabis community?
„Dabbing“, or smoking cannabis concentrates extracted with butane, are gaining popularity at a remarkable rate. And it is potent stuff, causing quite a bit of a divide in within the cannabis community. Many came to love its sheer mind-blowing strength, whilst others see great risk in it. Worries are, it will damage the image of cannabis and particularly the legalisation efforts of the last decades.
WHAT EXACTLY IS DABBING?
Before broaching the pros and cons of dabbing, let‘s first get the down to the matter. Basically, dabs are butane cannabis concentrates that come in various shapes and forms. Shatter, earwax, or honey oil, as some extracts are fondly called, are placed on a hot surface and inhaled. The concentrations of this oil can be in the range of 80% THC, making them extremely potent – one of the most potent things on the market.
HOW IS BUTANE HASH OIL MADE?
Butane hash oil (BHO) is produced in one of two ways. These are known as the “open” and “closed” methods. The open method is the most commonly used method; it involves filling a glass or stainless steel tube with marijuana and passing an extraction solvent (butane) through it. This results in a thick yellow-orange oil coming out the bottom of the tube - after further steps of purification and drying, that‘s the highly prized oil. The closed method, which is much safer, involves the use of using a proper machine known as a butane oil extractor. Unfortunately, these are not easily available and cost a lot of money, so they‘re unavailable for most people. These machines are common in industrial extractions of oil from such things as lavender.
Since the open method is easy and cheap, it‘s what most people do. Unfortunately, it‘s also the least safe method. Butane is highly inflammable and explosive should the a spark ignite it. As you might have heard, that has happened more than once. In the US, where dabbing is more prominent, news about exploding kitchen labs are mounting.
WHY HAS DABBING BECOME SO POPULAR?
Simple - because it‘s out-of-your-mind strong. Remember the very first time you got high? That‘s how it feels every time, we hear. Since THC and cannabinoids are not unhealthy, taking large doses doesn‘t pose a risk by itself. However, reports of people passing out are not unheard of. Even seasoned users can be overpowered by the dabs and may experience undesirable effects, such as fainting or headaches. Specially among teenagers dabbing is most popular.
IS DABBING SAFE?
Unfortunately, there are risks for both the creators and the users. There are numerous reports from the US of people blowing up their kitchens or apartments due to unsafe BHO production. This has happened more than once, and some people even died from it. That‘s obviously pretty serious, and anyone trying to make BHO should be aware of the dangers involved.
And how does BHO pose a threat to the health of the user? Again, it‘s not the cannabis or THC that‘s dangerous, it is actually the residual butane and its by-products that‘s of concern. When using high quality multiple-filtered butane and proper cleaning steps are taken, most butane should have left the product. But over the counter lighter-fluid butane is of much lower purity and contains a range of by-products such as propane that are much more difficult to filter out. Since BHO is a concentrate, nasty chemicals tend to accumulate as well.
Street BHO can also be contaminated with other chemicals such as silica gel, which is sometimes used to brighten up the colour of the BHO to make it look like a higher grade solvent was used.
BAD PRESS CANNABIS SHOULDN‘T GET
Let‘s start by saying that we are basically in favour of dabbing and new cannabis developments. There are, however, a number genuine concerns that arise from dabbing that rightly should be addressed.
Since being unjustly forced into illegality, cannabis has undergone a major renaissance. It‘s already been legalised in parts of the US, industrial hemp is being grown again, and recognition for its medical benefits are slowly gaining mainstream approval. Obviously, talk about exploding homes and people fainting won‘t do no good. Perception is key to the image of cannabis, and dangerous chemicals involved in dabbing give mainstream fodder for bad cannabis press.
“With dabs, your local action news team gets to do a marijuana story that shows crack pipe torches, used on black sticky heroin-looking goo made from a process that blows up like meth labs [...] The danger of dabs isn’t so much physical as it is a public relations nightmare.” Russ Bellville, a marijuana activist, remarked in an article published by the Kush Magazine.
Ironically, it‘s exactly the environment of prohibition that gives rise to stronger products, and prevents access to safe production environments. If produced under laboratory conditions, impurities and explosions are not of concern.
BENEFICIAL FOR MEDICAL USES?
When made safely and without residue, dabbing is a great boon to the cannabis community, especially those who use cannabis for medical purposes. The high potency and quick delivery is perfect for medicating those in need. BHO offers potential for instant pain relief, as well as offering those who simply want to relax a powerful way to do so.
As long as it is used sensibly and made safely, BHO is just a very strong smoke. But because street BHO can be cut with so many contaminants, or be made from harmful solvents, it is best to try to obtain it from a reputable dispensary, or someone you know and trust. It is in only in these safe forms that it can be endorsed.