Dabbing, dabs.  It is a topic of great interest these days in the cannabis industry.  It is the word on everyone’s lips.  Your friends want to know if you’re in…  If you’re down, “Do you dab??”.  Some exalt it as an easy way to get the level of medication or intoxication desired in a short period of time.  Young people, especially seem to gravitate toward this mode of ingestion, although its popularity reaches far beyond just a young adult fad.  With the rise in popularity has come an ever expanding range of methods, CO2, butane and propane, to produce the high-demand concentrated THC and CBD resins as well as an increase in their appearance in medical dispensaries.  Waxes represent one of the highest dollar and profit cannabis products with much of the product in the marketplace made from trimmings of cannabis rather than flowers.  To some it is akin to spinning straw into gold.  As a result many more individuals are willing to undertake the legal risk to produce the stuff with the expectation of easy money and large profit.  With this ever expanding group of producers comes an ever growing list of issues and things to be concerned about when purchasing cannabis concentrates such as “wax” or “BHO”.

The issues around the explosiveness of butane, propane and the like are the ones that most consumers are aware of.  However, the methods used by these many and varied at-home chemists result in products that may not be as “pure” as the consumer is lead to believe.  Many producers use coffee filters to remove particulate from their concentrated cannabis as it is being made.  These poor grade filters are often partially dissolved in the process of using them, causing significant amounts of paper pulp to be present in the final product.  Other producers utilize substances such as silica gel to deodorize and decolorize their products attempting to make them appear as if high grade solvents were used to manufacture them rather than industrial grade solvent containing odor additives.  This silica gel is often poorly filtered from the concentrate and becomes mixed into the final product, meaning that silica particles may be inhaled.

As the concept of dabbing has evolved, so have the types and forms of concentrates used.  Some types are characterized by their appearance, “earwax”, “crumble”, “shatter”, while others are characterized by the type of chemical used to perform the extraction from cannabis, “BHO” (butane hash oil), “CO2” are the two most often cited.   CO2 products have become regarded by the marketplace as “more healthy” because they don’t have “butane residue”.  The issue of butane residue is largely a false one.   It’s not trace amounts of butane you should be overly concerned about inhaling given it is dissipated by the flame before you would likely inhale it.  The real issue with butane, CO2 or any other chemically extracted cannabis product is whether or not high-purity solvents were used.   With the craze for dabbing on the rise, butane manufacturers have begun labeling their wares as “Triple refined” or “6 times refined”.  These descriptions are meaningless.  There are only 2 designations that matter, industrial grade vs. ultra high purity when it comes to gas and solvent.  None of the small containers of butane sold in head-shops are “ultra high purity”.   This means that they may contain many other chemicals, some known neurotoxins in the case of low-grade gases.  This is the same for CO2 and butane.  so just because it says it was made with CO2 doesn’t mean its safer, it could contain paper pulp, silica, propellants from a cheap can of gas, neurotoxins and more.

Dabs can be the most efficient mode of ingestion for many patients and can also be one of the most dangerous when made with low-grade contaminated solvents and gas or processed poorly and improperly filtered.  If this is the type of cannabis that you prefer consuming be sure to ask questions about how it was made, and if at all possible only procure them from people who are trusted providers and whose methods you are aware of.  For the concerned dispensary buyer, you can ask to see the bill of sale for “ultra high purity” gas or solvent.  They can only buy this gas from a gas distributor, it can’t be purchased on a store shelf.  If the producer can’t produce documentation to prove they used the correct material, it’s not worth the risk of providing a potentially contaminated product to patients.  Although these concentrates can be analyzed for contamination, not all contaminants will be “seen” in analysis.

In addition to the contaminants from the gas is the risk of concentrated pesticide contamination.  The process of making concentrated cannabis extracts co-extracts and concentrates any pesticide residues that were present on the cannabis used to make it.   This makes verifying the source of material and that it is pesticide-free even more important than ever.

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One Response to To Dab, or Not To Dab

  1. jeffrey p. says:

    What about the toxic effects of concentrating fungicides molds and fertilizers? I suspect these also contribute to the composition of the concentrate. If the finished “bho” has lest say a percentage of 75% THC what could make up the other 25%?

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