4 Myths About Cannabis Concentrates – Explosions, Overdoses, THC Levels and Complicated Rigs

As cannabis fans search for new ways to get high, we thought we'd help by clearing up the confusion surrounding cannabis concentrates.

We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.

As the legal cannabis market matures and moves further into the mainstream, people are beginning to explore different ways of consuming the plant. Many are now opting for smoke-free alternatives which don't harm their lungs, while still delivering all of the benifits that cannabis can provide.

This desire for a healthier life is leading more people towards cannabis concentrates, which are absorbing a larger share of the total market each year.

Cannabis concentrates typically refer to consumables that are created using solvent extraction—typically involving a mix of plant matter and either butane, propane, CO2, or alcohol—to create a distilled product loaded with THC. These concentrate products can then be consumed in a variety of different ways, including vaping, dabbing, shatter, hash, and oils.

As the name suggests, concentrates are far more potent than simply smoking herb, with users only requiring a small amount to end up high as a kite. Cannabis concentrates can boast THC levels of up to 99%, which is astronomical when compared to the 15-20% normally found in a bowl or joint.

If smoking a joint is like riding a bike, then the THC levels in concentrates are akin to driving a Lamborghini.

In fact, thanks to health benefits and increased potency, concentrates are catching up to flower as one of the primary ways to consume cannabis. However, for many cannabis users smoking flower is—and always will be—the tried-and-true method of getting high. Concentrates, on the other hand, are the new kid on the block.

While people have smoked cannabis for thousands of years as a means of exploring different states of mind, the same cannot be said for heating shatter wax in a dabbing rig. For this reason, it's no surprise that flower remains numero uno when it comes to methods of getting high.

Though just because people continue to choose flower, doesn't automatically mean it's the best method of consumption. It may simply be a force of habit. So to help you decide if you'd like to try concentrates, we decided to clear up the smoke and bust some marijuana myths.

Here are four myths about cannabis concentrates.

 

1. They're too complicated

For most concentrates, like shatter, budder and crumble, you're going to need a dabbing rig.

Unfortunately, this is where the journey concludes for many people. A dabbing rig can already look look overly complicated to those that favour the simple spliff, and for some neophyte users it can be downright intimidating. Not only do you have to use a blowtorch, but you're also dealing with strange goo, and you have to lower it into the bowl with a hook.

People can be forgiven for thinking that this is something out of Breaking Bad.Though the truth is, they're pretty simple.

Firstly you'll want to go out and purchase some wax and a dabbing rig. For a cheap rig, you're looking at spending about $100. When you've got your equipment, all you need to do is heat up the nail with your torch and then using your dabber, slowly drop some wax onto the nail and inhale the resulting vapor.

While some dabbing rigs can look extravagantly complex, they're mostly just for show. A basic rig shouldn't look too different from a glass bong.

 

2. They're explosive

Now you've probably seen the articles of people attempting to make cannabis concentrates and ending up in the hospital. Admittedly, these aren't examples of fake news.

The reason for this is that cannabis concentrates are made using butane, which is highly flammable. This means that there are definitely risks involved if you're not in a proper lab with the necessary experience and equipment.

Though the bad press doesn't seem to be deterring wannabe hash Heisenbergs, as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has stated that illegal hash oil labs are actually on the rise too. In 2017 there were 260 illegal hash-oil labs, which is a 38% rise from the previous year. And this might not even be all of them, as a quarter of those labs were found simply because they exploded.

While an explosion is never ideal, in this case, it does provide a pretty clear argument for cannabis legalization. The more easily accessible concentrates like wax are, the less likely people are to attempt making it at home.

This increased prevalence of explosions has forced legislators to tighten regulations in many states—with two banning the use of butane as a solvent in Hash Oil Extraction—while others require a "closed-loop" system, which can avoid the dangers associated with concentrate extraction.

So for those who are desperate for a cannabis concentrate, forget about the butane. You can make them at home safely using a hair straightener and dried flower or kief.

Otherwise, leave the concentrates to the professionals.

 

 

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3. Concentrates lead to overdoses

Yes, hospitalizations have increased since edibles and concentrates began entering the mainstream. Although this isn't happening because users are overdosing on cannabis. Often these hospital visits are at the request of the user, due to heightened anxiety or feelings of unease.

However, this isn't necessarily the fault of the concentrate itself. Due to the newness of cannabis concentrates, many people simply aren't prepared for how potent they can be, with THC levels for some dabs and vapes reaching upwards of 90%.

Conversely, simply smoking marijuana often only yields THC levels between 15-20%. If you're oblivious to this fact before trying dabs, you may well end up ten times higher than you've ever been in your life.

Dr. Larry Bedard, the former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians has mentioned that knowledge and experience are hugely influential in how people handle their highs.

Bedard stated that in areas where cannabis was already prevalent, legalization made almost no impact on the number of cannabis-related hospital visits. Contrastingly, in areas where cannabis wasn't as culturally significant—such as Colorado—more people are ending up in the ER.

"The most common reason someone goes to the ER for a marijuana reaction is anxiety," Bedard said.

This suggests that education and experience will minimize the number of hospital admissions over time.

As a result, we'd recommend easing into concentrates, and perhaps trying them with somebody that has a little experience. If you've never smoked or tried edibles before, then you should probably steer clear of concentrates for the time being.

 

4. Concentrates are unhealthy

Concentrates have been referred to by some as the "crack" of weed – and in some ways, they are. They've got far higher THC levels and you have to use a blowtorch on a dabbing rig to consume them, which admittedly can look pretty intense. Concentrates such as shatter or budder aren't as easily consumed as simply loading them into a vaporizer pen.

However, using a dabbing rig is itself a form of vaporizing, as you're actually heating the dabbing nail and then vaporizing the wax. This avoids the health issues associated with burning plant matter, which can send harmful carcinogens and toxins into your lungs.

Because of the concentrated nature of dabs, you're also going to be inhaling a lot less simply due to the potency of your product. You will get far higher using far less product, and unlike spliffs, you won't be combining your product with tobacco either.

Instead, you've got all the cannabinoids, including CBD—which each come with a wide array of health benefits—all sent to you in a concentrated, vaporized dose. And, because you're vaporizing, dabs will leave less of a scent behind than smoking.

 

THC levels

Shattering Old Ways

While many of us still envision smoking a spliff or bowl when thinking about cannabis use, these may both become outdated consumption methods in the coming years. Smoking a spliff could eventually be tantamount to holding onto you Blackberry while others are using iPhones.

So hopefully, this article has cleared some of the clouds of confusion surrounding cannabis concentrates, and made it easier for you to decide what your favourite method of ingestion is.

There's no right or wrong way to ingest cannabis, but there are certainly different ways to ingest the plant, each with its own unique benefits and downfalls. Find which way sounds best for you, do your research and ease yourself into it. The last thing the cannabis industry needs is more negative publicity!

Until then, The Green Fund will continue diving into Edibles, Extracts and Concentrates for the rest of this month! Watch this space. 

Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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