Pubdate: Thu, 22 Jan 2015
Source: Georgia Straight, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 The Georgia Straight
Author: Travis Lupick


THE AVERAGE MARIJUANA bud one finds on the streets of Vancouver has a
THC concentration in the neighbourhood of 25 percent. That's a lot
stronger than what people were smoking back in the '60s, but it's got
nothing on the high that "dabbing" can deliver.

Dabbing, an old technique that's seeing a surge in popularity,
involves smoking cannabis products with THC concentrations above 90

"When you take it to that level, there can be heart palpitations-it's
very, very strong," said Terry Roycroft, CEO of Medicinal Cannabis
Resource Centre Inc. "It's certainly not for everybody. When it comes
to extractions, we're talking about very heavy recreational use and,
for very knowledgeable people, using it for medical reasons."

Despite a need for caution, Roycroft noted that most dispensaries in
Vancouver-of which the Vancouver Police Department reports there are
now about 60-offer dab concentrates. He said they're usually sold
under the names budder, wax, sap (40 to 60 percent THC), shatter, and
ultra shatter (94 percent or higher). (Other dispensary operators
provided variations on these numbers.)

"I've seen the stuff around for two or three years, but it's only been
in the last year that we've seen it really explode, where everybody
knows about it and where it's mainstream," Roycroft said. "The dried
weed is still their [dispensaries'] main scenario, but all the
extracts are coming up very, very quickly now."

Adolfo Gonzalez is a senior consultant with Purely Medicinal, a
supplier of cannabis products for Vancouver dispensaries. In a
telephone interview, he explained the process that takes a cannabis
bud to a THC concentration so high that only a dab is needed.

Cannabis is packed into a glass tube that then has liquid butane
passed through it, he began. The butane pulls cannabinoid crystals off
the buds. The butane is then boiled off the mixture and removed with a
vacuum purging machine. What remains will be either a sappy or
crystallized substance, depending on cannabinoid and terpene
quantities as well as the skills of the cook. That substance is called
budder (with a texture similar to lip balm), wax, sap, shatter (like
brittle glass), or, if you're in law enforcement, butane hash oil (BHO).

Butane's role in the process has resulted in a few accidental
explosions that have attracted negative media attention in the United
States. In Vancouver, both the VPD and Providence Health Care (Saint
Paul's and Mount Saint Joseph hospitals) told the Straight they
haven't noticed dabbing-related incidents.

Another reason the practice is controversial is because the method of
smoking it has more in common with crack or methamphetamine than it
does with lighting a joint. A source of intense heat (such as a small
blowtorch) is applied to a piece of glass or metal that is holding the
drug. The user then inhales the vapour that results.

Stakeholders interviewed for this story attributed dabbing's rise in
popularity to a variety of factors: U.S. entrepreneurs are pushing
every product they can after legalization; new tools designed for
dabbing make the process easier than it once was; and it is simply a
trendy thing to do.

Another possible reason, according to B.C. civil-liberties lawyer Kirk
Tousaw, is that for medical-marijuana licence holders, it's legal.

"In [April] 2012, we won a trial court decision allowing medical
cannabis patients in British Columbia to possess concentrates," he
said. Tousaw noted that this ruling was appealed and the case is
scheduled to enter the Supreme Court of Canada on March 20. But for
the time being, Tousaw said, medical-marijuana licence holders are
permitted to possess cannabis extracts.

Don Briere of Weeds Glass and Gifts-of which there are 14 franchised
storefronts in Vancouver-described dabbing as "absolutely more
popular". But he emphasized that it's nothing new, noting that his
long-defunct Da Kine Smoke and Beverage Shop offered dabbing products
to customers on Commercial Drive back in 2004.

Briere maintained that dabbing is appropriate for medical uses and,
for many sick people, is preferable in that it does not involve
inhaling the smoke, paper, and glue that come with a joint.

He compared the risks of overconsumption to doing the same with
alcohol. "Who would be crazy enough to take an entire 40-pounder of
Everclear or overproof rum and guzzle the whole thing?" Briere asked.

Gonzalez said that with higher THC concentrations there are valid
concerns about addiction, though it remains unclear to what extent
such risks differ from those of traditional marijuana consumption.
"Approximately one out of 10 people that start using cannabis develops
a habitual use of cannabis," he said. "If we study dabbing, I suspect
that number would be slightly higher."

Gonzalez suggested the industry would benefit from a transition out of
the legal grey area in which it presently resides in B.C.

"This, like any form of cannabis, should be regulated," he said.
"There should be standards and protocols and all of this in place."
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