Pubdate: Thu, 24 Dec 2015
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Post Company
Author: Tom Jackman


Loudoun Deputies Seize Potent Hash-Oil Extract That Contains 80% THC

As marijuana extracts expand their presence on the East Coast, an 
especially potent concentrate is appearing on law enforcement radar.

Shatter, a cannabis extract with about 80 percent THC content, is 
legal for recreational use in states such as Colorado and Washington, 
sold in medical marijuana dispensaries in other states and is 
faster-acting and far more easily concealed than marijuana.

On Monday, Loudoun County sheriff 's deputies intercepted a truck 
that had about $900,000 worth of packaged marijuana near Dulles 
International Airport. Included in that load was 15 pounds of 
shatter, in total packaged weight. Shatter, which is sold by the gram 
because of its potency, retails for about $60 a gram in Colorado, so 
10 pounds of shatter would be worth nearly $270,000 - in a state 
where it is legal. Black-market shatter probably would cost much more.

Shatter is a form of marijuana wax, derived from butane hash oil, 
which has been made for centuries. But some forms of shatter 
reportedly have as much as 90 percent THC, the psychoactive 
ingredient in marijuana. That is about five times the potency of 
unrefined smoked cannabis and more powerful than standard hash oil. 
It is produced as a thin, hard translucent layer similar to glass, 
which can shatter if dropped, and it is typically heated and inhaled 
through a vaporizer rather than smoked.

Kraig Troxell, a Loudoun sheriff 's spokesman, said his department 
started seeing marijuana wax about a year ago. He said a national 
cargo transportation company was used to transport the marijuana to 
Loudoun, and then it was picked up by a driver in a rented truck. The 
driver was arrested near the Dulles Greenway and Old Ox Road. Troxell 
did not know where the shipment originated. He said Monday's seizure 
was the largest amount they had found so far.

Although the high potency of shatter is troubling to parents and law 
enforcement officials, marijuana advocates point out that no one has 
died from ingesting marijuana. "As long as people are educated about 
the proper dosage," said Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, 
"it hasn't presented any problem." He likened the difference between 
shatter and regular marijuana to the difference between whiskey and beer.

Ry Prichard, a writer and photographer for the Denver Post's 
Cannabist blog, noted that hash oil is not new, but shatter is a 
relatively recent refinement as a result of proliferating medical and 
recreational cannabis programs.

"Shatter and other concentrated cannabis products," Prichard said, 
"give a stronger, more immediate effect and have shown to have great 
benefits with a variety of medical conditions because of the 
quick-acting nature of inhalation or vaporization."

He noted that more than half of the daily sales for dispensaries in 
Colorado come from concentrates, primarily in edible cannabis products.

Also troubling to authorities is the specter of amateurs attempting 
to make their own shatter, a process that involves flammable butane 
gas. Colorado has reported a sharp rise in the number of home 
explosions caused by failed attempts to make butane hash oil. 
Opponents of legalized marijuana say that making cannabis more 
available will lead to more people attempting to create their own 
more potent oils, such as shatter.

"Landlords, homeowners and tenants who want to protect their lives, 
property and fortunes need to rally against any law that will allow 
the commercialization of marijuana in our nation's capital," landlord 
and blogger Kimberly Hartke said in a column in The Washington Post 
in February.

Fox said legalizing and regulating marijuana was the way to protect 
homes from hash oil extraction fires, "so businesses are doing it, 
instead of people making it themselves." Prichard said legal makers 
of shatter and other concentrates in Colorado are highly regulated, 
and those who make it illegally are subject to felony charges.

Prince George's County police have only recently seen shatter for the 
first time, seizing 90 grams in October, spokeswoman Julie Parker 
said. Montgomery County and Fairfax County police said they were 
aware that it was available locally but could not quantify how often 
they had encountered it. D.C. police said they had not encountered shatter.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, in its 2015 National Drug Threat 
Assessment, said that marijuana concentrates are growing in 
popularity and that its ease of use through portable vaporizers 
presented new challenges to law enforcement. Michael Shavers, a DEA 
spokesman, noted that extraction labs' use of flammable gases posed 
dangers dramatized by occasional explosions, and that shatter's size 
and weight made it easy to transport nationwide. "The fact that it's 
available around the country is a concern for law enforcement," Shavers said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom