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Hysterical Media Dub Dabs “The Crack of Marijuana”

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high times bay area cannabis cup entries 2013 dabs dabNo article I have written generated as much controversy as one I originally entitled “The Danger of Dabs” (reprinted in HIGH TIMES May 2012 issue as “The Dawn of the Dab”).  My thesis was “The danger of dabs isn’t so much physical as it is a public relations nightmare.”  A theme that has developed from just a few news reports reveals how the media are framing butane hash oil as the latest dangerous drug endangering our teenagers.

ABC15 in Phoenix ran a story on a Monday entitled “‘Dabbing’ the new drug of choice for teens?“.  Following a brief explanation of what “butane hash oil” is without ever mentioning it is essentially marijuana, the bulk of the story features Shane Watson, a rehab counselor and recovering addict explaining how awful his life became because of BHO.  The story even warns parents what to look for if their child is “making ‘dab'” without mentioning the marijuana needed to make it.  The entire construction of the article is to separate hash oil from marijuana conceptually, to paint “dab” as some different drug entirely.

By Tuesday, ABC2 in BaltimoreABC7 in Denver, and ABC5 in Cleveland are re-airing the story.  On Wednesday, ABC23 in Bakersfield and ABC10 in San Diego repeat the story.  The “dab” aired all over the country as any ABC affiliate needing a sensational filler story out of Arizona played the footage.

By Thursday, the ABC15 story made leap into the internet media as a screen grab for a story “‘Dabbing:’ Dangerous New Drug Seized in Maryland” appearing in the Towson Patch.  This story features the subtitle, “‘This is the crack of marijuana,’ one official quoted a user as saying of the concentrated butane hash oil.”  The official, Sgt. Mike Conner of the Maryland State Police, goes on to say, “It’s so potent.  It is dangerous.  People claim you can’t overdose on marijuana. In fact, you can. It’s so strong, they are passing out.”

“The crack of marijuana” quote then gained traction when it was re-printed in the Baltimore News Journal on Saturday.  Then, in a story called “The Best, Worst Marijuana in the World is Spreading Like Weeds” in the Fredricksburg Patch, “the crack of marijuana” quote is followed by a lead that read “A powerful, concentrated form of marijuana is quickly gaining popularity along the East Coast—but unlike typical marijuana, it may carry the risk of overdose.”

For reference, the story then cites California NORML’s Dale Gieringer writing in O’Shaughnessy’s (the journal of medical cannabis) that “increased use of BHO has led to an increase in hospitalizations for cannabis overdose.”  And I can attest to the fact that I’ve never seen people pass out and get wheeled away on stretchers for smoking flowers like I have at events with dabs.  There is also my own personal experience with a too-big dab that left me retching my guts all over a Los Angeles sidewalk.

But terms like “overdose” are misunderstood by the public.  When people think “overdose”, they think “OD” and they think death.  However, many people have experienced overdoses, from the gal who can’t sleep from too much coffee to the guy with a throbbing headache from a hangover.  While passing out is a serious concern, that can happen from liquor and nobody is calling Jack Daniel’s “the crack of beer”.  For that matter, calling anything “the crack of” is metaphorically inaccurate, since crack and cocaine are the same drug and have the same addictive potential – the Reagan era “one hit and you’ll be addicted” line turned out to be as much a myth as the so-called “crack babies”.

As the dab phenomenon sweeps eastward, more local news affiliates are also reporting the stories of exploding motel rooms and apartments from the latest ignorant butane hash oil maker.  Recently, two such stories made the evening news in Fresno and San Diego.  Please don’t make the news this way!

There is nothing quite like a moral panic to set back years of progressive momentum – ask anyone affiliated with marijuana decriminalization in the 1970s.  Even the most “live and let live”-minded neighbor who won’t mind a pot smoker or a closet grow isn’t going to abide potential explosions.  Even the Woodstockiest parents and grandparents aren’t going to identify with blow torches and passed-out teens.  We must redouble our efforts to educate the public that just as profit-seeking bootleggers blew up the occasional still to make concentrated alcohol (whiskey) under Prohibition, so too will profit-seeking hash makers operate unsafely until the activity is regulated and prohibition profit margins reduced.  We must ensure that people understand BHO is just concentrated marijuana – don’t let media promulgate the misunderstanding that “dabs” is somehow a new, different dangerous drug.

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation

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About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.

  • painkills2

    Who wouldn’t want to make cannabutter? Thanks for the tips!

  • Terry Reed

    Cheapest way I have found is to grow healthy plants and use the “sweet leaf” to make cannabutter with a Magical Butter Machine (found online, under that name). It is fabulous for making medicine! Just like with any cooking or baking, the secret is often in the temperature and time! Ditto making cannabutter! That machine allows you to be precise with temps, which is necessary to keep as much THC, CBD and CBN – each has a different temp in which in ‘burns off’ (when you smoke a joint, the heat is activating the THC but it’s short-lived). So, by setting your temp/time you will wind up with the BEST FOR YOU mixture of the three major active ingredients (that we know of! LOL There ARE over 80 active ingredients – we just don’t know them all yet or what they do where in the human brain. .

    If you ever get the machine, I have some tricks and great recipes to get your pain down or even gone! But I just will not waste anymore weed in crockpots, frying pans, microwaves, etc. The stuff is just too dang spendy if you buy it, and even if you grow your own medicine, it’s still better to get the right ingredients cooking at the correct temps for the correct times. Just think of the Betty Crocker test kitchens! LOLOL If you ever want my recipes, I’ll be glad to share but they’re all for that one piece of equipment – the magical butter machine. I swear by it! A cook is only as good as his or her ingredients AND kitchenware!

  • painkills2

    Hey Terry, my curiosity has nothing to do with getting higher, just the cheapest and most effective way to medicate. I also look to the future and hope that, as my pain levels increase, there will be stronger medicine available for me to use.

    And yes, you are right, medicine should be kept out of the reach of children, and even though I don’t have any children living with me, I always keep mine locked up whenever I leave my home.

  • jay

    right .. you can physically overdose to a point of actual toxicity…. leading to death……. it was just a single point, trust me if it was possible with cannabis by any means it would have been done a long time ago…. we were making bho 20 years ago… its nothing new just something people aren’t used to…not to mention government tests on animals with extreme levels of isolated cannabinoids that were conducted decades ago….

  • Terry Reed

    I’m not thta curious. I have no need to get higher. I’m happy with what works right now – medical edibles. If I’m not careful, the cannabutter will knock me out for two full days (and HAS when I took two heaping tablespoons full versus the usual one). Dab users have literally passed out. Not a fun way to get stitches or perhaps break your neck. I dunno, sounds to me like kids just wanting to get higher, higher and higher … higher right up unto death, I guess! NO THANKS. When a 3 yr has to be put on a ventilator to breathe after ingesting Mom’s brownies (she ate three, I think) then this cannot be said enough, IT IS A MEDICINE, AND IT CAN HARM, AND IT CAN CAUSE OVERDOSE IN THE RIGHT POPULATIONS – the very young, the aged with multiple medical conditions, and even the young with “old age” diseases, like clogged arteries, heart disease, etc! NEVER SAY NEVER. Let’s not go attending the funerals of little kids, maybe your niece or nephew, or your own child, before we truly learn this: KEEP ALL MEDICINES OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN. How hard can that be, people?

  • Terry Reed

    And what to we tell our young kids about Nyquil? IT IS A MEDICINE, NOT DR. PEPPER!

  • jay

    were talking about toxicity terry…..nyquil can do the same thing

  • jay

    because of the way we receive the molecules and how they bond i believe that its near impossible to reach a level of toxicity. and only then would i consider it
    an overdose

  • painkills2

    Thanks for splainin’ :)

  • John True

    No not at all a total noob can do it. Purging is just pressing the bubbles out of the oil. Sometimes small butane bubbles get caught up in the finished product.

  • John True

    Once you gather the keif the bud is still smokeable. There is still a lot of THC in the bud it’s just the keif has the highest concentration of thc usually around 80% where as the bud is usually around 20-25% Now if you make BHO the bud is useless all compounds have been extracted.

  • painkills2

    The web page you reference is from 1994 and we have learned a lot more about cannabis since then. In fact, all the studies listed in the footnotes are pre-1994.

    The web page (prepared by a Director of NORML) states that the same toxins are produced when smoking tobacco as when smoking cannabis. With all due respect to this doctor, I heartily disagree. I guess it’s a little beside the point now, as tools have been created that bypass this problem.

    The Baltimore study regarding accidents appears to be a study which produced results that were one-of-a-kind. (Also, the doctor who performed and published the study sure does a lot of studies about drug abuse.) Research published after this study indicate that smoking cannabis is a minor safety road hazard.

  • Terry Reed

    Yanno, you and NORML totally disagree. I am with NORML! How could I not be, as a person, parent and medical anthropologist?! Here ya go, an excerpt from their website:

    Myth: No One Has Ever Died From Using Marijuana :

    The Kaiser study also found that daily pot users have a 30% higher risk of injuries, presumably from accidents. These figures are significant, though not as high as comparable risks for heavy drinkers or tobacco addicts. That pot can cause accidents is scarcely surprising, since marijuana has been shown to degrade short-term memory, concentration, judgment, and coordination at complex tasks including driving.1 There have been numerous reports of pot-related accidents — some of them fatal, belying the attractive myth that no one has ever died from marijuana. One survey of 1023 emergency room trauma patients in Baltimore found that fully 34.7% were under the influence of marijuana, more even than alcohol (33.5%); half of these (16.5%) used both pot and alcohol in combination.2 This is perhaps the most troublesome research ever reported about marijuana; as we shall see, other accident studies have generally found pot to be less dangerous than alcohol.

    Nonetheless, it is important to be informed on all sides of the issue. Pot smokers should be aware that accidents are the number one hazard of moderate pot use. In addition, of course, the psychoactive effects of cannabis can have many other adverse effects on performance, school work, and productivity.

    For more info http://norml.org/library/health-reports/item/norml-s-marijuana-health-mythology#2

  • painkills2

    Brrrrr, the name Monsanto gives me chills… How about marketing to women with PMS and/or menopause? That’s a pretty big market for big pharma, and one that doesn’t have that many effective treatments (I mean, Pamprin and hormones? C’mon). I don’t have any suggestions for the male market… maybe men can be in the ads for PMS and menopause cannabis treatments?

  • painkills2

    SOS message heard and received! Watch for the black Defy Gravity hot air balloon in the skies over your house in Kentucky, I will throw out one of those ladder-thingies, and pull you right up! Bring your friends, all are welcome! Until I get there, keep reading The Weed Blog — you’ll be surprised at what you can learn. (And no, I don’t work for The Weed Blog :)

    Sorry about the upside down pictures, I tried to delete them, but this software has a grudge against me. Try standing on your head to view, I guess…

  • kycountry

    IMO cannabis a cure for many illnesses and therefore lies the problem. Surely pharma could come up with another illness to push their pills. Maybe monsanto could assist them in their search?

  • kycountry

    I was wondering the same thing…..I want to try this so bad I’m ready to travel. By the time it is common place in Ky. I may not be allowed out of the old folks home, and that day is rapidly approaching…….SOS.