A small, amber-colored “dab” of shatter clings precariously to the end of a slender glass wand.
From there, the shatter, a potent form of marijuana concentrate, is dropped delicately onto a titanium nail fitted atop a bong-like apparatus called a rig. The nail, already heated to bright red-orange by a small torch, instantly turns the shatter to smoke. A small globe captures the smoke momentarily, just enough time for the user to inhale.
The smoking of marijuana concentrates through dabbing has gained in popularity in recent years. It’s even acquired its own holiday. While most people are familiar with April 20, the longtime, international holiday for smoking marijuana, only the initiated know July 10, the official holiday for dabbing.
“It’s become a big deal to people who are dabbers,” said Colby Hockersmith, general manager at High Country Healing in Silverthorne. “It’s almost become a split in the marijuana community. The 420 holiday is geared more for people who like to smoke the flowers, while 710 is for people who like to dab.”
Denver is in the midst of holding its second annual 710 Cup, a four-day event that kicked off Wednesday and rates and ranks the various concentrates, like a dabber’s Emmy Awards.
The nascent holiday landed on July 10 because if you turn the three-digit date upside down and in reverse, it spells the word “oil.”
The process to create the concentrates involves butane to burn off the vegetation. It leaves behind a concentrate that if done correctly is approximately 90 percent pure cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana, with THC being the most common form. Dabs are by far the closest thing you can get to a pure concentrate of the active ingredient in marijuana.
Even the most potent marijuana flowers, the stuff used to roll joints or tamp into bowls, contain only about 20 percent cannabinoids, meaning the concentrates, which include shatter and earwax, are at least four times more potent than your most powerful bud. One hit of a dab hits the user like he or she just smoked an entire bowl or joint in one breath.
“It’s like a shot of alcohol compared to drinking a beer,” Hockersmith said of dabbing. “It’s like the equivalent of a shot of weed.”
You don’t have to have the big rig to smoke concentrates. Some use small electronic pens that vaporize the dab. You can also place a dab on top of a regular bowl of flowers, allowing it to absorb into it.
Some marijuana purists and connoisseurs have concerns about concentrates.
For one, marijuana has built up a reputation as a natural and healing substance; dabbing might attract negative attention as a more hard-core drug due to the increasing popularity of concentrates.
“The downside to it to me, as a connoisseur, is that as people use this more and more, and because it is so concentrated, they develop a high tolerance,” said Nick Brown, owner of High Country Healing. “There’s people who do the concentrates everyday who can’t even get (high) on normal bud, the flowers.”
Also, every strain of bud has its own appearance, smell taste, density and other attributes that matter to growers and users. But a lot of that is lost in concentrates, which all just look the same.
But Brown admits it’s a very popular product, especially among younger smokers.
“We can’t even keep enough of it on the shelves to keep up with all the demand,” he said.
IS IT SAFE?
Concentrates have also gained attention from the state and law enforcement. Since industrial strength butane is used, the state requires a special license requirement for people to produce it. Brown added the state is also implementing regulations to ensure the trace amount of butane found in concentrates like shatter are of low levels and safe for human consumption.
Transporting those concentrates into other states can also spell big trouble. Washington, which legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana at the same time Colorado did, has decided to ban hash oil concentrates altogether because of the high potency.
In nearby states like Texas the penalty for possessing hash oil concentrates can be draconian. In Round Rock, Texas, 19-year-old Jacob Lavoro, is facing a possible 99-year prison sentence after he was found with 145 grams of hash oil concentrate. In Texas, and some other states, possession of the hash oil concentrate is equivalent to possessing hard-core drugs like methamphetamine and ecstasy.
Possession of 4 grams or more translates into a first-degree felony charge.
And local law enforcement is also cracking down on people producing the oil without a license due to the danger of working with butane. The district attorney’s office has seen several local cases of explosions caused by people trying to produce hash oil in an apartment or home.
Currently, Joshua Rosenbaum, 22, of Avon is being prosecuted by the district attorney on charges of fourth-degree arson and reckless endangerment as a result of a hash oil explosion, according to a news release issued July 10 by Colorado’s 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Rosenbaum allegedly attempted in May to produce hash oil and instead caused an explosion, heavily damaging the apartment’s kitchen area, blowing out the wall behind the stove and creating an 8-foot-square opening in the sheetrock.
Five butane canisters used by Rosenbaum were found in the kitchen and a tub of marijuana leaf was located in the living room. He faces a possible six-year prison sentence if found guilty on all counts.
“It’s almost become a split in the marijuana community. The 420 holiday is geared more for people who like to smoke the flowers, while 710 is for people who like to dab.”
general manager at High Country Healing in Silverthorne