The Dab Debate Heats Up

It was only a matter of time before the sky began to fall on the dab scene. The dab debate is beginning to hit the mainstream, as news organizations begin to run stories about this “new dangerous form of marijuana.” Very spooky, right?

Check out this local news report on “earwax, the shatter….dabbing.” Notice the old tried and true fear mongering that happens. First, they give you the innocent young teen girl telling you about how her friends are “dabbing” and how it is “easier to give to people and cheaper.” Add in the very straight reporter talking about overdose and toxic chemicals. They add the recovering drug addict who did a stretch in the joint to scare you even more. The cops warn it is “hard to identify” and that they “want to let parents know what they are looking for,” then tie that to the legalization measure passed this fall. What I really like is the drug addict telling you that “if you want $100k Mercedes go find a person who has one and ask them how they got it and go work for it.” Yes, person who let weed ruin his life….it is just that easy. Check out the sensationalism for yourself:

Now I expect this type of sensationalist rhetoric from the media and the prohibitionists. What I did not expect was to hear such overblown rhetoric coming from those within the cannabis movement. In a piece done by the great Chris Roberts of the SF Weekly blog entitled, Thanks to “Dabbing,” It Is Possible to Overdose on Marijuana the normally cannabis friendly Roberts takes a strange turn in his writing, putting forth a very lopsided piece that raises more questions than it answers. My biggest question is “why was there no attempt to cover the story from both sides?” I mean, I get that this is a hot button topic that people are interested in, but when doing a piece that attempts to demean the safety of cannabis by suggesting that people could indeed overdose and die from dabbing, doesn’t it make sense to possibly explore the millions of people not dying for whom dabbing provides a rapid and less carcinogenic form of ingesting their cannabis?

I am a bit disappointed by Roberts reporting, as he usually does a much better job of getting the entire story. But who I am most disappointed in in the Director of CANORML, Dale Gieringer, who is quoted in the piece from a prior communication as saying this:

It also may be dangerous, as California NORML’s Dale Gieringer writes in a recent letter to O’Shaughnessy’s, the marijuana medical journal published by veteran journalist Fred Gardner.

“In the past couple of years, there have been repeated occasions in which 911 teams have had to be called in due to cannabis overdoses,” Gieringer writes, going on to describe people passing out from high-concentrates at High Times Cannabis Cups in LA. The most authenticated record of someone dying from marijuana use, by the way? A man who became so incredibly high on hashish he passed out — and then died after hitting his head on a hard floor.

“Things like this never happened until the popularization of hash oil in recent years,” he adds. “The dangers are dire enough to merit a special warning.”

THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!

Geiringer also said on an email communication regarding this matter:

I’m aware of three such incidents at a recent gathering in LA and several more at a cannabis cup in SF.   A lady my age who has been smoking since the 70s fell down and broke her front teeth after dabbing.  Someone else passed out and nearly cracked his skull on the sidewalk.   When  911 crews need to be called in, there arise serious questions about a drug’s safety. Cannabis advocates need to take the dangers of dabbing seriously.

Now granted….people doing the fish and hurting themselves is a big deal and should be a concern. But let’s not try to pin this on just dabbing, or try to suggest that this was never an issue before dabbing. That is just very disingenuous and more so, untrue. I have been standing around the weed water cooler long enough to have seen the evolution of concentrates happen; and as concentrates have gotten stronger (whether water processed or solvent processed) people have had to learn to adjust their intake and dosage levels to avoid getting to high, or God forbid, busting their teeth out from falling over. I have taken a good hit off of a joint and have gotten up too quickly, and have found myself lightheaded and woozy.

But because some folks are either unaware of their limitations, or choose to overindulge at an event where they may be less hydrated and overheated and have an accident, does not mean that we need to circle the wagons and reign in dabbing as a result. That is just stupid. It is like telling us to close down a bar because one asshole decided to get too drunk and wrecked his car.

People who dab do so at their own leisure and discretion. If a person is taking a hit from a dabbing device without being aware of the strength and power of the concentrate they are smoking, whose fault is that? Does personal responsibility come into play? Or are we going to take the same position as most drug warriors do and blow up isolated incidents of bad and irresponsible behavior to be some sort of an epidemic worthy of “special warning” because it is so “dangerous and dire?”

But that is what we get from our leadership these days. Any time the media or a public official asks a tough question, you can always count on the leaders of the cannabis movement to immediately throw the entire movement under the bus in an effort to distance themselves from whatever it is that the public is outraged about now. Super.

I remember when we had this conversation about edibles a few years back. There was a growing concern over the dangers of cannabis edibles, and the potency of them. There were the same overblown stories about the kids, and how teens were eating weed brownies. Here is an example of some of that rhetoric from an early 2011 story in Denver:

“You can’t tell the difference between Rice Krispies treats you buy at Target and some of these other ones. They look just alike. And we’re seeing suckers packaged in a way that they could easily end up in the hands of children on school grounds. And patients who are drinking these sodas and eating these products have no way of knowing how much THC is in there. That’s not safe, either. If it’s a medicinal product, it needs to not only be marketed as a medicinal product, but be clearly identified as a medicinal product.”

You will not be surprised to hear that our “fearless” leaders also threw us under the bus during the big “edibles are dangerous” debate too. Check out this statement from NORML’s Executive Director, Allen St. Pierre in response to a question about the “Saving Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act”:

The bill has garnered support from unexpected quarters. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), says that “those who say marijuana is medicine had better be prepared to market it as such – and not as candy.”

Further, says St. Pierre, those who sell pot-infused brownies, cookies and other “medical edibles,” or “medibles,” have reason to be worried, because, in his opinion, the bill is written broadly enough to include them. […]

Medical edibles are a very significant part of the multi-billion dollar medical marijuana industry, says St.Pierre.

And some people cross the line, especially in advertising, he says.

Some alternative papers run ads for pot in four different ice-cream flavors. “It has a child-like appeal,” he says of one such ad. “I don’t think that was the notion of people who put out this ad, but that’s what it looks like.”

We can always count on good old Allen to come out swinging…it is just usually for the other side.

But you can see how this is nothing new. Just the latest hysteria from the prohibitionists that is now being supported and further legitimized by those within our ranks who apparently need to grow a pair and figure out how to defend our honor and represent people’s right to use weed however they want. I am so tired of some drug warrior cop saying “this type of weed is dangerous” and our own leadership running right up and saying “Yeah it is!” Shut the fuck up, already.

I look at dabbing like the hard alcohol of the weed industry and it should and hopefully will be, regulated as such. I know that if I drink whiskey that chances are I will get extremely intoxicated much quicker and with a smaller volume than if I were drinking beer. So I moderate that. I do not drink a pint of whiskey; and if I did, i could anticipate probably falling over and maybe even dying from my fall. But that is because I am an asshole that drank too much whiskey, and not because whiskey is more dangerous when used correctly, right?

Just like liquor, dabs are more dangerous to manufacture so chances are there will be special requirements for manufacturing them, just like there is for operating a booze still. But this does not mean that people who enjoy whiskey and who use it responsibly should not be allowed to do so, or that in needs to be a “dire” matter.

Dabs can be a lot. Do not get me wrong. They are an extremely potent and powerful way to consume the active ingredients of cannabis. But they also provide a method of ingesting cannabinoids into the system that allow the end user to consume much less carcinogenic vegetive matter, and to use a very small amount to achieve the desired level of effect. What is wrong with something being more efficient?

It kind of reminds me of the scare tactics used by the feds that “today’s marijuana is 5 times as strong as marijuana in the 60’s.” Yeah…so? Good for me. I have to smoke less to get where I need to be. I have to smoke less weed to get baked. Yay! I am just not seeing the problem.

Now if people want to get into the chemical aspects of the process and whether or not the actual butane being used to extract the oils are dangerous to be consumed, then that may be a scientific discussion worthy of having. I personally usually only dab concentrates I know were made in a safe and clean environment by folks who know how to remove any toxins properly. This is also an issue that can be worked out by proper guidelines and regulations. For the record, butane and other solvents are used in super critical extraction of a lot of non-cannabis essential oils and edible extracts. It can be done safely and properly….and it should. Most people who make BHO or other oil extracts want there to be standards in place. They know that poor quality and possibly dangerous BHO harms their craft more than anyone.

So while the dab debate heats up and it become very popular to want to distance yourself from the dab situation because of its perceived dangers and drug culture, just know that we do ourselves no favors by throwing our fellow weedheads under the bus because they like dabbing. Instead, we should embrace the culture and promote the positives that these essential oils can bring to the cannabis environment. We should be cautious to condemn a growing sector of the industry based on loose theory and hyperbolic bullshit. If you have direct evidence of butane extracts damaging a person physically then by all means bring that to the table, but let’s not go around telling people it “could contain neurotoxins” with no evidence of it actually doing so. Believe if there was direct evidence of this the drug warriors would be out in force trumpeting that as the reason weed should be kept illegal forever.

Let’s not do the prohibitionists work for them with no verifiable dangers other than people being personally irresponsible and falling over because they chose to ingest something in a dangerous situation without being prepared for it. Thanks.

If you see the dab debate heating up, the best thing to do is to cool it off with reality…..when used responsibly, dabs can bring the effects of cannabis to a person rapidly and efficiently with very little ingestion of plant based carcinogens.

4 thoughts on “The Dab Debate Heats Up”

  1. Those of us who have been in the activist scene for over twenty years should remember, the slogans it’s just a plant, and it’s all natural. This used to be true, now people are growing with specialized lights, special dirts and measured amounts of chemical fertilizers. Suddenly it’s not so natural. I researched making hashish back in the seventies, they used high oil plants and extracted the oils by beating the pulp out of the plants. Hash was an excellent substitute for pot. Now they extract the base chemicals with dangerous fluids like Naphtha and we are no longer talking about a natural plant or process, we have turned a plant into a drug, just like the prohibitionists predicted. Just like alcohol and every pharmaceutical the stronger and more refined, the more dangerous it becomes. There should be no surprise that this is happening…

    1. You must understand that part of the reason that cannabis has become more potent and new forms of ingestion are being developed in order to suit medical patients who wish to keep their lungs healthy but benefit from the medicinal properties of many cannabinoids found in the plant. In order to reduce the amount of smoke they must intake to achieve a certain level of cannabinoids, they have improved %THC in plants and concentrates were created.

    2. @Ronald Gascon. You do have a very valid point. but the older process is still there. It’s just a method many people switch over too because it is quicker. You know in business it is who ever gets their product out to the masses first usually has great success until the next best thing. Unfortunately, the law inhibits studies to prove how dangerous this is. Which is what needs to be changed. That way cannabis consumers can find the best method to get the healthiest option, that delivers the most bang for their buck. And as to keep it away from children, legalization would be my answer. Treat it like alcohol, not 21+ no cannabis for you. but what people don’t understand kids are curious, bad kids will do whatever it takes. our rates of teen use have been stagnate for years. What adults need to do is have an adult conversation with their growing child who is to curious for comfort.

    3. So when vanilla extract is made using similar methods of extraction does the vanilla become less natural? Or does extracting the compounds make it so that the end product is more effective and useable in other applications? I mean, ground up vanilla beans in a cookie would be rough, no?

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