02.25.2016
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Blasting Dabs: You're Doing It Wrong

People are still blowing themselves up in home-extraction labs.

Bad eggs are everywhere. I have actual bad eggs on the top shelf of my refrigerator right now—like organic and cage-free but also a few months old and completely inedible.

Then there’s the proverbial bad egg: The Zodiac Killer. Martin Shkreli. Captain Hook. And in today’s contemporary cannabis community and quasi-legal marijuana industry: Bad eggs are likely more common than bad weed. 

Some of these bad eggs’ inept actions liken the extraction of cannabis concentrates to manufacturing methamphetamine; causing headline-grabbing and garage-ruining explosions across the country. 

And its been going on for years. 

In February, a man was arrested in Los Angeles after allegedly setting up a makeshift extraction lab in a room at the LAX Embassy Suites hotel. Police were called and the hotel was evacuated because, of course, witnesses thought they stumbled onto a meth lab. 

From the Los Angeles Times

"The incident began shortly after 1:30 p.m., when a guest who had just checked out of the hotel in the 1400 block of East Imperial Avenue approached a manager and said that people in his former room were cooking methamphetamine, said El Segundo Police Lt. Scott Doukakis. "

"Investigators concluded that the man appeared to be extracting THC from a 'very small amount of marijuana' by using butane from a cigarette lighter, soap and cough syrup, Doukakis said."

These explosions not only continue to happen all over the country, they further the negative stereotypes associated with cannabis. And nearly uniformly, when caught, those prosecuted receive charges for manufacturing narcotics. Which makes it not so far from cooking meth, after all.

And its what happened to Manuel Salas of Glendale, Arizona in 2015. Salas and another individual reportedly got so burned in the blast, they needed to be treated at a local hospital before being charged with endangerment and manufacturing narcotics, which is a Class 2 Felony and can carry a minimum 1-year prison sentence and a $150,000 fine in the desert state.

What’s troubling is it’s not just isolated homes blowing up in the suburbs or rogue blasters in airport hotels.

Back in California, Dr. David Greenhalgh told the Sacramento Bee: “At UC Davis Medical Center and Shriners Hospitals for Children, Northern California, injuries from butane hash-oil explosions account for 8 to 10 percent of severe burn cases, a larger percentage than from car wrecks and house fires combined.”

And it’s a tricky legal landscape. According to NORML, in California where medical marijuana is legal and concentrates are considered medicine, the penalty for chemical manufacture of such can mean up to 7 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. 

Meanwhile, a 2015 BuzzFeed report has dispensaries saying concentrate transactions make up as much as 40 percent of all sales. 

There is a way to do it right. Extract artists and emerging brands invest thousands of dollars on closed-loop extraction systems that can resemble sophisticated research labs. Others employ high-pressure “rosin-presses” which actually extract higher potency hash oil without the use of any solvents at all. And there’s no shortage of online tutorials on the subject, and even courses offered as electives through cannabis education institution Oaksterdam. 

Screenshot via 

But even the “right way” carries risk. Reputable retailers in weed-legal states often have their products sent off to third-party testing labs before they hit the shelves. 

A recent investigation on VICELAND’s Weediquette shows that these labs often deliver doctored results, and may not be as trust-worthy as one would hope. 

As cannabis continues to open more doors and spark more conversations around the country, it will be interesting to see how regulation and innovation disrupt the dabbing community.

In the meantime, stop blasting wax in your backyard. 

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