Health

Trending and Even More Toxic

Cannabis wax and the culture around it go dangerously viral

Wax. Dabs. Honey. Budder. Don’t let these innocuous or sweet-sounding nouns deceive you — we’re not talking about condiments or cosmetics here.

All are slang names for a dangerous trend in the cannabis culture. It’s a highly concentrated form of THC extract most accurately known as BHO, short for Butane Hash Oil.

The increasingly sought-after form of the drug is also known as “shatter” — a far more appropriate description for what it does to users, producers and too often, innocent bystanders as well. Even seasoned stoners can be unprepared for the drug’s incredibly high potency, which is about four times as strong as typical marijuana.

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Amateur chemists right now are processing it using canisters of butane gas, and they are literally blowing themselves up. Worse is the increasing number of innocent people affected when an illegal lab goes “kaboom.” Butane is colorless, odorless, flammable, and explosive. The gas is heavier than air and will pool in low areas such as a kitchen sink or on the floor. Any slight spark can cause a blast.

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Nan Campbell, 87, was injured in a fall while escaping a fire in her Bellevue, Washington, apartment building in November 2013. Two weeks later, Campbell — who once served as the first woman mayor of Bellevue — died of complications from her injuries. Investigators determined the fire had started in another apartment as the result of a wax lab explosion.

Ultimately the perpetrator was sentenced to 9 years in prison for endangering human life and for manufacturing a controlled substance. Two others were sentenced to 3 years each for being complicit in the crime that cost Campbell her life and $1 million in property damage to the building.

That was in 2013.

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Statistics show an over 100 percent increase in hospitalizations attributed to wax lab explosions since. Firefighters and first responders across the country are preparing for more volatile emergency calls in which drug labs are suspected.

“It becomes a hazardous material incident and at that point we’ll call in a specialty unit,” Andrew Roach, a firefighter-paramedic in Garden Grove, California, told LifeZette. “We have to back out as rescuers because the environment becomes unsafe for us.”

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The Humboldt Bay Fire Department in Eureka, California, announced a change in its emergency policy after a 125-pound cylinder of butane was found on the scene of an explosion last month.

“Because the blasts displace load-bearing walls, foundations and roofs, and because of the risk of secondary explosions with butane tanks and other flammable detritus,” the new policy states, “the department will no longer send firefighters inside to fight fires suspected to have started because of hash labs.”

While first responders face real dangers at the point of impact, they note that others in the public eye are severely undermining the cause — most likely out of sheer ignorance.

“Dabbing” is a trending dance move that went viral in the run-up to the Super Bowl after the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, popularized it in end zone celebrations.

Named for the hash oil slang, dabbing mimics a smoker coughing into the crux of a bent elbow. First Lady Michelle Obama, Betty White and Matt Lauer are among several celebrities, musical artists and sports figures seen performing the move on TV and social media.

“I would encourage people to educate themselves on these trendy dances,” author and community activist Rosean Lindsey of Norfolk, Virginia, said in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor. “You’re not going to stop people from doing something that’s trendy. But it’s valuable for parents to sit down with their kids to explain the history behind this dance because you need to know what you’re following. Understand what you’re representing.”

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