Cannabis (aka marijuana aka weed aka pot aka dope aka grass aka dubey aka reefer) is America’s favorite plant, nay it is the world’s favorite plant. It has been used by humans since the earliest of times and the fact that it is still popular, on the contrary more popular, is a testament to its longevity and cultural relevance. Cannabis has been a cultural mainstay, thought its place in culture has transitioned to various degrees, the effect has largely remained the same, and that often is the purpose of consumption.
What is this, Cannabis?
Cannabis is a flowering plant that is native to Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. Cannabis provides for the diverse uses of hemp, for medicinal purposes and for recreational use. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive element inside the drug. The breeding process is based upon the end term use and in the end results in a high or low proportion of cannabinoids.
Why do people use Cannabis?
That is an interesting question. Cannabis has been used for a variety of reasons. The use of medical marijuana, the other name of cannabis, has been promoted by many healthcare providers. In the modern era it has often been prescribed as a source of pain relief for illnesses such as glaucoma. The soothing effect makes the pain of glaucoma manageable.
The other use, which can be called the more popular use by far is for recreational purposes. It has fortunately or sadly, whichever way you want to look at it, become a rite of passage for many adolescences. You can never claim to have had the perfect high school experience if you have never had a hit of pot. Thus this trend has perpetrated and has been immortalized in popular culture and in in all depictions of modern life on film, television, music and literature.
Origins of the Recreational use of Cannabis
The recreational use of cannabis can be effectively traced to the hippie movements that sprung up in the late sixties and reached their peak in the seventies. This counter cultural movement started off as a rebellion against the traditional and conservative society in light of the changing times. They shunned materialism and coveting all things worldly, practiced free love, they adopted a nomadic and all accepting lifestyle, and most relevantly they brought cannabis to the fore.
Cannabis for them was a benign drug that gave incredible pleasure. A statistic that illustrates the percentage of cannabis use in America at the time when the hippie movement was taking off was, only 4%. That means that only 4% of all Americans had ever tried this drug. Now the sum may have gone up to over times that.
There is another dimension to the use of cannabis by the hippies. Hippies were not just delinquents and rebels who used the all-embracing persona as a disguise to indulge in their selfish hedonism. No, quite a lot of the self-styled hippies were people in the search for a spiritual depth and a meaning in life. Hence, for this specific category the use of cannabis can be linked to religious purposes as was done by civilizations in the Americas prior to the advent of conquistadors and Columbus.
The Hippie Aftermath
While the hippie movement may have started out of angst of the young generation to find themselves and escape the bonds of convention, it did eventually pave way for the consumptions fueled hedonism of the 80s and 90s. The aims of the use of cannabis were lost and what remained was the joy of the high and all the means to it.
Cannabis use was temporarily put into hindsight by a more potent and powerful drug, crack cocaine. The use of cocaine in the late 70s and in the 80s did not draw frowns as it would do today. The social acceptability of the drug was on par with that on cannabis, but the high was stronger and the psychoactive effects more potent. Consequently, this stronger drug replaced the softer drug and all hell broke loose. It took a long while to curb the spread of crack cocaine and eventually cannabis returned as a popular drug. The effects of pervasive cocaine use were nonetheless devastating and they destroyed many lives.
The Role of Hollywood
The entertainment industry has had a huge impact on the pervasive use of cannabis. Their contribution can be judged as the build up to cannabis being once again being regarded as a socially acceptable drug that is benign, although it has hallucinogenic effects.
It can be safely said that cannabis or weed is firmly entrenched in the culture of tinsel town. Through popular depictions it has brought to light the fact that cannabis use is very common and even the most somber individuals have partaken in the recreational use of cannabis at some point of their lives. Heck, even President Obama acknowledged being a pot user during his wild and explorative college years.
Popular homages to the counter culture movements are presented in the form of enjoyable flicks such as, the much loved Big Lebowski, which features a former hippie as the main character. The Pineapple Express offers a more contemporary setting and is unashamed look at the use of cannabis. So there has been no dearth of material on cannabis, and it was thus saved from cultural oblivion as it had become such a close part of modern culture, where it was inextricable from it.
It is important to highlight this increased social acceptability of cannabis use as it is necessary to understand the repercussions that emerged from it. Social acceptability of cannabis is at an all time high and has resulted in the legalization of marijuana for personal use in some state. However for some the introduction of deviations from the normal ways of cannabis use can hamper the total legalization of cannabis in the United States and the world at large. Although the legalization has raised confidence among people that cannabis is not that addictive and detrimental to health, caution mus still be exercised.
Consumption of Cannabis
There are many ways in which cannabis is consumed. The most popular way has been to roll of the herbs in a piece of paper, carefully spreading the grass equally around and making a cigarette like end product, this is a joint. It is perhaps the easiest way to enjoy pot and one of the most enduring ways too. Edibles are now becoming very popluar as well as a way to enjoy cannabis without the smoke and stigma.
Like with all things creativity has enabled people to come with interesting contraptions such as the much loved bong. The bong, which is essentially a water pipe, is a filtration device which is used to filter out some heavier particles that may dissolve in the water and enter a person’s airways. The materials of construction are mostly plastic or glass. The two main parts of a bong are the bowl and the stem. The herb is placed on a dish that is attached to the stem, which in turn is attached to the bowl. The bowl is filled with water, and there is a mouthpiece on the top of the bowl.
When a person inhales the bong, the substance on the stem is burnt and smoke is produced, this can be seen by the bubbles that start appearing inside the water. The smoke that is drawn through the water will be more pure than unfiltered smoke. Although it will not be able to remove all the tar from the cannabis, but, it will nonetheless, remove large unfiltered particles that can be troublesome if consumed long term. Once a lot of smoke has accumulated inside the bowl, the stem is detached and the only way for the smoke to go is inside the user’s lungs.
Interestingly, studies note that the water filtering is more effective at filtering the cannabinoids, which are the psychoactive part of the cannabis, than at filtering out tar or other toxicants. This makes people more tolerant to small inhalations and they have to take more drags to reach the level of unfiltered high. This degree of effectiveness is also true with carcinogens. Thereby, without a doubt, filtering smoke by water is the most effective method of removing toxic substances from it.
The existing law criminalizes the selling of any drug related paraphernalia, hence bongs are sold in the guise of being used for tobacco. While this is hardly ever the case, in North America hardly anyone used bong with regular tobacco.
The Dabbing Phenomenon
As soon as something becomes common, people get bored and look for ways to make the mundane different and exciting to reinvigorate their initial interest. Dabbing, follows the same principle of evolution, it is the new way to use cannabis, in a form that gives a great high. This method has been around for at least a decade, but the advancements in the extraction process have led to newer more potent form of dabs, which exceed the strength and potency of the old dabs. Experts say that a single inhalation of from a dab concentrate is equivalent to 3-10 inhalations of herbal cannabis. The rich dosage also has a rapid reaction onset time and produce the euphoric feeling of cannabis much earlier. There are also fears of tolerance being developed as herbal cannabis will not give the same happy effect as the dab concentrates.
Methods of preparation of cannabis are diverse and have different raw materials as their ingredients. Butane Hash Oil (BHO), is one such ingredient, colloquially known as dabs, these are highly concentrated preparations of cannabinoids.
Dabs are hard and wax-like in their appearance. They are made by selecting the THC which are the psychoactive part of cannabis in a process that has butane gas as the solvent. The percentage of THC in dabs can exceed 70-90%, which is extremely high and far greater than the content present in the naturally occurring cannabis flower. The average potent cannabis flower can boast up to 30% of cannabinoids present in it. As the production method is focused on extracting only the most beneficial compound from the flower, the resultant product has all the desired qualities magnified in relation to its weight, as all the trivial plant matter is eventually filtered away. Thus, even small doses can last a long time, because of a high cannabinoids to weight ratio, which makes them a super-concentrated source of cannabis.
Dabs are prepared by putting the substance on a metallic surface and heating them to high temperature, the dab is then inhaled through a dab rig, which is a bong like contraption. The response to dabs within the community of users is extremely divisive, while one camp is supportive of it and calls it the next phase in the use of recreational drugs, the other camp is wary of the intense high that it produces. They see the potency of this extraction method as surpassing the limits of what they understand as moderate cannabis use. They are worried that it may not portray them in a positive light to society at large, which is already ambivalent towards habitual cannabis users. They are afraid that becoming increasingly dependent on this stronger form of cannabis they will be placed in the same group as junkies, a title that they fiercely hate and contend with.
The Making Of Dabs
Dabs are rich doses of cannabis that are manufactured by extracting psychoactive compounds from herbs with solvents like butane and carbon dioxide. THC and other cannabinoids are the main psychoactive ingredients in the dabs and their method of preparation gives them a high ratio of cannabinoids per gram. The resulting product is a thick, viscous oil which has been called many names such as wax, shatter and butane hash oil (BHO). A prepared dose, that is incredibly rich in psychoactive compounds such as THC, is the fastest and strongest ways to get high using grass.
The dabbing apparatus has a bong along with a twist. The contraption called the dab ring needs a dose housing element which is retentive and conducive to heat. This element will allow the rig to vaporize the cannabis concentrates, the shape of this element is mostly in the form of a skillet or pad and the materials used to make these are either titanium or quartz.
The skillet is then heated with a torch, mostly a blowtorch, once it is hot enough, the skillet is put back in place. Then the dose can be dabbed from the center of the skillet. It is recommended to inhale the concentrate at the same instant that it touches the pad, which save a lot vapor from going to waste.
In other operations nails are also used. The best ones have the same material of construction that is, titanium or quartz. However, glass nails are the cheapest and widely available. The reason that they are made of glass makes them brittle, and they are very prone to break after periods of prolonged use. If longevity is your requirement, then these may not be right for you. A very sturdy glass nail can give you a couple of months at best.
Effective use with dabbing nails requires another piece of complementary equipment, called a dome, that fits over on top of the nail. These domes have tiny openings which prevents the highly prized vapor from escaping. The dome plus nail designs can be a little difficult for beginners to grasp and in cases in the past has also lead to burnt fingers. These novices can then be directed towards domeless nails, although have their own shortcomings, such as leaving the nail exposed.
The mechanism of using is similar to the dab rig usage. The first thing is to place the dab on the nail and heat it with a torch. Once the dose has been heated and starts giving off vapors, fasten the dome on top of the nail and start dabbing the concentrate while inhaling, to use up most of the vapors.
Some companies have also developed electronic nails which help you adjust the temperatures to heat up the concentrate, so that one can entirely do away with open flame torches. Asides for increasing comfort it can tremendously increase the level of accuracy and control which can never be possible with torches.
Concerns surrounding Dabbing
As mentioned before, there are genuine concerns regarding the pervasive use of dabs all over the world. One wonders, are these concerns and paranoia surrounding dabbing unfounded. The answer is a resounding no, dabbing is dangerous especially for amateurs. One must however understand, where the greatest threat to a person’s wellbeing lies. The issue of using is not up for debate here, the concerns being referred to are the dangers associated with the production of dabs and not there consumption, although there are quite of a few who would say otherwise.
The process to produce dabs is incredibly complex, let there be no doubt about that. When novice “scientists” get to work to produce there so called “signature” products which is when things can start to go south, really south. It must be stressed that watching a few preparation videos online cannot make you a gourmet dab maker. You have a better shot at becoming coder than an efficient manufacturer. When things in the production process go awry, there can be explosions and harm to human life. Carbon dioxide and butane are dangerous gases to be messing with. However, at the same time the manufacturing process should not be equated with the deadly street drug, methamphetamine.
Dabbing in itself may not look benign because the most common instrument to light up the dose, and get the party started, is, unfortunately, a blowtorch. People recoil at the very sound of the word, let aside looking at someone doing it. Blowtorches are associated with crack cocaine, the very lower drug which America allegedly outgrew and accepted the softer and user friendly drug cannabis. To outsiders there does not seem to be a difference between dabs and cocaine, although they are as similar as apples and oranges. The comparisons that have been drawn have labelled dabs as the crack of put due to the allegedly similar method of using. By being objective we realize that the common denominator is the blowtorch, and people are not fond of blowtorches. While sticking to good old cannabis or the trendy dabs is a matter of choice for most consumers, there is a fear that the lack of aesthetics, that is putting it mildly, the downright ugly way in which dabs are used may turn the tide of legalization of cannabis in jeopardy. Hence, they advocate that people stick to the conventional methods of consumption.
Another downside is that the quality of dabs prepared by beginners is extremely poor. The dabs prepare are lacking in the concentrated doses of THC and additionally they may contaminated with chemical hazards which if not removed during the production process could be injurious to human health. The sterility of the production equipment is another issue to take with. It may in itself be the biggest source for contamination.
Whereas butane is concerned, it should not be a matter of much worry as butane is present in far more things that we use every day without realizing that it contains them. So, the rule that we can draw from here is, stick to people who know how to make a good product, do not go to pop culture obsessed minors who think that they are ‘Breaking Bad’ with this little ‘science project’ of theirs. Despite everything, the manufacturing of dabs is best done outdoors or in lab like facility which has proper ventilation to ensure proper air flow. All types of things which may cause ignition need to be kept away from the lab when the work is going on. To be safe cellphones must be kept at a distance and even static electricity needs to be avoided. These precautions will make the event of an explosion, a risk that is being increasingly associated with dabbing today, highly unlikely.
While there was firm belief that it was impossible to overdose on cannabis, this perception has changed with the advent of new forms of dabbing. This is a disconcerting fact, and caution is advised in use. The extra concentrated doses of THC in the BHO, makes it possible to have an overdose of cannabis. Though the type of overdose is not similar to the cases presented in harder drugs, it is highly likely that inhaling more than your tolerable limit for cannabis via dabs can cause very uncomfortable periods of being stoned and in adverse cases a person may also pass out. There are also reports coming in, that frequent dabbers face more intense withdrawal symptoms after periods of being ‘sober’. Although this kind of information is still limited, any insight into what this phenomenon can morph into is vital for us to be able to understand it and save ourselves from the destruction that was brought upon by the pervasive use of cocaine. The increased levels of marijuana tolerance developed after frequent dabbing is also a cause for concern and must be looked into with detail.
Dabbing and its Medical Effects
Recreational drug use often eclipses the beneficial role of cannabis as a medicinal drug. The concentrated dose of THC deliver a powerful dose of pain relief to people suffering from chronic pain. Patients leading lives with severe, chronic pain or nausea have said that dabbing provides them with instant relief from their debilitating condition. So here, is an industrious use where the potency of the drug makes it the best combination of pain relief, as in a normal cannabis prepared dose, the patient would have to smoke a fairly large number of units before they can get similar relief, and many of them just cannot smoke that much.
There are certain people who use cannabis to help treat their clinical depression but they also have asthma, making smoking a joint uncomfortable because of the large quantities of particulate matter present in them, hence they need something which will not put undue strain on their lungs. Dabbing is a great alternative for such people who need the relief inducing effects of cannabis but cannot or do not want to smoke their cannabis. The relief is quick and the required dose that needs to be smoked is also small.
So in term of what it has to offer to the medical community is undisputed. There are no other effective and fast relief medications that can be used daily to manage the often severe forms of pain that people suffer from.
Cannabis has long divided society into belligerent factions, some who are strongly against it and other who are resolutely in favor of it. The introduction of dabbing into the mix may complicate the motion set forth by the legalization of marijuana in some states. Critics of dabbing view it as a gateway drug, because of the increased potency and the resemblance to harder drugs in the mechanisms of use. Only time will tell, what legal positions eventually come out of it.
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