The point was made everclearly this week that, now that the devil’s door has sprung open to the wild west of cannabis legalization, organized big marijuana and its trailer trash second cousins have begun weaponizing the benign and useful substance in a war to shroud the minds of our youth in a thick green absinthe like haze with nuclear nugs, 151 times stronger than the “your mama’s Woodstock weed“.
ABC News, earlier this week, promised television viewers that they would be their guide;
Into the strange subculture involving a new and powerful drug that you may have never heard of. It can be dangerous to use and even more dangerous to make…and yet, in some places, it’s totally legal.
And CNBC reported;
A powerful distillation of marijuana’s essential active ingredients, is mixed into many new and popular cannabis products … The problem-child of concentrates may turn out to be the actual concentrate itself—a hardened or viscous mass of cannabinoids created via a process of butane-gas extraction.
The “new drug” that is an “explosive secret” is what used to be referred to as hash oil. Hash oil is a smokeable product of concentrated THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) that is made by using chemicals, such as butane, to extract the THC from cannabis plants. Shatter, wax and butter are modern versions of the 1970′s product made with modern technologies. 1970′s hash oil contained 20 to 65 percent THC and modern extractions contain between 60 to 90 percent THC. The product has become commercially available to the public in the states of Colorado and Washington because cannabis is legal for recreational consumption in those states.
As the stories were revealed by the media outlets, however, the dangerous mystery drug turned out to be dangerous because dumb-assed kitchen chemists were brewing homemade batches in their condos and doublewides with little knowledge and less competence.
The processes of extracting active chemicals from plant and mineral products are not new and have been used by some of the world’s most profitable and prestigious companies for many years, but toxic chemicals and high temperatures and pressures are often used in the chemistry necessary to extract desired compounds that transform agricultural products into commercial products.
What was not pointed out in the sensationalized “news stories” is that extracting concentrated THC from cannabis does not make cannabis or THC any more harmful or toxic than when it is consumed in more traditional ways, such as smoking, eating or vaporizing. In 2002 the medical journal Pharmacology & Therapeutics reported on a study that found that there has never been a documented human fatality solely from overdosing on THC or cannabis in its natural form. Hash oil by any name is no more addictive than any other form of cannabis, and scientists calculate that risk to be equivalent to your risk of being addicted to caffeine.
Though this is the case, in the ABC report a DEA agent said that the agency has, “seen people have an onset of psychosis and even brain damage from that exposure to that high concentration of THC.” And the CNBC story reported that “The high that a user gets from concentrates is far from natural” and went on to quote the head of the University of Colorado Hospital’s residential rehab unit who has fears in general about cannabis’ contribution to “a-motivational syndrome” and psychosis in our nation’s youth.
Thankfully, cannabis is legal in Colorado and Washington, and can therefore be regulated, including regulations regarding the chemical extraction of THC from raw plant product. When cannabis becomes legal federally and our nation’s scientists can study the medically useful plant and its extracts without fear of arrest, we will be able to scientifically demonstrate that scare stories of cannabis causing brain damage are nothing more than the ramblings of backward cultural custodians.
Picture from Andres Rodriguez licensed under Creative Commons