For the past year, use of a common drug has been on the rise, but in a new form that is highly potent and potentially very dangerous. Butane hash oil (BHO), known by its street name “wax”, is a concentrated form of marijuana that’s said to be more than 80% pure THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the active ingredient in the marijuana plant, and is usually concentrated at 20 to 30% per leaf.
Because of its highly concentrated nature, wax is said to deliver a faster, stronger high, and could lead to psychoactive effects. Aside from having physical effects that can be quite dangerous, creating the drug is similarly hazardous. The process requires extremely flammable material, such as butane, to extract the THC from the leaves, which results in a hardened, waxy substance.
Side effects from using marijuana wax can include extreme hallucinations and uncontrollable behavior patterns. Additionally, many people are injured or die from explosions resulting from the production of wax. Homemade wax using butane can ignite a room with a single spark if processed incorrectly, and is similar to filling a room with gas and hoping no one lights a match.
With the recent change in marijuana legislation, there are medical dispensaries that are legally able to carry the drug, as some patients benefit from the high potency. However, wax processed with butane can contain secondary chemicals that are harmful to those with compromised immune systems. Marijuana wax is an unregulated business, as far as legal dispensaries are concerned, and despite the benefits of the higher potency, using wax medicinally may be risky.
It’s important to note that while it may be legal to have in some areas, it may not be legal to create in those same places. California, for example, had a landmark case in which the court determined that anyone caught creating butane hash oil could be sentenced to state prison for up to seven years. This is primarily due to the dangers of creation.
Across the nation, teens especially are putting themselves at risk by attempting to create the substance, which has prompted the DEA to issue a warning about the potential dangers of amateur creation. The warning came after a string of fires in San Diego in 2013 were linked to cannabis wax production, and FEMA has also started educating emergency personnel on how to recognize wax production.
While much focus is put on the dangers of creation, the drug itself is also risky. It tends to be more addictive, and has psychological ramifications that can cause the user to have negative tactile and sensory experiences. Though similar to the drug from which it is derived, marijuana wax is itself a whole new concern.