Moving Past the Dangers of Wax & Concentrates

I think it was 2012 when I took my first dab. My boss had gotten what we called a ‘swing’ for his bong, you would heat this little glass plate base and then drop the wax on it and quickly swing it underneath a glass bell that directed the smoke to the water and up the shaft of the bong to be inhaled. After that, it almost seemed like a rapid progression to epic dab rigs and people at work telling me about videos where some guy dabbed a whole gram.

Personally, it all moved a bit too fast for me, and that’s coming from a cannabis professional. I can only imagine how confused some occasional smokers or lightly medicated cannabis patients must have felt. Due to that quick progression in California (and I believe the same was happening in Colorado) there were a lot of dangers that weren’t properly tested until negative press arose about the dangers of wax. There are some dangers that go along with dabbing, concentrate pens and medicating with wax in general; having a little base knowledge is ideal when diving into this realm of medical cannabis.

I think that it’s important to note that wax falls into any of the following categories: butter, shatter, oil, and any other concentrate that was extracted with a chemical agent. For more basics check out my post about the basics of dabbing and smoking concentrates.

  • Always ensure a 100% purge of gnarly chemicals. 

There are a couple of different extraction methods at the moment. I’ve heard of concentrates extracted with butane, nitrogen and CO2; all of which need to be fully vacuum purged from the product after being extracted. It is in the vacuum process that the consistency magic happens which will turn out to be a shatter, an oil or some substance in between that is often called a puddy or butter. Purging is important because we cannot be inhaling chemicals if we want to have healthy bodies. It is especially important if a medical cannabis patient with a compromised immune system takes up dabbing.

There are ways to test the purge of a wax. Obviously there are testing facilities that do this, but use discretion with your trust in testing facilities until there are general guidelines for how a company is testing cannabis and related products. I would always heat your nail, drop a bit of the wax on and see if it sparks before ever inhaling a dab. If there is any spark whatsoever there are chemicals in your meds and they should be returned.

“Why’s it sparklin’?” -Katt Williams

  • Solely buy from a reliable source.

I know this should be true of all cannabis, but I think we’re all a little bit lax on where we find our flower. With wax, it is imperative that you only smoke it if it is from a reliable source. Aside from possible chemical additives, the wax itself could be made with damaged flowers. Some growers have been known to use moldy or bud rot ridden flower for their wax to avoid losing profit on the seemingly wasted grow. Once again this could be devastating for a patient that is operating with a compromised immune system. The problem is that there is no way to test this aside from just looking at the wax and measuring up whether it looks quality or not just by looking at the color and viscosity. For this reason I think that it’s wise to only purchase these products from reliable and honest dispensaries that you trust. As a rule of thumb try not to purchase dark, murky waxes as it’s very possible that these will have some residue or that they were made with old or damaged product.

  • Stay educated. 

If you are interested in smoking wax or testing out a dab, just ask questions. If you’re at the dispensary and you usually buy flower, ask your bud tender or consultant about your curiosities. They may seem disinterested but if they are truly cannabis budtenders they will answer any and all questions that you may have about the plant. Knowledge is power and at the end of the day, the more a product is manipulated the more room for error there is. Wax is one of the most manipulated forms of cannabis, and for that reason I think that buying it should take the same logical assessment as buying a packaged meal at the grocery store.

Ask yourself three questions before you buy or dab wax:

Who made it?

How did they make it?

What did they make it with?

If these 3 questions seem to meet a logical set of standards for your health then that wax is safe to try. And truthfully, I would only recommend wax to patients who are working to lower their pain management medicines or kick an opioid addiction. Otherwise, other patients should find regular flower, bubble hash and kerf will suffice.

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