Marijuana Derivative Product “Wax” Garners Fans and Federal Attention Alike

If you believe the federal government, marijuana is a Schedule I substance, both highly addictive and dangerous. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the feds keep marijuana classified as one of the most dangerous “drugs” on the market.

So when those on the cutting edge of the Colorado marijuana market figure out a way to make pot stronger than ever, you can bet the feds will pay attention.

“Wax” is being called the “ultimate distillation of marijuana”. It is sometimes more commonly called “dabs”, also known as “concentrates”, or “butane hash oil (BHO).

It is not a new product, but is getting a lot of exposure and increased demand since it is legal in Colorado. It’s potent. Very potent. So potent that a single hit can keep you high for more than a day, or lay you out – at least according to critics.

Making wax resembles a scene out of Breaking Bad, where one false move could result in an explosion.

It’s these facts that are garnering the substance a reputation—bad or good, depending on who you ask.

“We have seen people have an onset of psychosis and even brain damage from that exposure to that high concentration of THC,” said Gary Hill, of the DEA’s San Diego office, according to ABC News. “Our concern is that this is going to spread before we get it under control.”

wax, a THC concentrate is legal in Colorado and has officials concernedWhile wax is illegal across the country, it finds a safe haven in Colorado, where not only is it legal, but it can be found in recreational dispensaries, sold on the shelves with edibles, topicals, and buds.

There’s even a wax-making contest in Denver, a three-day event called the X-Cup, where wax cookers compete with one another to see who can make the most potent batch.

Using butane to distill marijuana, what’s left is a sort of crispy sheet of wax that can literally knock you out.

“We do this outside because we don’t want it to explode,” said Emily Rodriguez, one competitor in the X-Cup. “We don’t want to blow ourselves up.”

The winner of the competition said he knows wax is sometimes too strong, admitting he’s seen users pass out after a single hit. But some adventurers are still buying it off Denver shelves.

While contests are being held outdoors in Colorado, DEA agents are cracking down on wax in California, indicating the substance obviously isn’t limited to where it’s legal.

Is wax something we need to worry about?

When it comes to legalizing marijuana, convincing naysayers that it is not dangerous– despite prohibition propaganda to the contrary– is a tough job. It’s made even tougher with something like wax on the market.

Marijuana users and legalization advocates come from all walks of life, but wax is likely popular among only a small group of these people. While one can’t compare alcohol-use to pot-use, wax use could be the equivalent of binge drinking, for lack of a more apt comparison. In other words, wax is likely most popular among those who smoke or use pot to party, to be extreme, or get “messed up”.

We know the opinion federal justice officials can’t necessarily be trusted in deciding how dangerous a substance is (evident from the Schedule I marijuana designation). It seems the biggest danger of this substance is that a user will pass out immediately after hitting it. However, if the feds find one case of a wax-user getting involved in an auto accident or going on some psychosis-induced crime spree, you can bet it will be fodder for their continued fight against marijuana legalization across the board.

Most marijuana advocates take the position that wax is a safe, though largely unnecessary cannabis-derived product. After all, there are no recorded overdoses in history of ANY THC-based substance.

For those who choose to use it—whether legally or illegally (depending on where you live)—we offer this warning: use it responsibly for the sake of the movement and for the sake of your freedom.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Renter is a freelance writer and editor who writes about criminal justice issues.

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  • Logan King

    That stuff is pretty potent. You only need one hit. But I think it’s an exaggeration that it can keep you high all day. I know because I have smoked it. Its effects last about the same as thc in bud form. Haha it gets you hella stoned though!

    • David Matson

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. That’s what most people say.

      I am still concerned about the Feds in particular freaking out about this and using it as an excuse to crack down on legal retailers in Colorado. Hopefully it won’t happen, but you know there are plenty of DEA types who are just looking for an excuse to bust people.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • Bill DECKER

    Reading this just makes me shake my head, this isen’t new but is rare back in the 70’s we had honey oil which is a stage in the process of wax. The only reason it never took hold is an economic reason. The process is long and expensive and when just wanting to get high its to labor intensive. Its bad enough destroying those beautiful buds for cookies, brownies or butter. Which is the way I prefer to partake, but smoking or vaporizing still is the easiest and most natural way to partake. this is BUD MAN BILL signing out.

    • David Matson

      Goo points, Bill.

      I’m sure you are right, but if people are now making and selling it legally on a commercial scale, it could become economical and very popular.

      • James

        It’s very economical, most producers are using the sugar leaf from trimming so there is less waste from the harvest. Because it is roughly 7 times more potent 1g BHO = 7g Bud. 1g is usually $40-60 and you cannot touch 7g of good medicinal bud for that!

  • nick

    It can be dangerous to smoke if the maker of it doesn’t do it right and get all the butane out. Butane is un healthy to smoke and it is the signal most potent thc based substance that is around and is fun todo

  • haley

    It’s people doing stupid sh*t like making “wax” and wanting to take it too far, that has America scared to follow Colorado and Washington. Chill the f*ck out and be happy smoking weed or the rest of the state’s won’t catch up and it’ll be your fault. If you wanna get messed up do meth and leave the weed activists to the weed smoking and working to decriminalize it. You’re ruining the game for everyone.

  • meshell

    I love Dabs great pain reliever pain pills end me up in rehab wax/Dabs Is wonderful

  • Nick

    Haley it is no different then smoking good Cannabis. The effects are the same. In a non medical/ recreational state you can not always find good cannabis. With some general chemistry knowledge u can make good and safe to smoke BHO (Butane- Extracted Hash Oil). Don’t believe everything you read online. This article was left very open-ended for the individual to interpret and to spark the desire to research for them selves.

    I have smoked cannabis of from many differnt levels of quality and BHO from many different levels of quality and they both have pros and cons.

  • rich

    I was a Alcy for many years,had a stroke in 03,wax keeps me moving & motivated.I just hope it`s ok for my brain.Any studies (research) on smok`in Stroke Survivors? I`ll try your wax? thank you for your time…

  • unknown

    Know your facts before you poat a ridiculous article. You are obviously against the patients. Yes potent enough to knock you out if your a beginner and try to jump right in to the heavy medication section. Would a doctor prescribe the strongest pain killer off the bat? No, so why would you go right into heavy dosed medicinal marijuana products? Common sense come on plus a liter of vodka is potent enough to knock you right out too except that vodka has the possibility to KILL YOU, unlike marijuana. Stop with the bs and get your facts straight before giving the people the wrong message

  • Rene

    I have been smoking marijuana for pain and seizures for many many years. My tolerance is quite high. If it weren’t for wax I would have no effective medicine. I have never hallucinated nor passed out. This is all propoganda. Anyone will pass out if they do too much of anything. Let’s say alcohol… If someone with a low tolerance were to do a shot they could pass out but yet alcohol is completly socially acceptable and served everywhere…. I see no logic in this fight against mmj.

  • Robert J. Martin

    Keep in mind (while I am a huge supporter of legalization) there have been some deaths related to weed….BUT it is not from the weed itself, but when used with alcohol. Marijuana suppresses the bodys natural action of fighting alcohol poisoning where the body will throw up the alcohol before the person dies. BUT, if you are drinking hard liquor AND smoking weed, the body will not throw up the booze and you can die from alcohol poisoning. Also it is dangerous for people with heart conditions as it speeds up the resting heart beat. In a normal healthy person this is no problem, not so with a person with advanced heart disease. And marijuana distilled into dab/wax/ect. will have an even stronger effect.