The Risks Associated With Cannabis Concentrates
Updated: Feb 22
Concentrating on the facts.
In recent years cannabis oil extraction and the consumption of highly concentrated cannabis oils or “dabs” has become increasingly popular. This has brought with it a realm of new and unforeseen risks that we aim to make you aware of in this blog post. The rise of cannabis oils and concentrates has created a world of misinformation with advocates promoting dabbing as healthier alternative to smoking. Which, in theory, is correct as this method removes the element of combustion. However, there are variety of health risks surrounding dabbing and amateur extraction techniques that concentrate consumers should be aware of.
The use of highly pressured butane has become an increasingly popular method of extracting highly concentrated cannabinoids from cannabis generating what is known as butane hash oil (BHO) or “dab” oil. Quite often these oils are found to contain a variety of unwanted heavy metals, pesticides and fungal spores that have been inadvertently been concentrated alongside the cannabinoids.
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Though most concerns are commonly centred around the consumption of high concentrations of THC, additional risks are often overlooked. One of the key issues with BHO method is the presence of residual unpurged butane in the oils which can later consumed by an unsuspecting member of the public. Amateur BHO production is on the increase, and with this there has been a growing number of incidents involving to highly pressured butane gas with numerous reports of explosions and fires involving amateur producers.
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A recent paper by Jeffrey Raber and his team at The University of Southern California, set out to highlight the increasingly apparent issue surrounding cannabis contamination. The study tested 57 cannabis concentrate samples from across the Californian medical cannabis market and made several startling discoveries. Considerable amounts of solvent and pesticide contamination was found in 80% of concentrate samples in some form. These contaminants included Isopentane, butane, heptane, hexane, isobutene, isopropyl alcohol and propane, as well as pesticides such as paclobutrazol and bifenthrin. THC concentration varied from between 23.7% to 75.9% with the exception of one outlier containing 2.7% THC and 47.7% CBD. The study also found that only up to 40% of the theoretically available THC in the vapor stream of a dab during inhalation experiments was absorbed. The study concluded that dabbing offered patients immediate physiological relief but may also be prone to abuse by recreational users seeking more rapid and intense physiological effects.
Though, dabbing may have its benefits, it is extremely important for the public to be aware of the worryingly toxic potential of improperly prepared extracts. Given the current lack of regulation in the UK, the British public is at particular risk and should be made aware of the contamination risks when considering cannabis products such as CBD oils and tinctures. The papers referenced in this work suggest that ideally users should ask to see any testing or analytic reference documents before purchase or consumption. Should anyone you know be affected by this information please ensure they are aware of the potential contamination risks associated with cannabis products and please contact us should you have any further quieries.
1. Al-Zouabi, I. et al. (2018) ‘Butane hash oil and dabbing: insights into use, amateur production techniques, and potential harm mitigation.’, Substance abuse and rehabilitation. Dove Press, 9, pp. 91–101. doi: 10.2147/SAR.S135252.
2. Raber, J. C., Elzinga, S. and Kaplan, C. (2015) ‘Understanding dabs: contamination concerns of cannabis concentrates and cannabinoid transfer during the act of dabbing’, The Journal of Toxicological Sciences, 40(6), pp. 797–803. doi: 10.2131/jts.40.797cannab