Dab Habits

Homie got D.T.F.O.

Proposition 215 makes marijuana cultivation and possession legal in the state of California.

Since the mid-90’s, medical marijuana patients have been allowed to carry up to half a pound of processed cannabis flower (what we call pot) in public and can grow up to approximately 100 plants at home. No one knows exactly number of plants you can have in your personal crop — not even the judges. The transition from illegal gateway drug to legal medication has raised some interesting observations about marijuana’s place in society.

“Hey man, you want to get evaluated?”

The first time I visited the United States, I saw a weed doctor and got my papers so I could visit the cannabis dispensaries in Los Angeles. The issue was thrust upon me by a young man in a fluorescent green nylon body suit holding a green sign: “Hey man, you want to get evaluated?”

I lied to a doctor so I could buy weed in L.A. (and so does everyone else)

You must visit a doctor to get your papers. Calling the man  a doctor is like calling a McDonald’s drive-through a restaurant. It takes about ten minutes and costs $150. Maybe one in ten people who come here are actually medicalized. I certainly wasn’t sick, nor did I  have a condition that necessitated my marijuana use (other than the lack thereof). I repeat a line I read on the internet: “I’ve got an old sports injury and I have trouble sleeping.” In five minutes I’m out the door. At Venice Beach, the doctors and dispensaries are for tourists. It’s a cash-grab for the establishments issuing the license, the dispensaries right around the corner and the government.


Enter the Goddess

A pot-dispensary just off the main beach that’s staffed by beautiful women. They flirt for their tips. Everyone is a sommelier. The Goddesses proffer jars packed with dope for customers to stick their nose in before they buy. People nod drearily and smile in euphoric intoxication.

The Green Goddess clutches the pretense of a vaguely medical establishment like a young child trying to make an impression on an older sibling’s friends. It’s an obvious effort to elevate marijuana, and it’s consumption, from long established seedy connotations.

And then there’s hash oil.

Butane Hash Oil, cannabis concentrate, or wax as users call it, has a couple of different names and forms, and makes up about half the products on sale at the shop. Concentrates are big business. Kids are going crazy for the super high.

As weed moves out of the shadows and into the mainstream, wax is just one of the subcultures that have taken it’s place on the fringes of society. Music, clothes, street art, people love their wax.

After a chat with one of the Goddesses at the dispensary, I did find out at the time that is was illegal to manufacture wax in California — she got a tip.

So where’s the fucking wax coming from?

The new artificers of cannabis

It’s been a week since my first counter with the golden brown THC sludge at the Green Goddess. In that time, through a friend of a friend, I made the acquaintance of Luke. He makes wax. At the age of just 23 he operates in a clandestine laboratory in the Californian hills where he makes the product, sells it locally and send the excess interstate. He comes to California because there is a lot of dope here.

The flower that growers can’t sell to the dispensaries (the trim) will be used to make THC wax. Trim is the low-grade leftover bud after the cannabis product has been harvested. It’s too shitty to sell, but it’s still pot — I’ve smoked trim more than once. Wax is an opportunity to turn trim into money as THC extraction methods yield the same results when either low quality or high quality cannabis is used.

Luke had hooked up with a grower and was operating the wax side of the boss’s cannabis business. There are limited opportunities for new players in the wax-saturated Californian market. With enough weed, and some common ingredients like compressed butane gas, anyone can make wax, which is exactly the problem for authorities.

Laws were tightened in response to a number of incidents where home wax ‘labs’ went up in flames. Some people died so the government decided to categorize cooking wax along with the more insidious process of meth production. Naturally the states that allow Marijuana cultivation are also dealing with the wax explosion — no pun intended. Where’s there’s weed there’s wax, and where’s there’s a semi-legal market, there are massive profits to be made. Luke is taking a risk, but he doesn’t seem too concerned. When he speaks about how he makes the wax, he speaks with an artisan enthusiasm. “Everyone’s a connoisseur of something in California.” Luke says.

Just like there are different strains of cannabis bud, there are many different types of wax. Honeycomb and shatter are two names — you get the idea. Personally, I thought it all tasted the same, but don’t tell that to Luke. The artisan aspect of the process is something that is heavily promoted by growers and makers in order to elevate the status of their scene. Considering how most people smoke wax, by taking a ‘dab’ (street for a wax hit) through a rig that looks like hard drugs, I can see why users and makers are keen to promote themselves as the new artificers of cannabis.


Although you can smoke a mixture of Cannabis flower and THC wax in a joint in a similar way you smoke hash, from what I saw, most people prefer to smoke out of a bong like water-pipe called a ‘Rig’. The process has less in common with smoking weed and more in common with smoking crack.

Apply heat to a metal piece sitting on top of the down-pipe till it’s red hot and then take a glob of the wax, drop it on the hot surface and then inhale the vapor. It has the effect of smoking a huge fucking joint to yourself and doing it all in a few seconds. And this stuff is strong. The THC percentage of wax products is close to 90%. More than double the strength of cannabis flower. Users say it gets them higher than they’ve ever been in their lives. And I agree.

The health implications of smoking wax remain to be seen. Concern over inhaling residual chemicals doesn’t seem important to the people I see smoking wax. I think once you make the decision to become affected through means of inhalation, you become comfortable with the repercussions of accepting foreign chemicals into your body. Chemicals aside, anything that makes you cough like hitting a dab first thing in the morning can not be good for you. But that doesn’t stop Luke. He’s a wax man and he love his stuff. He won’t touch tobacco and he seldom smokes marijuana flower.

It’s morning and someone is awake.

My eyes instinctively pop open at the sound of the aggressive ripping of a butane flame. Luke is heating the rig. I look to the other side of our sleeping space, past the cream carpet pockmarked by cigarette embers.

Luke breathes in as much of the vapor as he can manage. He looks left and then right attempting to vacuum the escaped whips of smoke into his lungs.

Luke leans back into the folds of the couch.

“Fuck that was a big one.” He says looking over at me.

“Yeah.” I agree. The last sentence took the last of his resolve and now he’s doubled over. Marijuana never killed anyone — dabs have.

“Help yourself,” Luke says.
“I’m alright, mate.” He doesn’t hear.

Homie got dabbed-the-fuck-out.