#2. They Make Weed You Can't Smell Now
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Over the past few years, e-cigarettes have become all the rage with people who still want to inhale nicotine into their lungs but want to do it without also taking in the arsenic and motor oil and other assorted nastiness that cigarette companies use in their products. Some of them even look like real cigarettes (from a distance):
The best part? They have almost no smell. The "smoke" they produce is actually just a vapor that leaves behind no noticeable scent. That means you can smoke them pretty much anywhere without eliciting many complaints, if people even notice at all. Now, can you guess what this e-cigarette has in it?
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If you said "the equivalent of a quarter-ounce of marijuana," then you are correct. That was an amazing guess. Also amazing: Just like regular e-cigarettes, the ones filled with pot have virtually no smell. The cruel twist of marijuana being the most harmless "controlled substance" on the planet, aside from the fact that it's absurdly easy to catch in a drug test and sometimes necessitates interacting with fans of the band Phish, is that its aroma is so pungent that smoking it discreetly is pretty close to impossible.
That all changed when someone discovered that the same means used to vaporize nicotine can also be used to vaporize weed. Except saying that an e-cigarette is vaporizing actual "weed" is a bit misleading. Anyone who's actually seen a quarter-ounce of marijuana knows it would take about 25 of those e-cigarettes to hold it all. What's actually inside there is (usually) something called hash oil. And that's fine, hash is just a concentrated form of marijuana, after all.
Concentrated to look terrifying.
A lot of e-cigarette-type devices also include a liquid called propylene glycol as part of the vaporization process. That's alright to smoke too, right? Maybe. The technology that went into making propylene glycol and delivering nicotine through the lungs such good friends in the first place has only been around since 2000 or so. It's been mass marketed for about half that time, and e-cigarettes have only taken off in popularity in the last few years. So who knows? More importantly, if you're talking about the difference between e-cigarettes and a pack of Newports, who cares? Unless e-cigarettes give you some faster, more aggressive form of cancer, they can't be a whole lot worse than their "natural" counterparts.
Not so much the case with weed, though, right? It's not like your friendly neighborhood grow operation is spiking their Afghani Kush with tobacco company chemicals. Introducing something like propylene glycol into the mix kind of flies in the face of what weed is supposed to be about, right?
Right. And that's not the only recent development in marijuana technology that's bringing scary-sounding chemicals to the party.
#1. It's Not Always "Just a Plant" Anymore
The talking point most frequently brought up by those who preach the benefits of cannabis use is that, ultimately, marijuana is just a plant. It's all-natural and grows in the ground, so how bad can it really be? God made dirt and dirt don't hurt, as the saying goes.
That's mostly a sound argument, even if everyone stops listening when a stoner starts talking. That said, it's also a hard argument to make for an insanely popular new way to enjoy marijuana. It's a concentrated form called "ear wax" or just "wax" and it will fuck you up. The only question is, "In how many different ways?"
If we're talking the "420" kind of way, wax will definitely do the job. The THC content of most strains of marijuana falls into the 15 to 25 percent range. THC is weed's active ingredient, meaning the ingredient that gets you high. The THC content of wax, on the other hand, usually falls into the 65 to 90 percent range. That's an insane difference. It's basically the Four Loko of marijuana.
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Like Four Loko is the horse tranquilizer of beer.
And now for the scary part. How do beautiful green leaves like these ...
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... turn into a product that comes disturbingly close to living up to the visual promise of its "ear wax" name?
Why shouldn't this be in your lungs?
The THC is extracted with motherfucking butane, that's how. Butane is fuel, ladies and gentlemen. You use it to make fire. If you've kept up on your Breaking Bad episodes (as the terms of your Internet membership require), you know that making drugs by way of a chemical extraction process can be far from an exact science.
When the process goes wrong as it relates to wax, the result is that some of the butane stays behind in what you eventually smoke. Is that good for you? Probably not, but willingly inhaling butane has only become commonplace with marijuana smokers in the last couple of years. That's even less time than we've been cutting our Marlboro juice with propylene glycol, so the science on the matter is still pending. There's probably nothing to worry about, though, it's not like a marijuana dispensary would be unscrupulous enough to sell wax that they knew still contained butane, right?
What you're looking at there is a snippet of the menus from two different dispensaries. Wax generally sells for $45 to $65 per gram. Both of these dispensaries carry the exact same strain of wax (Sour Diesel) and are in the same general area, but one of them is selling their product for half the price of their competitor (and most other competitors, for that matter). In light of how wax is made, it borders on terrifying to think about what might account for those savings.
Still, there isn't any hard proof that concentrated wax forms of marijuana actually do any harm, so it's premature to say for sure that they pose a threat to public safety. At least that would be true if butane extraction accidents weren't causing motel room explosions galore throughout California right now like so many Midwestern meth labs before them.
That's video of a news story about an explosion that happened when a man was using butane to make a wax-like product called "honey oil" in his garage, and it's definitely not an isolated incident.
So, if you're looking for the biggest way marijuana has changed since the last time you smoked, here's hoping you don't find out by way of your dipshit neighbor blowing the entire apartment building sky high trying to make gasoline-powered super weed in his kitchen.