The news fervor over the dangers of hash oil has died down a little lately. This time last year, headlines were full of fear-mongering sentiments such as “Butane hash oil labs; the danger next door” and “emerging drug crisis.” News outlets chewed on that toy until the air had pretty much gone out of it, but we’re not surprised to see some uninformed, spectacle-izing from time to time.

What we are surprised to see, however, is that uninformed fear-mongering-for-the-sake-of-click-bait coming from a semi-legit source such as LA Weekly. The magazine this week ran an article titled How Dabbing Is the ‘Crack Scene of Marijuana’”. The piece compares cannabis concentrates not only to crack, but to heroin as well, and suggests that habitual hash oil use can lead to addiction and long term brain damage.

This heavy handed, hastily researched article states that extracts’ “intensity can be compared to cocaine users who shifted from snorting the substance to smoking it” (guess the old beer-and-hard-liquor metaphor didn’t make as good of a headline) and quotes a Van Nuys budtender as saying that “Dabbing… can get you as fucked up as if you’re doing heroin… I did it and puked. The whole dab scene is like the crack scene of marijuana.”

Just to make sure that anyone who’s ever used dabs know that the article is full of shit, it also explains that, “While the high lasts just a few minutes, dabbing can cause extreme paranoia, listlessness, despondency and anxiety.” If you know anything about dabbing, the part you’d take issue with is the idea that the high “lasts only a few minutes” is a joke. The high’s only just beginning after a few minutes. Paranoia, check. Anxiety, sure, for some, but you could say the same about any kind of marijuana product.

The article goes on to suggest that hash oil can cause physical addiction and brain damage. A scientist they speak with claims, in the words of the news outlet, to have “seen a few cases where dabbing led to permanent brain damage. But those cases are rare.” No specifics, no data, no citation.

Even less journalistic credibility can be found when discussing addiction. The article carefully tiptoes around actually saying that dabbing is addictive, while constantly pushing the reader to infer that it is. “For years, marijuana advocates have stressed that weed is not physically addictive,” the article reads, “But Dr. Michael Miller [the same doctor quoted above], medical director for Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, says dabbing has a different effect.”

That “effect” is never elaborated on. Instead, another Miller quote speaks of the “bio-psycho-social-spiritual” aspect of addiction, without ever mentioning extracts by name. An uncareful reader is meant to rub those two unrelated sentiments together and come out with the idea that hash oils are physically addictive, even though there is no scientific data mentioned by anyone in the article to back that up.


“Addiction is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual disease,” says Miller, the past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “If you have a predisposition for addiction, the more potent rewards are more likely to kick in the addictive process in the brain. Very strong exposures to very intense rewards triggers a preoccupation and craving and cues to use again. That results in addiction.”

The article does pretend to look at the other side of the issue, quoting someone who works for an extraction company as saying that concentrates could be helpful to patients who don’t want a lot of smoke in their lungs and saying that “you’re not going to die” from dabbing, before they also paraphrase the same guy as saying (again, without anything to back it up) that “continued use over a long period of time can cause permanent paranoia and anxiety.”

So, to answer the question of the headline, why is LA Weekly comparing dabs to crack and heroin? Clicks, probably.

Photo via Flickr user Andres Rodriguez