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Dabbing: Why This Doesn’t Need To Be So Controversial

A real CO2 cannabis essential oil - Pineapple Express strain
A real CO2 cannabis essential oil – the Pineapple Express cannabis strain has produced a powerful pineapple fragrance and flavor in this essential oil.

By now it is likely that you’ve heard of or tried the latest trend in cannabis consumption – the essential oil dab. This involves using a vape pen that is designed to dispense the cannabis essential oil or by using a glass bubbler outfitted with a titanium plate or nail.

The controversy about this method has been all over the media as of late and most of this controversy is not based in facts. Notice I say “most” here because some of the controversy over this method is legitimate, which I will address in a moment.

What is cannabis essential oil and how is it made?

Cannabis essential oil and the methods of making it are identical to mainstream aromatherapy essential oils that you are already familiar with, like jasmine or rose. And like aromatherapy essential oils such as jasmine, cannabis essential oil cannot be produced using steam distillation, either a solvent or a non-toxic clean process such as CO2 must be used to make the oil. The mainstream aromatherapy industry has been under fire for years due to the fact that sometimes solvents must be used to produce certain kinds of essential oils. This is nothing new and many mainstream essential oil companies are or have switched to CO2 to produce essential oils that would normally require a solvent. Distilled or CO2 aromatherapy grade essential oils will always be my personal preference – but many companies do continue to use solvents to produce these delicate flower essential oils that cannot be produced using distillation methods. Cannabis essential oil produced using a solvent like butane, known as BHO (Butane Hash Oil), is really only different from jasmine essential oil produced using a solvent by virtue of being cannabis.

If we are going to complain about BHO, we also need to complain about every other essential oil produced using a solvent that is sitting on the shelves of Whole Foods right now. That being said, I don’t like BHO and I would much rather use a fine ice water bubble hash on my skillet if I only had those two options to choose from! Better yet, my first preference would be a CO2 cannabis essential oil which is produced using the clean CO2 process which retains an enormous amount of the natural fragrances and terpenes.

BHO and health – what you need to know

I don’t like BHO and other solvent derived essential oils because I do not trust that ALL of the solvent – every last molecule – magically disappears upon the finishing of the oil. The other concern is the environmental impact that using petroleum products has. By the way, my feelings about petroleum products also extend to plastics as well. The better dispensaries do test their BHO for impurities but even if no impurities remain the environmental impact remains. I don’t think that anyone would disagree that avoiding petroleum products as much as possible is a wise decision if you are concerned about your health and the environment.

BHO and the stupid factor

BHO is the one area of cannabis consumption that the media has really been able to stir up a lot of “reefer madness” over recently. Hardly a week goes by now that you don’t read about someone blowing up themselves or their house making BHO. These are not aromatherapy professionals working with solvents to make perfume oils – they are in fact mostly idiots doing stupid things in their home, like meth cooks. Understandably, the general public is going to get upset by this and the media is more than happy to point it out. If solvents are to be used in the production of ANY essential oil, it needs to be done in a professional environment and not in your kitchen. I think most people that enjoy essential oils of all types understand this and would not attempt to do it at home.

BHO: A product of prohibition

CO2 is by far a superior method of producing cannabis essential oils but the access to this equipment and the cost are directly impacted by, you guessed it, prohibition. Large scale CO2 production is entirely possible and would literally put BHO production out of business if cannabis prohibition was still not standing in the way of progress. I’ve tried both BHO and CO2 and CO2 wins, hands down, every time, for flavor, fragrance and effect. Once you’ve tried CO2, BHO is really a sub-par product. Yet, BHO will continue to be the favorite product of prohibitionists because it has the innate ability to stir up the most fear.

Dabs Away!

There isn’t anything any more controversial about cannabis essential oil than there is any other essential oil that cannot be produced using the distillation process. You can enjoy aromatherapy and essential oils in a healthy and responsible way. Cannabis essential oils are quite high in cannabinoid content and most adults find that “one dab will do ya!.” Using these oils in a vape pen can also be a truly luxurious experience.