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March 23, 2015

Administrators banned this FHS story about THC ‘dabs’

“Dabbing” involves inhaling vapors of a concentrated THC oil or “wax.” It can produce a dangerous “high,” according to news reports.
[Dabbing] is a fairly new thing. The drug dogs can smell the plant itself, but the THC doesn’t have a smell so they can’t detect the THC. I haven’t dealt with wax yet here at all. To tell you the truth our biggest problem is marijuana; it’s out of control. It’s the worst year I’ve seen, because of the push to legalize it. Kids feel it’s OK, I’ve got parents telling me it’s going to be legal, so it’s OK, but it’s not.
— FHS Resource Officer Sal Torelli
> Poll: What do you think?
Click here to vote on whether administrators should have banned publication of this story about “dabbing” in The Falconer, Fauquier High School’s student newspaper.
> Letters from administrators at bottom of story.

By SaraRose Martin
Co-editor, The Falconer
Fauquier High School

Dabs, also known as hash oil or Butane Hash Oil (BHO), is the most recent craze to dominate the drug subculture. To create dabs, marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, is extracted using butane to make wax concentrate, which is then “dabbed” onto a plate, known as a nail, that has been heated with a blowtorch. When the resulting vapor is inhaled, the user receives a direct hit of 70 to 90 percent THC, nearly three times the potency of smoking strong marijuana strains. The new drug phenomenon is known as dabbing.

Senior Tim O’Leary, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, said that dabbing appeared in Fauquier County only a few years ago, and it’s gaining popularity. Dabs are small, easy to conceal and make, and produce no distinctive pot odor, which might lead to detection. The popular reference to smoking marijuana, 4:20, has been replaced by 7:10 (OIL upside down).

“The first time ever was the end of my sophomore year when it first made its appearance on the East Coast,” O’Leary said. “It’s quicker and an easier method, and can be safer [than weed] because you don't have any carcinogens going into your lungs; it’s only pure THC.”

Senior Abe Hofmann, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, first heard about dabs as a freshman and said that it produces a different, intense kind of high. Since the effect of dabs is more immediate than smoking, a user may be quickly overwhelmed.

“I just read an article about it; I never thought I’d do it. The first time I did it was over the summer,” Hofmann said. “He gave me a warning, ‘Imagine toking a joint all in one hit.’ The experience for me was a burning sensation in my throat and an instant head rush, and I saw flashes of light, like closing and opening your eyes really fast. I immediately laid back. It was the highest I’ve been ever at that point, and it was really uncomfortable. It felt like my body was vibrating. I think once I got used to the feeling and the situation, then it was fun. It’s not something you do to just have a conversation with your friends. You’re going to find it hard to talk, for me personally. You’re either scared or your body won’t let you.”

The administration was informed of student use of wax concentrate several months ago, according to Officer Sal Torelli, but faces challenges in detecting wax concentrate. Torelli also noted the increasing popularity and usage of marijuana overall and says that, with states beginning to legalize the plant, people are changing their views on its use.

“[Dabbing] is a fairly new thing. The drug dogs can smell the plant itself, but the THC doesn’t have a smell so they can’t detect the THC,” Torelli said. “I haven’t dealt with wax yet here at all. To tell you the truth our biggest problem is marijuana; it’s out of control. It’s the worst year I’ve seen, because of the push to legalize it. Kids feel it’s OK, I’ve got parents telling me it’s going to be legal, so it’s OK, but it’s not.”

Passing out and falling after consuming dabs has led to injuries ranging from cracked skulls to cracked teeth. Hoffman prefers smoking weed to dabs because it delivers a comfortable amount of THC for his body.

“Dabs are really harsh on me, and it puts me in a certain state of mind where it’s full-on paranoia and not fun,” Hofmann said. “You smoke weed to relax and listen to music and have fun. [Doing dabs is] a much different and condensed high. A lot of people can handle it really well and have a really high tolerance but for me, especially in social situations, dabs just ruin me.”

A gram of weed typically sells for $20, whereas a gram of wax concentrate sells for about $60. Nevertheless, many cash-strapped teen users still opt for wax.

“People have compared smoking a normal dab to smoking an entire ‘g’ in one sitting,” O’Leary said. “It’s harder to make, it’s more expensive [than weed], but it gets you higher.”

The process for smoking a dab involves new utensils, or dabbing gear, such as an oil rig, a titanium glass or ceramic nail, and specially designed blowtorches. After the nail is heated with the blowtorch, the wax concentrate is dabbed onto the nail, and the vapor is inhaled through the rig, according to O’Leary.

However, the vape pen industry, also offers models that allow users to “vape” wax concentrate. Known as G-pens, vape pens used for smoking marijuana are similar to e-cigarettes, but are made to vaporize the active molecules in concentrated marijuana oils. Vape pens are legal to sell and use and cost on average $30 to $100. According to Assistant Principal Kraig Kelican, students caught with vape pens are disciplined for possession of cigarettes, but the pens can be tested for THC. Torelli tested two pens for THC this year, but the results were negative.

O’Leary recognizes there may be risks with dabbing because its relatively new; although there’s no evidence that one can overdose on marijuana, little is known about the side effects of consuming such concentrated doses. In addition, if not extracted properly, concerns have been raised about toxic residue in the dabs from the solvents, usually butane, used to extract the THC.

“We don’t know the side effects of the concentrates because it’s new,” O’Leary said. “They don’t know the harmful effects it can have on people; it can be really dangerous. Some people just cannot handle that much THC entering the body at one time.”

Senior user Bill Burroughs, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, experienced the effects of taking a dab that provided too much THC intake for his body.

“I’ve taken, like, 10 dabs. One time, it was just too big of a dab at one time. If I took the same amount in smaller dabs I would’ve been fine,” Burroughs said. “I just started throwing up everywhere. I’ve taken dabs after that though, and I’ve been fine.”

Hofmann had a similar experience with a friend, who became confused.

“One of my friends was almost frozen, not talking, not responding and just incoherent. I started tapping him, and I was, like, ‘Dude, are you OK?’ and he starts blinking like, ‘Yeah, that was really weird, man. Is it normal to feel like this?’” Hoffman said. “It was in a big social situation, and they were so paranoid of talking to people. They were just scared of how they were looking and just all of this anxiety.”

Rather than buying it, some wax users or sellers make it at home. The most popular method to extract hash oil from marijuana is through the butane extraction process.

According to O’Leary, marijuana is put into an extraction tube that is pressurized with butane to extract all of the cannabinoids and THC chemicals and leave behind all of the plant matter. The concentrate is placed on a Pyrex pan, which can be heated to extract all of the butane, and then can be further extracted using a vacuum pump. If all of the butane isn’t extracted, users run the risk of inhaling it.

According to an article by NPR, there have also been reports of exploding refrigerators when people put their “marijuana-butane marinade” in the freezer, and the fumes are ignited by sparks from the compressor or fan.

“It’s very dangerous to make, because you have butane under pressure, you have a glass container, it can explode,” O’Leary said. “When the butane is hitting the glass pan, you have heat underneath, and it can set it on fire sometimes. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it.”

According to an article in the New York Times, hash oil extraction caused 32 explosions in Colorado in 2014, resulting in home fires and injuring dozens of people, including 17 who suffered severe burns. States that have legalized marijuana are now grappling with regulating the production of hash oil.

“Personally, I want weed to be decriminalized, but I want the extraction process to be illegal. You can still get high from weed; you can still get to the point where you can’t function. Wax does that instantly for you. Nobody really needs that,” Hofmann said. “I’ve known people that have done hallucinogens and then they took a dab and they were like, ‘Holy ****, I was gone on that.’ When I did it personally, one moment I was at [someone’s] house, and the next I was in a Food Lion parking lot. It’s a scary thing; people drive when they’re high. Imagine them driving on wax.”

According to O’Leary, what teens are seeking is the ultimate, quickest high, something that a small dab offers.

“People are used to ingesting multiple grams at a time to get to the high when you take a dab,” O’Leary said. “I think that’s why it’s a phenomenon, because it gets you so high, so quickly.”

> Click here to read The Falconer editorial about the story’s censorship.

The Falconer on Twitter.

Superintendent David Jeck’s letter to The Falconer:

Superintendent Letter on Dabs by Fauquier Now

The Falconer’s appeal to Superintendent David Jeck

Falconer Letter to Jeck by Fauquier Now

Principal Clarence Burton’s letter to The Falconer:

Principal Letter on Dabs by Fauquier Now

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Jim Griffin · April 8, 2015 at 8:29 am
I favor Fauquier Now creating a student section for local students, written by students for students. There is no longer any good reason for schools to sponsor newspapers, nor any good reason these student journalists should restrict their expression to text. A student section of Fauquier Now could feature written stories, video and audio clips from students and provide far greater educational value, not to mention commercial value, than does a paper-based publication (or a website emulating one) owned and operated by a school district.

Furthermore, a Fauquier Now student section could unite students from public, private and home study programs. It's a win-win for all concerned -- unless, of course, you are a school administrator with a heavy hand forced by federal policies that do not apply to Fauquier Now.
BJ · March 25, 2015 at 12:55 pm
@Traffic - Anne Frank wasn't a journalist either and look what she was able to write. Born: June 12, 1929, Frankfurt, Germany Died: March 1945, Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Germany. She was 16 years old.
dbeard · March 24, 2015 at 5:13 pm
I can't imagine that deep down, Burton didn't want to allow it to be published. As a high school principal, what choice did he have? He isn't chief editor of a real newspaper, he is a principal in a rather ignorant (sorry, it just is) school district, and wanted to keep his job. I can't blame him. It is a very well-reading article that deserves to be published, and it was, (thanks to him) way more than it would have been otherwise. Administrators aren't trying to shelter or protect the "helpless, innocent minds" of high-schoolers, they are just covering their asses. Burton and the Superintendent knew that even the appeal process in itself would cause a "disruption" or "distraction" to school activities, (everyone will be talking about it, protesting, etc.) but by appealing, it becomes a disruption that nobody can be fired for. Had they published it and then some kid in the school system coincidentally died in an accident while under the influence of BHO, the louder, more ignorant parents would've have a field day. Dabbing is bad, kids. Mmmkay? Go home, read the article on the internet on your own computer, and make your own informed decision. Realize that people employed by the county had to vomit these scripted responses to avoid losing their jobs, or becoming unemployable in the future.
Lana · March 24, 2015 at 1:01 pm
The article was not promoting anything-- in fact, it presented the risks. Martinkus, this may come as a shock to you-- but drugs continued to exist after the 60s! A school promoting ignorance is a frightening thing.
Lana · March 24, 2015 at 12:58 pm
Oh, being a journalist requires a college degree? It isn't uncommon (at least, it wasn't back in the day) for journalists to first start working in a publication's printing room and working their way up. A journalist is defined by the quality and integrity of their work; this piece is exceedingly well-researched. What should we do? This parallels a dystopia; shall we keep our kids ignorant? Teach them to be afraid of the world? Is it not preferable for children to learn from an unbiased, well-written article? I don't understand what you all mean by your assertions that this type of article should be written by an adult in the "real world." Are teenagers living in some hallucinatory alter-dimension? This is a topic that is relevant to these students-- they have a voice, and deserve to use it.
Traffic · March 24, 2015 at 12:03 pm
Yep...from now on just send those controversial articles directly to Fauquier Now.
Traffic · March 24, 2015 at 11:58 am
BS...First these students are not real "journalist". That takes a college degree. These are students that must abide by school rules. The school newspaper is not the "anything goes voice of the students". It is governed by the school and the school has to abide by the school board. In other words we can't have the prisoners running the prison just as well as we can't have a 9th grader going home with a controversial "dabbing" article. Can you imagine seeing a Fauquier County School article appearing in a CNN article titled "Look what appeared in their school newspaper". What is to come next "who's under the bleacher reports with testimonials from students who have been there". can write about whatever you want...this just isn't the place to do it. How about taking that article and sending it to a regular newspaper in the real world and see if they publish it? Also maybe a suggestion box for the students to the Health Dept. would help in getting the subjects addressed that interests students.
Good job for censoring and not printing it.
BJ · March 24, 2015 at 11:38 am
This is the first time I have heard of this type of drug use, and I thank whoever put it out there to inform the public. Educating and informing yourself as a parent is the best way to help your child through the rough waters of growing up. Plus educating the kids themselves about the dangers will help them make better decisions, at least I hope so. I made some ignorant decisions while a teenager, most but not all of us did, and even though I learned a huge lesson, it would have been wonderful if my parents had been better informed about what is out there that could possibly kill or injure their child. Would I have listened? Who knows now? Yet, I feel that being informed helps make me a better parent.
Bekemp · March 24, 2015 at 5:41 am
I find the argument that since alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, and alcohol is legal, therefore marijuana should be legal, while possibly true, misguided. Abuse of alcohol does lead to all sorts of horrors, but do we really feel that the abuse of marijuana will lead to anything better? Early and prolonged use of marijuana has been scientifically linked to a higher possibility of psychosis, infertility, vascular disease, lower IQ and memory loss, poorer performance in school/jobs/athletics/etc.
martinkus · March 24, 2015 at 1:55 am
I support Principal Burton and Dr. Jeck 100%! What part of "illegal" and dangerous don't these teenagers (i.e., "knuckleheads") understand? And shame to those parents who say it's "OK" - it's not! I grew up in the 1960s in a major metropolitan area (out of Virginia) when illegal drug use was rampant (think hippie generation). Pot use was frequently followed by the use of and addiction to more potent and dangerous drugs with severe consequences. Although I support freedom of speech, Dr. Jeck makes a very important point about the unintentional consequences of the article. You might start with 4:20, then advance to 7:10, and then maybe, just maybe, you want to try something even stronger to get that "ultimate high" (that's how addiction can work). In today's world (as crummy and decadent as it has become), a strong drug education program is essential in our public schools (including the use of alcohol). I first was schooled about drugs and alcohol in seventh grade and that was a long, long time ago!
nova_gjones · March 23, 2015 at 9:59 pm
I am sooo happy my kids grew up and are doing well. I don't envy anyone who has a teen growing up in this time. The challenge to get your kids through this is big and I pray for all parents that are doing their best.
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