Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, officers are seeing the rise of a new marijuana product called wax in California and other states, DEA officials said Friday.
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“In a beer or glass of wine, the intoxicating ingredient is alcohol. In marijuana, the intoxicating ingredient is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC,” said Sgt. Bob Wachsmuth of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Juvenile Intervention Team, which focuses on drug crimes. “Regular marijuana today has a THC level of 20 to 25 percent, but wax is concentrated and is well over 35 percent THC and stronger.”
The effects of wax on users range from psychological dependency to hallucinations, and the production of the product can be dangerous, according to Rusty Payne, a DEA spokesman.
Unlike the traditional hash plant, the new wax concentrate is extracted from the entire cannabis plant rather than just the buds and leaves, which significantly increases THC levels, Payne said.
DEA officials received reports indicating wax THC purities range from 88 percent to 99 percent, four times the potency of high quality marijuana, officials said.
“We’re seeing this really dangerous trend that’s very alarming,” Payne said. “Marijuana is being converted into this highly potent concentrate that has a much higher THC content than a traditional marijuana plant. We’re seeing the abuse and the production, which is causing major explosions and even death.”
The butane extraction method is the most commonly used technique to create wax and can be highly dangerous if done improperly, causing the explosions Payne is referring to.
“The butane extraction method is really dangerous, especially if they’re indoors,” Payne said. “If they don’t have the right ventilation, these butane vapors settle on the floor and can cause explosions. Even with the right ventilation you can still have explosions. They are reporting one explosion per day just in our Denver division.”
Like any typical drug investigation, the DEA is cracking down on the production and use of wax in California and other states by pursuing drug traffickers, cultivators and labs, as well as raising public awareness, officials said.
“This is the slippery slope we’re going down when we’re being told marijuana is harmless and should be legal, regulated and taxed — that it’s not dangerous compared to other drugs,” Payne said. “We have relaxed marijuana laws in places like California and Colorado and people are having major problems and houses are exploding. As we advance in chemistry and science and new techniques emerge and evolve, unfortunately, we run the risk of going down this road even further.”
While there currently is not a high occurrence of wax use or production in Santa Clarita, patrol units recognize it when they see it and make arrests when appropriate, said Bill Velek, a detective with the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station’s Drug Unit.
For more information, click here to visit the DEA’s website.
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