Alternative Perspectives: Dabbers By: D Michelle O’Neal, Senior Forensic Chemist

Dabbers By D Michelle O’Neal

DabberWaxEditedIn the Forensic Drug Chemistry Section where I work we’re seeing more and more of a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) positive taffy-like substance. I’d always referred to it as marihuana ‘budder’ and assumed it was used in special snack treat recipes. Since our lab isn’t in a marihuana friendly state, I decided on a slow afternoon to do some googling and figure out, what exactly are they doing with this stuff? I discovered I’m a little behind the times, there’s a whole new generation of pot-smokers out there called Dabbers.

Through the google searches and YouTube viewings I learned the sticky goo is known as “BHO” (Bubble Hash Oil), “Wax”, “Sap” and “Honeycomb” to name a few. After I skipped through countless videos of rambling stoned guys, they love to hear themselves talk, I deduced the process is fairly simple and cheap. The substance is extracted from marihuana then dried and smoked. It is not used in baking.

Essentially the amateur chemist packs a glass column with marihuana, discharges a canister of butane down through the plant material and collects the liquid onto a heated Pyrex dish. The butane evaporates and the resin bubbles, forming a honeycomb appearance with a syrupy consistency. For the drying stage some use elaborate vacuum pump apparatuses to suck the moisture out. Others simply scoop the goo onto parchment paper placed on a warm griddle to obtain an end product with the viscosity of caramel filling and adhesion properties like Gorilla Glue.

I found several more instructional videos on how to smoke a “dab” of the pasty material. A small piece is placed on the tip of a tool similar to a dental probe. The Dabber heats the metal bowl of an ‘oil rig’ (sort of a newfangled bong) with a blow torch and the dab is then scraped onto wire mesh in the bowl or directly in the bowl and the resulting smoke is inhaled. Finally with a glassy-eyed grin and hearty thumbs-up through a coughing fit the Dabber announces, “Good shit!”

I also watched a couple of twenty minute videos, scored to techno ganja music, as BHO was transformed into a less gummy more desirable form known as ‘Shatter’, a brittle, transparent version resembling hard candy. The extra steps included adding grain alcohol (to drive off the butane) and placing the filtered product in the freezer before drying over a pot of boiling water, however I didn’t see much difference. It all still looked like pecan praline without the pecans and according to Wikipedia is anywhere from 10-90% THC, hardly worth the trouble.

I’ve always prided myself on never being too old to learn something new, but I swear if it weren’t for my occupation I could have gone the rest of my life without knowing an alternate definition for the word dabber. The last time I heard the word I was desperately hoping for a win in a Bingo Hall twenty years ago.


D Michelle O’Neal

D Michelle O’Neal is a Senior Forensic Chemist at the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. With twenty-five years’ experience in drug chemistry, she also assists with the recovery of buried and/or skeletal remains and the collection of trace evidence from suspected homicide victims. She is a member of several professional organizations, a current board member and a past President of the Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists.

In the area of community service Michelle sat for two years as the Board President for The Samaritan House/Samaritan Villages housing project which provides homes for persons living with HIV/AIDS in Fort Worth and she was the 2014 Education Director for the non-profit DFW Writers’ Workshop Conference.

Through the experience gained as a drug analyst and ten years as a crime scene investigator, Ms. O’Neal shares her adventures with a twisted sense of fiction in her novel SHAMBLES.

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