Named for its viscous, sticky, amber consistency, marijuana wax is a potent cannabis extract. With THC concentrations up to 90%, wax is most commonly sought out by recreational cannabis users that have built up a high THC tolerance or medical patients looking for immediate and long-lasting relief.  

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Wax is extracted by washing cannabinoid-rich plant material with a solvent, usually butane. That’s why you might also hear it referred to as butane hash oil (BHO). Extracting cannabis wax is not for the amateur. That’s because working with butane, a highly flammable gas, is dangerous and can lead to explosions if not done properly. The safest way to get cannabis wax is to buy it from a reputable brand and a regulated dispensary. 

So what do you do once you’ve gotten a hold of top quality wax? In this article, we’ll break down the many ways you can consume wax as well as how to do so safely.

Safety Tips Before You Consume Marijuana Wax

Marijuana wax typically contains between 70% and 90% THC. That means it is extremely potent. The benefits of this potency include almost immediate and powerful medical relief and recreational effects. 

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However, high-THC products also increase the likelihood that you’ll experience the side effects of THC, including paranoia, anxiety, and dry mouth. 

Follow these safety tips to mitigate the risks of consuming cannabis wax:

  • Go low and slow. Always use a very small amount of wax, even if you are a veteran smoker. Think half the size of a pinky nail. Take a slow pace between dabs. Wait a minimum of two hours before taking another hit. 
  • Don’t mix substances. Because alcohol can intensify the effects of weed, consuming both substances can lead to green out
  • Choose a safe environment. This is particularly important if you have never consumed wax before. Since you aren’t sure how your body will react, it’s a good idea to consume wax in the most comfortable area of your home (preferably a place where you can easily lay down). 
  • Keep company. In case you have an adverse reaction, it’s a good idea to have someone around who can help calm you down or get you medical attention if needed. If you can’t have anyone in your home, at least let a friend or two know what you’re up to so they can check in. 
  • Stay hydrated. One of the side effects of THC is dry mouth. Keep water nearby to reduce that discomfort. 

Whether you are looking for powerful medical relief or amplified recreation, the responsible consumption of marijuana wax can be a great addition to your cannabis experience. 

How to Dab Marijuana Wax

Dabbing with a Rig

The most popular way to consume marijuana wax is to dab it. Aptly named, dabs are very small amounts of cannabis wax smoked with a dab rig. A dab rig is a special type of water pipe consisting of a glass body, a nail (or banger), and a mouthpiece. 

Like other inhalation methods, cannabis wax can be inhaled after heat is applied to it. Unlike other inhalation methods, you’ll need a blow torch to light a dab rig. It sounds (and looks) a lot more dramatic than it actually is. Here’s how you do it in three steps:

  • Step 1: Use the blow torch to heat up the dab nail for about 30 seconds. Then wait about a minute to let the nail cool down to a temperature that won’t combust the wax. 
  • Step 2: After the minute-long cool down, use a dab tool to scoop a tiny portion of the wax (think half the size of a pinky nail) and place it on the nail. When the dab is placed on the nail, it will immediately sizzle into an inhalable vapor. 
  • Step 3: As you dab the wax onto the heated nail, simultaneously inhale from the mouthpiece.  

Dabbing with Knives

If you want to dab, but don’t have a dab rig or a blow torch, you might have everything you need in your kitchen cabinets for a knife dab. Here’s how to use knives to dab:

  • Step 1: Take two butter knives and simultaneously heat their tips on a stove burner until they are red hot. 
  • Step 2: While your knives are heating, cut off the bottom two-thirds of a 16.9-ounce water bottle.  Then cut one square out of the side of the bottle. This square is a slot that the knives will be able to fit through. Keep the top of the bottle standing mouthpiece up on a table. 
  • Step 3: Use a dabbing tool (you could use a paper clip if you don’t have a dab-specific wand) to scoop a small amount of the wax onto one of the heated knives. Slide the knife into the square slot you cut out of the bottle, then place the other heated knife directly on top of it. Squeeze the heated knife tips together so that the dab is sandwiched between them and inhale from the bottle’s mouthpiece. 

How to Vape Cannabis Wax

You can vape cannabis wax for a combustion-free inhalation method.  A high-quality, portable dab pen is much more convenient than toting around a dab rig and blow torch. 

Here’s how to vape wax using a dab pen in four steps:

  • Step 1: Take off the top cap of the dab pen to access the heating coils. 
  • Step 2: Use your dabbing tool to place a very small amount of wax onto the coils. If you put too much wax in the heating chamber, the excess will drain into a reservoir.
  • Step 3: Prime the wax by turning the dab pen on just enough to slightly melt the wax into the wick. 
  • Step 4: Replace the top cap and take a 5-second hit, keeping your finger on the power button. Alternatively, you can put your vape pen in your pocket or bag for later use. 

Elevate Your Flower with Marijuana Wax

You can add wax to your flower for a more potent dry herb experience. There are two ways to do this:

  • Add wax to your bowl. Use a dab tool to place a tiny amount of wax right on top of the flower in your bowl. Then, hold a lighter over the wax (don’t directly touch the wax with the flame) until it melts into the flower. Once it has melted as evenly as possible into the flower, you can light one end of the bowl and take a hit. 
  • Add wax to your joint. You can add a thin top layer of crumbled wax onto the flower in your joint for a slightly concentrated roll. 

How Cannabis Wax is Extracted

There are many ways to extract cannabis, but they are all variations of this process: cannabis plant matter is exposed to a chemical solvent (butane or ethanol are commonly used) or a natural solvent (water, ice, CO2, freezing temperatures) that separates cannabinoids (and sometimes terpenes, too) from the plant matter. The extracted cannabinoids are then purified of the solvent, and the remaining substance is the concentrate.

The actual process is far more complicated—and even dangerous—than this simple explanation captures. Amateur extraction artists using butane, for example, have been known to accidentally blow up entire sections of their homes. For that reason, it is best to purchase concentrate from a reputable brand rather than attempting the process on your own.

The Potential Drawbacks

Detail of cannabis concentrate extracted from the marijuana plant for medical use, isolated over white background iStock / rgbspace
Cavazos-Regh’s study enumerated the negative effects of concentrates as identified by frequent concentrate consumers. The following were the most common reasons patients did not like concentrates. Some patients found that concentrates were:

  • cost-prohibitive
  • too chemically processed
  • inaccessible or too difficult to make
  • increase tolerance too much
  • lack sufficient research supporting their use
  • lack sufficient research exploring their long-term health effects

Patients also expressed discontentment with the side effects of concentrates. The most commonly reported adverse reactions to concentrates included confusion, heart palpitations, lung pain, and severe paranoia.

Another potential drawback to the frequent use of concentrates is its association with cannabis use disorder. A 2018 Addictive Behavior Resorts study by Professor Cinnamon Bidwell found that “concentrate users endorsed higher symptoms of cannabis use disorder and use higher strength cannabis even when using non-concentrated forms.” Bidwell concluded that the “frequent use of concentrates may be associated with additional risks over and above frequent use of flower forms.”

While Stith’s study made the remarkable conclusion that THC plays a more important role in the therapeutic efficacy of cannabis than CBD, she also found that concentrates were less likely to produce positive effects and that higher concentrations of THC were associated with negative side effects. Her study determined that cannabis flower, not concentrates, was “generally associated with greater symptom relief than other types of products.”

The frustrating reality is that the market has zoomed past the science, and that may or may not be a dangerous debacle. The popularity of concentrates has exploded over the past few years which means that an increasing number of people are consuming much higher concentrations of THC than researchers have yet to determine is safe. This is not the fault of inept researchers. Rather, it is yet another consequence of prohibition. It is exceedingly difficult for researchers located in the United States to legally access concentrates for their research since these products are federally prohibited. Until the long-term effects of cannabis concentrates are better understood, consumers should proceed with caution.