Marijuana wax in Minnesota: What it is, and why officials say it's dangerous

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A new form of marijuana made its way to Minnesota in recent months, and it's alarming officials across the state.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety issued a public safety alert Wednesday about the dangers of both the use and manufacturing of marijuana concentrates – often called marijuana wax.

At least two people have overdosed from using the drug, and officials have tied the death of a woman to the production of the drug.

Before we get into the details, here's a look at what marijuana wax is.

What is marijuana wax?

Marijuana wax, which is also known as "butane hash oil," "honey oil," budder wax" "dabs" and "710," looks just as the name suggests and is said to be one of the strongest forms of marijuana on the market, Complex says.

Manufacturers use highly flammable butane (yes, lighter fluid) to extract THC (the chemical responsible for most of the drug's psychological effects) from the marijuana plant, DPS says.

The result is a highly concentrated, much more potent form of the drug that resembles butter or honey, which is then smoked using a water pipe (an act that's referred to as dabbing), smoked through a vaporizer (similar to e-cigarettes) or ingested (infusing the wax into food or drinks).

Why it's dangerous

THC levels in typical pot that people buy on the street and smoke is around 14 percent, DPS says.

Wax has a THC content ranging from 30-90 percent.

The average THC level in marijuana concentrates averaged 54 percent in 2013, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported. The high levels of THC can create a more intense physical and psychological effect when it's used, but it's long-term effects aren't known.

Not only is this drug more potent, but manufacturing it is also very dangerous.

Butane, which is a commonly used to make the wax, is highly flammable and has resulted in fires, explosions, death and injuries across the country.

DPS officials compared the dangers to a meth lab during a news conference Wednesday.

There is also the risk of butane or other toxic flammables ending up in the wax, which is then consumed by the user.

Officials say the drug is also easy to conceal and doesn't have a smell.

On the rise in Minnesota

The manufacturing and use of marijuana wax is on the rise in Minnesota since it first showed up in the state a few months ago, officials said Wednesday.

Of the 23 drug task forces across the state, most have seen an increase in the use and manufacturing of marijuana wax, including the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force in Mankato, the East Central Drug and Violent Offenders Task Force, and the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force in Duluth, the DPS says.

Drug linked to overdoses, death

There have been at least two reported overdoses from the drug in Duluth in recent weeks.

The mother of one of the teenagers who overdosed said her son was hallucinating, hearing noises and was eventually rushed to the hospital when he was having trouble breathing.

And on Wednesday, the Stearns County Attorney's Office filed third-degree murder charges in connection with a marijuana wax manufacturing operation that resulted in an explosion and fire last fall. The fire led to the death of 85-year-old Sally Douglas of St. Cloud.

Dustin Ross Zablocki, 18, of St. Cloud, and Justin Edward Pick, 19, of Sauk Rapids, were charged Wednesday, the St. Cloud Times reports. Charges say the fire was caused by the manufacturing of marijuana wax, officials said at the news conference Wednesday.

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