A highly concentrated form of marijuana – known as marijuana wax – is becoming more common in Minnesota, particularly in the northwestern Twin Cities metro area.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety held a news conference Friday with area police departments to discuss the increased prevalence of the drug.
The department says that just in the first three months of 2016, the Northwest Metro Violent Crime Enforcement Team – which makes up eight law enforcement agencies – seized more than 12 pounds of marijuana wax.
In all of last year, the team seized less than a quarter pound.
All across the state, the drug has become more popular.
According to the Department of Public Safety, the amounts sized have increased by 665 percent in five years.
In 2011, less than a half pound was seized. In 2015, 27 pounds were seized.
What is marijuana wax?
Marijuana wax is the street name for marijuana concentrates. It's also known as "butane hash oil," "honey oil," "budder," "dabs" and "710." It contains very high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the chemical that gets users high.
The marijuana people typically smoke have THC levels around 14 percent, the DPS says.
Marijuana wax is much more concentrated than that. According to the Department, wax can contain anywhere from 30 to 90 percent THC.
The high levels of THC have been known to cause increased rates of cannabis induced psychosis, increased blood pressure and heart rate, nausea, and impaired concentration and judgement for prolonged periods of time.
In the past year, Hennepin County Medical Center has reported nine instances where patients were treated for marijuana wax symptoms. Six of the patients were teenagers.
Making marijuana concentrates is also dangerous. Manufacturers use butane (lighter fluid) to extract the THC from marijuana plants. People who make the drug have died or been injured in fires and explosions.
Last fall, one St. Cloud woman died in a fire after her grandson is said to have been trying to make the wax in the home.
And last month, there were at least two overdoses reported in Duluth.
The mother of one teen who overdosed said her son was hallucinating, hearing noises and was eventually rushed to the hospital when he was having trouble breathing.
The drug can be smoked using a water pipe or ingested with food and drinks.