published Sunday, June 29th, 2014

High-potency 'dabs' make way to Manchester

A Manchester police officer processes seized drugs including butane hash oil, known as "dabs", stemming from arrests made during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival earlier this month.
A Manchester police officer processes seized drugs including butane hash oil, known as "dabs", stemming from arrests made during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival earlier this month.
Photo: Manchester Police Department

A new, super-potent form of marijuana known as "dabs" made its way to Manchester, Tenn., with the Bonnaroo festival crowd this month, adding another drug concern for law enforcement in Tennessee.

Old hippies might recognize the concentrated oil extract as something like hash oil that was popular in the 1970s, but this version -- called butane hash oil or BHO for the manufacturing process -- is far stronger, according to Manchester Police Department Chief Mark Yother.

Dabs also goes by names like "wax" and "shatter" for the consistencies in which the substance is found. It's often smoked in water pipes and electronic cigarettes and can be added to foods, authorities said.

High-grade marijuana, in plant form, contains up to 25 percent of pot's intoxicating ingredient THC, while dabs can contain 80-90 percent THC, officers said.

Manchester police confiscated the drug while patrolling the four-day Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival that ran there June 12-15.

While that is thought to be one of the first appearances of the drug in Tennessee, Manchester police said their battle against concentrated THC probably is just beginning. Yother and chief investigator Billy Butler said they're worried dabs could become a dangerous new drug manufacturing problem in Tennessee.

Dabs is made by using butane gas to extract the brown, sticky oil that contains THC and then the butane is allowed to evaporate, making the manufacturing process very dangerous if heat or flame is used in the process, Yother and Butler said.

National media outlets such as CNBC and regional outlets in Western states have reported an increasing number of explosions from people processing dabs at home. In some locations where marijuana is legal to use and grow, it's also legal to process into other forms. And in some places such as Denver, manufacturing the concentrate is a legal commercial operation, police said.

Dabs got its start in the Western states of Colorado and California where marijuana laws are more lax, and the concentrate has continued its march eastward, according to authorities.

"It takes an awful lot of the plant resin to make a little amount of dabs. It looks like a 'dab,'" Butler said. "It's what they're using in the e-cigs these days."

Butler said the concentrate is produced legally in some places for medical use by patients with neurological problems.

"Obviously, they weren't selling this stuff out here for medical purposes," Butler said of the drug that showed up at Bonnaroo.

Manchester police made two arrests related to the drug, including a pair of men from Colorado who were caught with dozens of small containers filled with small amounts of the gooey substance.

According to the arrest report, an undercover officer bought a quarter-ounce of marijuana from a vendor booth operated by Robert A. Jones, 48, and Michael Holder Simons, 40, and when given consent to search they found Jones in the back of their tent "converting marijuana into a waxy THC substance known as dabs."

Police seized dabs in 42 electronic cigarettes, 197 rubber containers, two glass jars and three larger containers, and 106 plastic bags containing five grams of marijuana in each and a plastic-wrapped pound of pot, the report states. Officers also seized more than $14,000 in cash and 16 grams of psychedelic mushrooms.

Arresting officer Jonathon A. Anthony states that Jones told police that he grew marijuana at his home in Colorado and had several plants there that he used in manufacturing dabs.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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