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KPBS Midday Edition

A Look At California's Hash Oil Business Boom

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A Look At California's Hash Oil Business Boom
A Look At California's Hash Oil Business Boom
A Look at California's Hash Oil Business Boom GUEST:Mike Sager, journalist and author

THIS IS KPBS MIDDAY EDITION. WHEN AND IF MARIJUANA BECOMES A LEGAL RECREATIONAL DRUG IN CALIFORNIA. MANY OF US WILL LEARN 21st CENTURY MARIJUANA USE IS NOT LIKE SMOKING YOUR GRANDMOTHER'S DOOBY. THEY'RE EDIBLES AND GUMMIES AND MARIJUANA VAPPING OILS. MAKIEWICZ SAYINGER IS MIKE SAGER'S ARTICLE ON THE MARIJUANA. HOW IS USING HASH OIL DIFFERENT FROM ROLLING A CIGARETTE. NOW A DAY IT IS QUITE DIFFERENT PRODUCTION TO USE HASH OIL. IN THE OLD DAY YOU USE CRUSH AND GRIND A LITTLE BIT AND PUT IT IN A PAPER AND PIPE AND LIGHT IT UP IN SMOKE. HASH HAVE EVOLVE THE WHOLE--IT IS VERY GUMMY AND WHAT THEY'RE DOING IT IS LIGHTING IT IN ORDER TO MAKE IT GO FROM A SOLID TO A GAS QUICKLY. SO IT IS A LITTLE MORE DIFFICULT TO USE CONCENTRATES UNLESS YOU ARE EATING THEM. THEY DON'T STINK LIKE POT. THE BUZZ WORD IS DISCREET. UH-HUH. SO YOU SORT OF USE IT IN A GLASS PIPE LIKE A BONG. IT COULD BE USE IN A GLASS PIPE LIKE A BONG. IT COULD BE USE IN A SMALL VAPE PING PIN AS A SOLID. PROBABLY AS YOU ARE WALKING DOWN THE STREETS AND SEEING KIDS VAPING, SOME PERCENTAGE OF THOSE KIDS ARE USING MARIJUANA. THIS IS THE MOST INTERESTING PART OF THE STORY ATTRACTED ME TO IT. IT IS ILLEGAL TO MAKE ASH OIL IN ALL BUT TWO STATES OF AMERICA. HOWEVER, IT IS 15 STATES ALLOWING THE SALE OF HASH OIL AND NEW STATES, RECENT LAW LIKE NEW YORK WOULD BE A TREND SETTING LAW TOTALLY ELIMINATES SMOKING POT AT ALL BECAUSE OF THE BUG-A-BOO OF SMOKING. HASH OIL BECOMES AN IMPORTANT SORT OF THING TO AN INDUSTRY THAT LOOKS AT PROJECTION AROUND $47 BILLION AS MORE AND MORE STATES COME ONLINE. NEW YORK'S MARIJUANA LAW DOES NOT ALLOW ANYONE TO USE MARIJUANA SO THEY HAVE TO USE THE HASH OIL PRODUCT. THE OTHER THING THAT'S INTERESTING ABOUT HASH OILS IS AND THERE IS BIG COMPANIES IN COLORADO THAT MAKES--THEY'RE GETTING CLOSE TO MAKING A MEDICAL MARIJUANA PRODUCT THAT'S ACTUALLY THE SAME FROM TIME TO TIME. I MEAN, RIGHT NOW THE STANDARD OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA IS EAT A PIECE OF BROWNIE. WHAT THEY'RE DOING IS IN THE LEGALIZE PROCESS, THIS MAYBE IMPORTA CALIFORNIA VOTERS BECAUSE ALL THE MARIJUANA SOLD IN SHOPS IN COLORADO HAVE LIKE A CRADLE TO GRAVE BAR CODE. YOU KNOW FROM THE FIELD ALL THE WAY TO THE STORE, THERE IS A BAR CODE AND THERE IS TESTING AND YOU KNOW YOU ARE GETTING. THEY'RE DOING IT A LITTLE PILL AND YOU CAN PUT IT ON YOUR TONGUE. IT WORKS IN TEN MINUTES. IT IS MORE LIKE TAKING MEDICINE. I THINK THAT'S BEEN THE PROBLEM WITH MEDICAL MARIJUANA. I HAVE BEEN A JOURNALIST FOR 38 YEARS AND I KNEW THE GUY BACK IN THE' 60s AND ALL OF THAT THING. THE THING IS IF WE ARE GOING TO CALL IT MEDICAL MARIJUANA WHICH IS IN SOME CIRCUMSTANCES, THERE NEEDS TO BE A MEDICAL SOLUTION. HASH OIL DOES HELP SOLVE THAT PROBLEM. IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN PHYSICAL REACTION AS OPPOSE TO THE OLD MARIJUANA JOINT. I THINK SO. IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT NOT TOO BE MISTICAL HERE AT MIDDAY. SOME PEOPLE GET HUNGRY AND PHILOSOPHICAL AND SOME PEOPLE GET REALLY PARANOID AND MARIJUANA IS DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE. BUT, THE DIFFERENCE IN THE HIGH ESSENTIALLY IS WHEN YOU SMOKE HASH OIL, YOU GET A HIGHER HIGH THAT DISSIPATES QUICKLY AND MAKES YOU SLEEPY. WHERE AS MARIJUANA COMES IN SEVERAL STRINGS, AND IN GENERAL, IT KEEPS YOU HIGH A LITTLE LONGER AND PROBABLY ABOUT FOUR HOURS. IT IS NOT SO INTENSE BUT IT WEARS OFF GRADUALLY. AND HASH OIL IS TWO OR THREE TIMES CONCENTRATED AND STRONGER THAN MARIJUANA EVEN THOUGH THE STRAINS THEY HAVE TO TAKE. I DON'T WANT TO GO FURTHER OF THIS CONVERSATION WITH TALKING ABOUT THE PEOPLE THAT YOU HAVE BEEN HANGING OUT WITH THIS ARTICLE. THERE IS A WHOLE SUB CULTURE IN MAKING THIS MARIJUANA PRODUCT, TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE PEOPLE INVOLVED. WELL, MY MOTIVATION IN DOING ALL OF THESE STORY AND FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS AND ALMOST 40 YEARS. I HAVE BEEN LIVING WITH CRACK GANGS AND HEROINE DOERS ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE AND METH PEOPLE WHEN I FIRST CAME TO HAWAII, I AM A CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGIST, THIS IS ONE AREA TO STUDY THAT PEOPLE WILL YOU TO STUDY BECAUSE IT IS INTERESTING TO READ. IN GOING TO THIS HASH OIL THING, RIGHT NOW IN SAN DIEGO, IT IS VERY HOT IN THE INDUSTRY BECAUSE THERE HAS BEEN IN THE PAST A DEA TASK FORCE AND COMBINED WITH LOCALS AND THERE IS BEEN MORE THAN 20 BUSTS OVER THE LAST YEAR. SO, YOU KNOW A LOT IS GOING ON IN THE FIELD. SO IT IS DIFFICULT TO DESCEND INTO THE DEPTH OF THIS ILLEGAL PRACTICE WHICH IS CARRIED OUT BASICALLY IN RURAL AREAS, IN BACKYARDS AND UNDER CANOPIES A FARMS. THE PEOPLE THAT DO IT, AND I SAY IT THEY'RE KIND OF THE HEISENBERG OF HASH OILS. MANY OF THE PEOPLE I MET ARE THE SUPER SMART KIDS IN HIGH SCHOOL THAT DID NOT GET ALONG WITH EDUCATION. THAT DOES NOT MEAN THEY'RE SMART. THOSE KIDS DRIFTED IN A WORLD WHERE THEY LIKE THIS KIND OF, THEY CAME INTO CONTACT WITH HASH OIL AND LIKED IT AND DECIDED THAT THEY WANT TO MAKE IT. EVERYONE HAS MADE HASH OILS HAVE LEARNED ON YOUTUBE. WOW. THEY LIKE STAR WARS AND THEY'RE SORT OF A L NERDY EVEN THOUGH THEY LOOKED BIG AND TOUGH. IT IS AN INTERESTING CULTURE, IT IS A VERY AMERICAN CULTURE OF SELF MADE MEN WITH SOME WOMEN WHO HAVE KIND OF LEARNED TO DO THIS ON THEIR OWN AND THEY HAVE A NETWORK OF PEOPLE AND THEY HAVE MADE IMPROVEMENTS YEAR AFTER YEAR. NOW, WE CONTACTED DA IN SAN DIEGO TO TALK ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THERE HAVE BEEN EXPLOSIONS LINKED TO HASH OIL MANUFACTURING HERE AND INDEED THERE HAVE. WE GOT A QUOTE OF HONEY OIL IS THE NEW METH LAB. IS HASH OIL PRODUCTION LIKE MAKING METH? AS A SOUND BITE, WE CAN SAY, YES. THERE IS A CERTAIN DEGREE OF THAT. THERE AS CHEMICAL EXPERTISE INVOLVED THA MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE GOING INTO IT. BUTANE HASH OIL USING ONE CHEMICAL WHICH IS HIGHLY VOLATILE BUTANE, THERE IS NOT A WHOLE LOT OF EQUIPMENT, THERE IS NOT ALL THESE BUBBLING THINGS HERE AND THERE. I DON'T THINK IT IS QUITE SO, HIGH-TECH, A, AND B, THE PEOPLE WHO USE AND MAKE MARIJUANA ARE NOT THE SAME AS THE PEOPLE WHO USE AND MAKE METH. METH MAKES YOU REALLY CRAZY. AND, YOU KNOW, I AM NOT GOING TO TRUST ANYONE ON METH ON ANYTHING. THERE IS A SIMILARITY TO BE DRAWN. THERE IS ONE STORY OF SOMEBODY BLOWING UP IN HOTEL ROOMS NEAR THE HARBOR AND RUNNING DOWN THE STREETS ON FIRE. THERE ARE SOME STORIES THAT I DID DOETS NOTICE THAT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH CHILD ENDANGERMENT. THERE IS A DANGER, AS LONG ASS GOVERNMENT KEEPS THIS AN THE GOVERNMENT CLEEPS THIS AN OUT LAWED FORCE. BECAUSE IT IS AVAILABLE IN EVERY DISPENSARY FOR INSTANCE, IT IS LEGAL TO MAKE IT IN SAN DIEGO. IT WAS JUST LIKE WHEN POT WAS FIRST LEGALIZED IN CALIFORNIA. YOU COULD NOT GROW. SO WHERE WAS IT SUPPOSED TO COME FROM? I THINK THIS POINTS OUT OUR PROBLEM WITH MORAL AND HOW ALL OF THIS STUFF IS NOT JUST ABOUT LAWS. IT IS ABOUT EACH SIDE AND HOW MUCH MORAL GROUND THEY'RE GOING TO GIVE UP. SO THEY MAKE IT STUPID. IT IS THE LAWS, THE LAWS ARE KIND OF STUPID RIGHT NOW AND A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO ARE AFRAID. YOU SPOKE WITH A GUY IN COLORADO WHO'S OVERCOMING THESE PROBLEMS. IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO MAKE HASH OIL AND PRODUCTS IN COLORADO. THIS MAN IS BECOMING, HE'S ON THE VERGE OF BECOMING A BILL NAR. BILLIONAIRE. YOU WILL FIND PICTURES OF SOMEONE WHO'S LARGER THAN LIFE DOING IT. THE FACT IS THE GUY IN MY ARTICLE, WHO WE SHOW MAKING HASH OIL FOR US TO SEE. HE USES THE SAME EQUIPMENT AS SOME LAB IN DENVER AND THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT IT HAS BEEN CHECKED OUT BY SOME GUY IN A LAB COAT. THE GOVERNMENT IS COLLECTING A LOT OF MONEY IN ALL THESE INSTANCES. SOME OF THESE MAKERS CANNOT AFFORD WHAT IT IS GOING TO TAKE TO BUILD AL LAB AND GET IT CHECKED OFF. YOU SPENT A LOT OF TIME IN THIS ARTICLE AND LOOKING AT PEOPLE YOU CALLED DABBERS AND THEY MAKE THESE VARIOUS KINDS OF MARIJUANA CONCENTRATES AND THEY ALL SMELLED AND TASTED DIFFERENT. WHAT HAPPENS TO THESE PRODUCERS WHEN CALIFORNIA LEGALIZES THESE USE AND THE BIG GUYS COME IN. ON THE ONE HAND I CAN SAY, WELL, SOME OF THESE GUYS TOLD ME THEY MADE QUITE A BIT OF MONEY DOING WHAT THEY DO. A GUY WHO EXTRACTS MARIJUANA GETS 50% OF THE OIL TO SELL HIMSELF. SO, SOME OF THESE GUYS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO HAVE A MASS SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY WHICH ONE COULD THINK THEY COULD GET TOGETHER AND CREATE A LAB. I KNOW OTHER PEOPLE, I KNOW GROWERS WHO HAVE BEEN GROWING FOR YEARS AND YEARS AND THEY'RE INTERESTED IN GETTING THIS AND THEY'RE QUITE COMFORTABLE IN THEIR OPERATIONS. YOU KNOW, THEY HAVE WAREHOUSES AND YOU KNOW ALL THE VARIOUS THINGS THAT MAKES IT LOOKED LIKE KOSHER. IF IT WAS KOSHER, THEY'RE READY TO GO. THERE WILL BE LITTLE GUYS BLASTING ON THE SIDE BUT I THINK THAT THE OVERALL--MEAN, RIGHT NOW YOU HAVE FWO OTHER STATES THAT'S LEGAL AND OTHER STATES THAT'S SELLING IT AND OTHER STATES THAT'S MAKING IT. THE ARTICLE, "DAB ARTIST" CAN BE FOUND ON OUR WEBSITE. I HAVE BEEN SPEAKING WITH JOURNALIST MIKE SEGER. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR COMING IN TODAY THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Twenty-first century marijuana is not like smoking your grandmother's doobie.

There are an array of marijuana products available using forms of cannabis concentrate, also known as hash oil, and it is becoming a growing business in California.

Hash oil is legal to use under the state’s medical marijuana laws but illegal to make. There have been several explosions linked to hash oil production in San Diego County and law enforcement is busting illegal operations.

Mike Sager is an author and award-winning journalist who immersed himself in hash oil business and got to know the people involved in "dabbing" culture.

His investigation, "Dab Artists: The craftsman at the front-edge of the marijuana-concentrate boom" appears in the latest edition of California Sunday Magazine.

"Hash oil has evolved a whole culture around it," Sager told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. "The industry likes to point out they don't stink like pot. The buzz word is 'discreet.'"

Sager said the people who make hash oil are smart people.

"Many of the people I met are the super smart kids in high school who kind of didn't get along with education," he said. "They came into contact with hash oil and liked it. It's a very American culture of self-made men and women who have learned how to do this on their own."