Hash oil is a concentrated cannabis extract that can be smoked, vaped, ingested, or even rubbed against the skin. Also known as cannabis oil, honey oil, BHO, or shatter, it is extracted from cannabis using alcohol like butane and heat. It comprises a higher concentration of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component in cannabis. In simpler terms, the main difference between hash oil and regular weed is pretty similar on the lines of difference between tequila and beer.
In the west, Cannabis oil has been utilized as one of the means for therapy for children with epilepsy. However, the oil that has been approved in these cases for children has been pure CBD oils which lack any presence of THC, eliminating the potential risk of getting children high. However, to implement this in our country, we require to undertake a lot of ground research. Hash oil is also associated to relieve pain, reduce anxiety and depression, alleviate cancer-related symptoms and also carry certain neuro perspective properties.
*Karan, a 24-year-old music producer from Goa, said “My friends and I have started smoking it more since last year’s lockdown.” “It’s a cleaner, more potent high, and easier to smoke because you can just dip a cigarette into it.”
The smoking or vaporizing hash oil is essentially eating a special apparatus with a blowtorch and then applying a bit of the substance to the heated element and inhaling. Widely known as "dabbing", it involves users using a tiny dab to get high.
Hash oil is known for getting people really stoned due to its high concentration of THC. “I’m a high-functioning stoner usually, but when I smoke hash oil, I have to be sitting down,” said Zainab*, a pastry chef from the city of Mumbai. The potential high is added to the fact that the liquid can be stretched out and used for several months.
“We wouldn’t have survived last year’s isolation without hash oil,” admitted Kiara*, a 27-year-old from the south Indian state of Bengaluru. She has been using hash oil for almost seven years, but her consumption pattern increased over the last year. “It’s a relaxant that makes you zone out and empties your mind. But of course, you can’t get any work done.”, she added.
The recent data from India’s excise department, states that weed dealers in India have shifted to hash oil due to its easy concealment and smuggling properties, specifically as dealers look for different ways to escape from the authorities.
“After multiple huge consignments of ganja (Indian slang for marijuana) were seized by the DRI (India’s intelligence agency), excise, and police departments in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the suppliers started manufacturing hashish oil as an alternative,” said an excise official in February. “Unlike ganja, it is easy to conceal and transport hashish oil.”
NCB in a bust from November 2020 discovered that a Kerala syndicate was smuggling hash oil from Andhra Pradesh into Bengaluru and Kerala. The oil also was smuggled overseas to countries including Maldives, Sri Lanka, and the Middle East. A busted operation in Hyderabad in December 2020 revealed that the southern Indian city also had many young users.
“Hash oil is light and doesn’t smell [as strong], so many people smuggle it in syringes, lip balms, tic tac boxes, tablet kits, and cosmetics cases,” said Kiara. “Once, we even smuggled it into a music festival by stashing it in a friend’s hair.”
Hash oil is often sold discreetly and it is priced between Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 ($66 to $106) for ten grams depending on which Indian city you buy it from.
“It’s important to note that while the street name is hash oil, this extract is mostly made in India using weed,” said Kiara, who has seen and assisted friends to prepare hash oil out of home-based makeshift labs.
“Butane is sometimes used as the alcohol to help extract the oil from the bud, though it can give the oil a very acrylic taste. Isopropyl is more commonly used to make hash oil.” In India, butane is also substituted with acetone, an alcohol solution commonly used to clean houses or remove nail paint. “But that gives it a very chemical flavor,” mentioned Zainab. However, as easy as it may sound with all the mentioned hacks, brewing hash oil is a dangerous process that cause death by explosion.
“You have to sweep the weed for hours, use a lot of funnels and heat to extract the oil,” explained Kiara. “Once, when my friends and I tried to make it, I was afraid we would blow up the house.” To convert cannabis into hash oil, the most common technique relies on having to use a large amount of butane—the liquid in lighters, i.e. an extremely flammable substance—which can explode if ignited.
“In Mumbai, it’s more of a luxury, and you’ll see mostly rich kids with the right contacts for other highs like hydro buds doing it,” said Kunal*, a 25-year-old marketing professional from Mumbai. “There’s a whole hype around it because it’s so exclusive, which adds to its attraction.”
The preparation of Hash oil often involves individuals getting confused or mixing up proportions due to lack of knowledge. While vaping hash oil is widely practiced in western countries, Indian black markets sell vape pens to absorb CBD extracts or wax, making the consistency and form of Indian-made hash oil more difficult to vape.
It is also witnessed that hash oil induces users with a more powerful trip as well as stronger withdrawal symptoms.
Rishabh*, a 27-year-old filmmaker from Bengaluru talked about how he has been refraining from hash oil despite the increasing cravings. “I couldn’t sleep at night and started feeling groggy in the morning after I stopped smoking hash oil. I had to stop because I couldn’t get any work done, and would often get blackouts if I mixed oil and alcohol,” he stated.
“I’m not a smoker otherwise, but since you need tobacco to roll hash oil, it made me dependent on nicotine as well. While regular hash usually gives you a mellow trip, hash oil is an intense head and body high, so it also makes you more paranoid if you do too much”, he added.
Thus, hash oil similar to weed either allows relaxation or well-being or causes an experience that is unable to handle, leading to anxiety and paranoia.
“Hash oil is something that veteran [stoners] use. You would rarely find a first-time user smoking it,” Kripi Malviya, the co-founder of TATVA, a deaddiction and rehabilitation center, mentions. “The high is stronger, so even people who’ve built up a tolerance level to regular weed have a more intense experience.”
Malviya, who works towards advocating drug safety across the country says that that hash oil could also potentially trigger psychosis in users. “Marijuana is seen as a lifestyle, not a drug. So while I have seen cases of people getting addicted to hash oil, there are not enough people reporting it or seeking professional help.”