As we have shared with everyone, John and I are on the run from the United States for marijuana crimes. So, what did we get arrested for that was enough to send us over the border? In reality, we were in possession of some items in our car that the government has deemed illegal, either by themselves or in combination with each other. While we recognized we were traveling with illegal materials, we didn't quite realize we were driving around a car full of felonies.
This was my first arrest, and I know I was facing more time than anyone else in there was, even violent criminals. This was John's second arrest for marijuana, although he faces more time now then he did the first time. It wasn't just the charges, it was where we got them and the attitude of the people we were dealing with. The only thing a lawyer was able to accomplish for us was bail, and he barely managed that. These people seemed hell bent on making an example of us, probably partially due to the fact that the drug task force agent who arrested us had attended my Students for Sensible Drug policy meetings undercover back in college.
This is an image showing some of the items we were caught with when we were arrested. Including: a tube for extracting cannabis oil, although we used to use a butane safe plastic version then, a digital scale, butane and trimmings from the cannabis plant. The second photo a pan very similar to the one we were arrested with, currently (mostly) empty of dab. We found this one in an abandoned house in Detroit after our arrest. At the time it was filthy, but after I cleaned it up I found that it was old PYREX(capitals means it's the old borosilicate stuff, the same stuff I use to blow glass) which meant it's perfect for producing dabs. I'll write an article on some of the things I've found in abandoned houses really soon, as I've found some pretty incredible things.
At the time we weren't aware, but apparently just having butane and cannabis together will get you a Felony 3 for Illegal Assembly of Chemicals. This law was recently put into effect to go after dab producers and meth cooks, as the other chemicals listed as illegal to have together are all chemicals used to cook meth. The fucked up thing about that is many of the chemicals used to make meth are common products found in households, so a charge like this could be pegged to anyone that had two or more of those chemicals despite the purpose for them. With the way this law is written, just having a lighter and weed together could get you this charge, as the law doesn't even specify how much weed or butane you need for the felony charge.
The digital scale was a charge in itself, a felony 5(supposedly minor) for possession of criminal tools. They stated in evidence that they felt it was intended for use to aid in the selling of all the pot we had on us. When asked about it by a lawyer, I stated it was to weigh out medical amounts for dosage, as I was a medical user and intended to use that as my defense.
We have a felony 4 for criminal possession of cannabis, which means possessing between 200-1000 grams of the stuff. Before you get jealous, consider the fact that it was already processed trimmings of cannabis, the stuff cut off the edges before sale, leaves and such with small nugs. By already processed I mean that we had already extracted most of the beneficial oils out of it, and it was essentially inert, or nearly so. We could have gotten a small amount more of dab out of processing it all again, but if the average smoker were to try to get high off of smoking it, it'd take a lot of time and smoking. I know because I've smoked a decent amount of it, in times when out of weed.
The last felony we received was a trafficing charge, which is because we had weed and a scale, and maybe some baggies in the car. People also get trafficing charges if they're caught with weed in more than one container, despite whether they were just trying to keep their strains separate for smoking or for selling purposes.
They took all of these things, as well as John's cellphone which he used to record the whole encounter, including the police dog and the search. They later deleted these videos and returned his phone to him when he was released. They also confiscated between 15-30 pieces of paraphanalia, as we were in the process of moving things to Detroit at that point. They took our bong, all of my pipes, my grinder, torches, although they didn't charge us with anything pertaining to those. They also confiscated an herbal healing salve I had, one I actually reproduced and now use here in Acapulco, made with comfrey and plantain leaves. I figure they probably assumed it had cannabis in it, although it actually didn't. I was confused for a day or so when I was in jail reading the evidence inventory list they gave me, until it dawned on me that I had that jar of salve and had actually used it the day before to cure poison ivy.
Illegal manufacture is a fancy and somewhat intimidating term to describe what we do. When you produce cannabis oils, you start by extracting them, using an extractor similar to the one pictured above. That's actually my first dab extractor that I've made, made to replace our broken ones. You essentially pack the tube rather tightly, to create the correct internal pressure for quality extraction. You put on the coffee filter using a nylon(low-butane reactive, meaning butane doesn't break it down) hair tie. The filters have been proven to filter out mold or anything else harmful that might be in the cannabis, especially important with mexican pot.
The extraction is when you insert the nozzle of the butane into the tube, with the can upside down and press them together to start releasing the butane. The cool thing about glass is you can watch as it travels through the material in the tube, eventually into the pan below, which is heated by a NON-FLAME source. I put that in caps because people are known for being idiots and blowing themselves up, as butane is a flammable gas. This is what the law points to as the danger in dabs, although explosions are a lot less common then they would have you believe. We've only met one guy to blow himself up making dabs, and it was a very stupid but specific set of circumstances that made it happen.
This is a photo of a PYREX pan full of butane and dab, heated by an electric heat gun to remove the butane. Butane wants to be a gas at room temperature and is extremely cold when liquid, so the heat gun helps it evaporate much faster. This is ideal because it helps keep water out of the process, something you don't want in your dabs.
After the pan has had all of the visible butane removed, the dab is scraped out using a razorblade onto parchment paper. Parchment paper is silicone lined, which makes it a great low-reactive non-stick surface to manipulate the finished product on. In the photo, the dab is foamy in appearance, as it still has residual butane attempting to force its way out.
At this point, John uses the heat gun to remove the rest of the butane, although there are other ways to go about it. Many build a vaccum pump, which costs a decent amount to build and makes the product take a lot longer to be ready. It also drastically changes the texture, and can make certain textures like shatter difficult to achieve. Shatter is just a term to describe very firm dab, generally has the appearance of an amber glass and breaks and shatters like candy.
This is the finished product, the substance we are facing more than 25 years in prison for producing. There's a lot of misinformation about this substance in all areas, even with the people who consume it. This is why we made a point to educate people on what we know through our dab workshops, which we've done all over at this point. The judge who would have been sentencing us is on record saying "YOU COULD HAVE KILLED PEOPLE" to a kid who got 4 years for just one of the charges we had, the assembly of chemicals charge. I know my probation officer thought I was insane, and couldn't see how I had survived how many dabs I did in the weeks before my arrest.
At the end of the day, the product is harmless and is actually quite helpful. The process is very similar to processes used to extract all sorts of oils and essential oils. The processes used for many commercial grade cooking oils, including canola, uses hexane instead of butane. Hexane is known to be a toxic substance, and it's hard to get it completely out of the oil. They're putting that into the food supply, but if you switch hexane for high quality butane, and the rapeseed for weed and you've got a felony...or 5 on your hands.