Unless you spend a lot of time in medical-state dispensaries, you probably haven't encountered the latest superstrong stoner craze: butane-extracted hash oil (BHO). How potent is it? A chunk of the stuff the size of a Tic Tac can be the equivalent of hoovering up an entire joint in one massive toke. Even for hardcore smokers, the experience – which fans call dabbing – can be like getting high for the very first time. Your head spins, your eyes get fluttery, a few beads of sweat surface on your forehead and, suddenly, you're cosmically baked.
BHO – which costs between $25 and $100 a gram, depending on where you live – comes in a variety of consistencies: from hard, amber-like stuff ("shatter") to soft, golden goop ("budder" or "earwax"). The basic process is surprisingly simple: Pack herb (often leftover parts after the buds have been removed) into a tube and force a solvent (usually butane) through it. The solvent is evaporated off, leaving just the plant's resins – which are chock-full of psychoactive chemicals, including astronomic levels of THC that can exceed 80 percent.
For maximum, insane-in-the-membrane elevation, fans use a "rig" – a small bong with a titanium nail where the bowl would be. A blowtorch gets the nail red-hot, and when the dab is touched to the nail it vaporizes instantly. (It looks sort of crack-y, leading weed activists to worry dabs could set back the movement.) And BHO got meth-lab-style bad press when amateur chemists forgot they were working with a volatile gas and were injured in explosions.
But as long as it's made by pros, BHO is just megastrong weed – and probably reasonably safe. Still, it can't hurt to take the advice of Ian Williams, a budtender at Denver's Verde Wellness Center: "Use it like a dessert, not like steak and potatoes."
This story is from the June 20th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.