Hash oil is a concentrated cannabis extract that can be smoked, vaped, eaten, or rubbed onto the skin. The use of hash oil is sometimes called “dabbing” or “burning.”

Hash oil comes from cannabis plants and contains THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the same active ingredient as other marijuana products.

But hash oil is more potent, containing up to 90 percent THC. By contrast, in other cannabis plant products, the average THC level is approximately 12 percent.

Read on to find out more about hash oil and other marijuana concentrates, including uses, benefits, and risks.

Marijuana concentrates, including hash oil, are potent extracts from cannabis plants. The products available vary in form. The table below outlines some common forms of hash oil.

NamesFormConsistencyTHC Level
batter, budder liquid thick, spreadable 90 to 99 percent
butane hash oil (BHO), butane honey oil, honey oil liquid gooey 70 to 85 percent
crystalline solid crystal ~99 percent
distillate liquid oily ~95 percent
honeycomb, crumble, crumble wax solid spongy 60 to 90 percent
pull-and-snap solid taffy-like 70 to 90 percent
shatter solid glass-like, brittle 70 to 90 percent
wax, earwax liquid thick, sticky 60 to 90 percent

Most of the items listed above range in color from golden to amber to dark brown. They may be translucent or opaque.

Due to their potency, concentrates are often sold in small quantities, and may cost more relative to other marijuana products.

The potential benefits of hash oil are similar to those associated with marijuana. Hash oil may trigger a sense of euphoria and help to treat nausea, pain, and inflammation.

Since hash oil is more potent than other forms of marijuana, its effects tend to be stronger as well. As a result, it may provide greater symptom relief for people who use marijuana to treat medical conditions, such as chronic pain or cancer.

More research is needed to understand the unique benefits of hash oil and related products.

The side effects of hash oil are similar to those associated with marijuana. However, since hash oil is more potent than marijuana plant products, the side effects may be more severe.

Short-term side effects may include:

  • altered perception
  • changes in mood
  • impaired movement
  • impaired cognition
  • impaired memory
  • dizziness and fainting
  • anxiety and paranoia
  • hallucinations
  • psychosis
  • cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS)
  • dependence

More research is needed to understand both the short- and long-term side effects of hash oil use.

There are a variety of ways people use hash oil.

Dabbing refers to the use of a special pipe to heat and vaporize hash oil. Sometimes called an “oil rig” or a “rig,” this apparatus consists of a water pipe with a hollow “nail” that fits into the pipe’s gauge. Alternatively, some people use a small metal plate called a “swing.”

The nail or swing is typically heated with a small blowtorch before a small amount of hash oil is applied to its surface with a dabber. With the heat, the hash oil vaporizes and is inhaled through the pipe, and it’s usually inhaled in a single breath.

This method is more dangerous than other methods because of the blowtorch, which poses a risk of burns.

Hash oil can also be smoked, vaporized, ingested, or applied to the skin.

Hash oil, and especially illegal hash oil, poses unique risks. Some of these include:

Safety. There are few studies available documenting the risks of hash oil. As a result, we don’t know for sure whether it’s actually safe to use, and if so, how often and at what dose.

Potency. Hash oil is four to five times more potent than regular marijuana. As a result, it may be more likely to cause a strong high and undesirable side effects, especially among first-time users.

Tolerance. Since hash oil contains so much THC, it could increase your tolerance to regular marijuana.

Burn risk. Dabbing involves the use of a small blowtorch. Using a blowtorch, especially when you are high, could result in burns.

Chemical impurities. Illegal hash oil is unregulated, and may contain dangerous levels of butane or other chemicals.

Lung injuries. A 2019 case study suggested a potential link between the use of a dabbing apparatus and lung symptoms similar to those of pneumonia.

Cancer risk. A 2017 study reported that the vapors produced by dabbing contain carcinogenic substances.

The latest on sudden lung illness

For updates on the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on sudden injuries and illness related to the use of vaping products and e-cigarettes, go here.

While the exact cause of these illnesses and deaths is unknown as of October 2019, the CDC reported:

“The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak.”

The form hash oil takes usually depends on the manufacturing process used, along with other factors, such as heat, pressure, and humidity.

Marijuana concentrates are extracted in different ways, including the use of:

  • oxygen (O2)
  • carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • ice
  • non-solvent methods involving drying and manual separation of plant material

About the use of butane

One open-column extraction method involves passing liquid butane through a tube or cylinder packed with cannabis plant material. The plant matter dissolves in the butane, and the solution is passed through a filter. After, the solution is purged of butane.

This process is risky because airborne butane can easily ignite from static electricity or a spark, causing an explosion or flash fire.

In legal, commercial settings, closed-loop equipment and safety regulations reduce the risk.

In illegal settings, this process is referred to as “blasting.” It has caused severe burns and, in several cases, death.

Illegally-produced butane hash oil also poses safety risks to consumers. In particular, it might contain unpurged butane.

Hash oil typically has the same legal status as marijuana. In states where marijuana is legal, hash oil is legal. In states where medical marijuana is legal, hash oil for medicinal purposes is also legal.

The production of butane hash oil (BHO) is typically illegal, even in states where marijuana is legal. However, not all states have laws specific to the production of BHO.

To verify the legal status of hash oil in the state where you live, check this National Conference of State Legislatures map.

Hash oil is a form of marijuana that has a high concentration of THC. It likely carries similar risks and benefits as marijuana. However, since it’s more potent, the risks and benefits may be more extreme.

Hash oil produced through non-standard methods or without additional oversight may pose the most risk to consumers.