*Names changed to protect identity
The bell had just rung. Students in first hour English class pull out their laptops and paper, but senior Jacob Williams* is zoned out: dazed, red-eyed, and as Williams, a marijuana user would call it: baked.
Williams had just taken a hit of his shiny, lit up dab pen.
And then another.
It’s part of his routine. Everyday before school and most days during lunch, Williams takes a hit.
According to School Resource Officer Tony Woollen, students are going from not only Juuling everyday, but now also using the most recent form of condensed marijuana: the dab pen.
Woollen has seen a 10 percent increase of dab pens confiscated on school property this school year, when last year, finding one was a rarity.
According to Jasmine Bittar from the Addiction Center, smoking dabs are nothing like smoking a bud of the Marijuana plant, making the components and effects are extremely different. The active substance within the cannabis-filled cartridge comes with a rechargeable battery that rapidly heats the oil allowing uses to feel a similar high to that of smoking marijuana.
Due to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, the appeal of the smell-free pens have made their way up to becoming the latest craze according to Woollen.
Although using dab pens can lead to several medical and legal consequences, for Williams, it’s part of his before-school routine.
The Addiction center stated that pens are “nicknamed dab because of the act of taking a dab of hashish, or oil of the cannabis plant.”
On Feb. 24th, Woollen and Officer Lacey Daly were making their monthly rounds throughout the parking lot, and inside of only the third car they went to, a dab pen was visible through the driver’s seat window. Woollen expects to find several more pens throughout this school year with their recent emergence at East.
Due to the fact THC is an illicit drug for recreational use in Kansas, Woollen explained that the consequences of being caught with a dab pen are much more serious than that of a Juul. Even though, most students who are caught with a dab pen are initially reported to the administration for vaping.
“This is a lot more serious than vaping,” Woollen said. “It’s unbelievable how easy it is to access THC oil and dab pens these days.”When a student gets caught with a dab pen, a student faces both academic and legal consequences. One side is the consequences from the school, which include in-school suspension and in some cases, expulsion. For the criminal side of the reprimands, if the pen comes back positive for THC, Woollen and Daly send that record through the Johnson County District Court.
“Somebody [who gets caught is] going to get charged for possession of marijuana and for possession of drug paraphernalia,” Woollen said. “And yes… We’ve had people here that that has happened to.”
On and off school campus, students are increasingly investing in dabs as opposed to Juuls and straight marijuana, according to sophomore Jane Smith*.
“You see dab pens everywhere now,” Smith said. “Teens love dabs because Juuls don’t really do that much and the effects are not as long term. You’re not buzzed for more than two minutes with a Juul.”
Smith got her dab pen base and cartridge for $45. Dab pens now seem to be attending every party, every hangout, and every smoke break, according to Smith.
And it’s not just because of the cool factor — this new marijuana high is going viral within the classes of Shawnee Mission East due to its accessibility, and stronger and longer effects, as opposed to Juuls which contain nicotine.
In a recent poll of 170 students, 90.5% know someone who owns a dab pen, 70.2% have used one, and 26% own one.
“A Juul gets you buzzed sometimes for a few minutes, but why not hit the dab and be high for two hours?” Williams declared.
These pens are not approved by the FDA, posing several threats for this new-found epidemic.
Chemistry teacher Jerrod Bardwell said that dab pen carts are not monitored — the manufacturer can put anything they want in the cart. Bardwell said that, “They can claim the [contents are safe], but no one ever checks.”
“It’s the same problem we have with Juuls,” Bardwell explained. “Some of [the carts] are being shipped over from China, where they have no laws about what they can put in [the carts], so [the consumer] will have no clue what’s in them. No one regulates it, no one checks it.”This poses a major threat for dab pen users, potentially leading to fatal outcomes. Smith even recently came across a life threatening experience with her dab pen.
“My dealer texted me and told me to throw the cart he’d given me away immediately,” Smith said. “He was asking me things like, ‘How much of it have you used?’ or, ‘Are you almost done with it?’”
Someone else who’d been using these carts had gotten extremely sick and gone to the hospital, due to rat poisoning being in the carts.
“I’d probably used around a quarter of the cart,” Smith said. “The scary thing is that [the high] hadn’t felt different than any other cart I’ve used before. It felt the same.”
Smith never thought that using her dab pen could severely impact her health. “It was definitely a wake up call that you never know what’s inside a cart. All the sudden I was [thinking], ‘This could have horrible affects on my health… This could put me in the hospital.’”
Smith has not used her dab pen since.
Bittar stated that smoking a small amount of dab leads to an intense, long-lasting high. These effects can severely impair the smoker, putting them at risk of injury and bodily harm for several hours. And also recalled how some users experience hallucinations which can last up to several days. These hallucinations may be caused due to the constant unknown ingredients inside carts.
Many who use dabs could end up going to the hospital because of unusual behavior or feelings, especially paranoia and psychotic episodes, Bittar informed readers who visit the Addiction Center webpage.
Because dabs release an incredibly large amount of THC into the body, they cause the body to build up a greater tolerance much faster than other methods of consuming marijuana, Bittar stated. They can also lead to cause dependence and addiction.
“Nobody used to have dab pens,” Smith said. “Weed was a rare thing that you didn’t see people doing as much, but recently it has become so easy to access pens and carts. People within my friend group, within my grade, and within our school and community are constantly purchasing and distributing dab pens. It’s crazy that people have such easy access to that stuff when it’s not even legal in Kansas.”