Last fall, Fox 9 reported on the emergence of marijuana wax in the Twin Cities metro, but only about 1 in 20 students at the University of Minnesota had even heard about it. We also checked with an addiction medicine specialist at Hennepin County Medical Center, who said emergency rooms weren't seeing any patients who had used marijuana wax.
Fast forward 6 months, and the Department of Public Safety says marijuana wax has absolutely emerged in Minnesota, and it's causing some serious problems, including fires and explosions linked to manufacturing operations in the state.
What is marijuana wax?
Marijuana wax is a THC concentrate made by shooting compressed butane through a tube of marijuana leaves. The butane apparently draws the THC from the marijuana, which then flows out as a greenish muck into a pan. The end product is a waxy substance that often looks and feels just like lip balm.
"Marijuana a person might smoke might have 10 to 15 percent THC concentration," said Dr. Charlie Reznikoff of HCMC. "This could have 99 percent."
According to the Department of Public Safety, recent cases include:
- A marijuana wax manufacturing operation in St. Cloud, Minn. that led to the death of an elderly woman after an explosion and fire.
- Two teens recently hospitalized in Duluth, Minn. after using marijuana wax. "I was just scared not knowing if he was able to breathe, if he was going to die before they go there," said the mother of one of the teens, who wishes to remain anonymous. "I do think it's a wake-up call and it would be really great if we could stop it before it gets too bad."
- Two men were arrested and charged in St. James, Minn. for possessing marijuana wax along with other drugs and guns.
St. Cloud explosion
Two men from the St. Cloud area are facing charges of third-degree murder for a Nov. 22 explosion and house fire that killed an 85-year-old woman. Investigators determined the explosion was caused by a marijuana wax manufacturing operation. 85-year-old Sally Douglas was injured in the explosion and died at the hospital two weeks later.
Dustin Zablocki, 18, and Justin Pick, 19, are scheduled to appear in Stearns County court on Wednesday.
NOTE: A previous version of this story used the word "overdose" in reference to the Duluth hospitalizations. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety called these cases an overdose, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says an overdose from marijuana use is "not very likely." You can read more at drugabuse.gov.