Cannabis Chemistry: A Closer Look at Toxicant Formation in Dabbing

Cannabis Chemistry

The most-read paper in ACS Omega during September 2017 looked the formation of methacrolein, benzene, and toxicants while “dabbing” with butane hash oil.  This context,“ dabbing” means to put a small amount of cannabis-containing liquid such as butane hash oil on a hot surface, then inhale the vapors via a water pipe. Since cannabis chemistry is an increasingly important issue, the authors of that paper, Robert Strongin and Jiries Meehan-Atrash from Portland State University, were invited to take part in an Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) session on Reddit on Oct. 31, 2017. “The terpenes degrade under conditions of high heat that can occur during certain dabbing conditions. They are otherwise ubiquitous and in many consumer products. When they are heated to high enough temperatures, however, they can form benzene and other compounds of concern. Their chemistry in the atmosphere etc. is consistent with our findings as far as benzene, methacrolein, etc. , formation,” the pair wrote, explaining their work. During the AMA the pair shared little more insight into their paper and highlighted a few areas where further cannabis chemistry study is needed.

Robert Strongin, Ph.D., is a professor in the Portland State University Department of Chemistry with affiliate appointments at the Oregon Health and Sciences University. His research focuses broadly on redox and chromophore chemistry. It encompasses the creation of biosensors and molecular probes for studying oxidative stress and cancer, as well as the investigation of chemical reactions and products associated with the usage of electronic cigarettes and new cannabis formulations. Jiries Meehan-Atrash is a Palestinian-American who attended high school at the Colegio “El Estudio” in Madrid, Spain, then received a B.S. in chemistry from the State University of New York at New Paltz. After enrolling in the chemistry graduate program at Portland State University, Meehan-Atrash began working on the cannabis vaporizer toxicology project in Professor Strongin’s lab.

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If you have comments or questions for the author of this post, please e-mail: Axial@acs.org.