“Once, when my friends and I tried to make it, I was afraid we would blow up the house.”
As 4/20 rolls around, so does the buzz to plan a legendary session befitting the day. For the uninitiated, April 20 is considered the international stoner day. Most years are marked with a high so overwhelming, people do everything from brushing their teeth with mosquito repellent to forgetting to watch the movie after getting high in the theatre’s parking lot.
This year, endless lockdowns and calls for quarantine have dampened India’s sacred stoner day. On top of that, high prices for a not-so-great high, dealers disguised as delivery agents getting caught and an intensifying crackdown on cannabis across the country threaten to kill the vibe of 4/20 festivities. But for many with privileged access, there’s a booming underground scene for a high with hash oil.
Also known as cannabis oil, honey oil, BHO or shatter, hash oil is a concentrated cannabis extract that can be smoked, vaped, ingested or even rubbed against the skin. It is extracted from cannabis using alcohol like butane and heat, and has a higher concentration of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component in cannabis.
To put it simply, the difference between hash oil and regular weed is same as the difference between tequila and beer. And while hash oil has been popular in countries including the U.S., the UK and Afghanistan for a while, it is quickly gathering steam in India as scoring weed becomes a tedious task in India.
“My friends and I have started smoking it more since last year’s lockdown,” Karan*, a 24-year-old music producer from Goa, told VICE. “It’s a cleaner, more potent high, and easier to smoke because you can just dip a cigarette into it.” Smoking or vaporising hash oil typically involves heating a special apparatus with a blowtorch and then applying a bit of the substance to the heated element and inhaling. It’s widely called “dabbing” because users only need to use a tiny dab to get high. Karan, who has been smoking hash oil for over a year now, added that it’s also more socially acceptable and often passed off as CBD oil to escape suspicion.
Since it has an increased concentration of THC, the intense potency of hash oil is known to get people really stoned. “I’m a high-functioning stoner usually, but when I smoke hash oil, I have to be sitting down,” Zainab*, a 27-year-old pastry chef from the city of Mumbai, told VICE. For most users like Zainab, the potency of the high is coupled with the fact that the liquid can be stretched out and used for several months, making it ideal in an age where India’s Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has been intensely cracking down on cannabis.