Working in the cannabis industry has revealed a whole new world of pot-centric opportunity. From discovering unique edibles to wading through a vast pool of cannabis terpene science, I’ve seen close to everything when it comes to cannabis experiences, products, and technology. But the one subject that’s continually escaped me? Dabbing.
I’m a flower girl through and through. Vape pens leave my throat less-than-pleased and infused treats aren’t my usual preference. Grinding flower, packing a bowl, and lighting up, however, is a ritual I will hold onto until the day I die. Nothing beats a hit of fresh herb—well, nothing did until I tried my first dab.
Curious about dabs and what to expect as a first-timer? Here’s what I can tell you.
Kick Those Apprehensions to the Curb
On more than one occasion, I’ve heard dabs referred to as the “crack of weed” with a few close friends recounting the times they got “way too high” the last time they dabbed. The set-up doesn’t help: a blow torch is needed to get the concentrates heated, and the extra tools make the process seem like a chemistry experiment. So I get it, and those who prefer to dab get it too, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid giving it a shot due to sheer intimidation. There’s no passing out in the front lawn, seeing random hallucinations, or falling into a mind-numbing pit of despair when you go about dabbing with a couple of boundaries in mind (we’ll get into those later).
Despite the unfamiliarity of a dabbing rig, concentrates themselves offer a purer and cleaner source of cannabis since—unlike flower—you’re not inhaling ash or plant matter with every hit. As long as your strain was extracted in a safe and hygienic environment with honest testing and no pesticides—which is becoming the norm in the concentrates world—then you should be set for that first inhale. We even offer a step-by-step guide on how to dab to take out a bit of the initial confusion.
When it comes down to it, the addition of a blow torch as a heat source isn’t such a big deal when the payoff is healthier lungs.
Surround Yourself With Trusted Friends
Now that you’ve gotten through the trepidation, the next step is to set yourself up for success. Your first time dabbing should be a welcome experience that won’t forever tarnish your views on the method. As long as you don’t let an overzealous buddy talk you into taking an enormous dab, you probably won’t end up on that front lawn or in that pit of despair.
Remember: you don’t have to prove yourself. Experienced dabbers who have your back will walk you through the process with a small dose. They won’t toss you into the middle of the ocean when you’ve only conquered the shallow end of the pool.
I truly lucked out with the people who joined me on my first dabbing excursion. They were all trusted friends who had either dabbed before or knew more than me about concentrates. Having faith in the knowledgeable people by my side meant I wasn’t afraid to go all in.
Start Low, Go Slow
While I was gearing up for my first pull, I expected the vapor to tear up my throat since I had viewed it as stronger than flower in all aspects. The opposite happened; I barely coughed at all. On the exhale, my lungs felt as if they had a little more room to breathe. The vapor was light and the fresh terpenes emanating from the hit tasted sweet and potent.
Bonus? I wasn’t too lifted. I could enjoy the flavors, scents, and effects of my fist dab since the concentrate I ended up choosing wasn’t extremely high in THC (and my dab glob wasn’t the size of a mini-basketball). It’s cliché, but the mantra, “start low and go slow” is absolutely necessary when trying out new methods of cannabis consumption. Always start a lower THC level, then slow down the process by either waiting or relaxing until you get the best feel of what dose and method works for you. And yes, this still rings true when you’re adept at other modes of toking up.
Our very own Avid Dabber heated up the rig and portioned out my dab size. It was about the size of half a grain of rice and it was perfect: I wasn’t blasted into space and I felt as though I could take on the day after the high had fizzled. Any more would have been irresponsible and possibly led to a bad time and an out-of-control high. My more accomplished companions held out for the full rice-sized dab and we were on the same level when it came to the post-dab elevation.
What Are Dabs?
Dabs—also referred to as wax, shatter, amber, honeycomb, or budder—are concentrated versions of butane hash oil (BHO) which contains highly-concentrated levels of THC. This concentrated substance is produced through a chemical process using butane oil to extract the oils from the cannabis.
Research suggests that dabs or BHO can have a THC concentration of 80% in comparison to traditional cannabis, which has a concentration of about 10-15% THC. In fact, at a minimum dabs are as much as four times as strong as a joint. Plus, people who dab experience an intense high all at once rather than it gradually building over time.
Dabs are made by pouring butane over marijuana. This process allows the THC to leave the marijuana plant and dissolve into the butane leaving a gummy, somewhat solid product that contains high amounts of THC.
How Dabbing Works
Although marijuana is usually consumed by smoking joints and sometimes through vape pens, dabs are heated to an extremely high temperature and then inhaled. A specifically-designed glass bong commonly called an “oil rig” is used.
The dab is placed on an attached “nail” and a blow torch is used to heat the wax, which produces a vapor that can be inhaled. This type of ingestion means the effects of dabbing are felt immediately.
Many times people will dab by placing hash oil in vaping devices. Teens especially, use this method because it allows them to use hash oil with a very low chance that they will be caught because there is no smoke or distinct smell. Consequently, they often dab in public places, including at school.
Although the process of dabbing is not new, it is growing in popularity in the United States. Scientists attribute this growth to the commercial production of medical marijuana and the legalization of it in numerous states. Both of these factors have led to an increase in instructional videos online as well as a greater social media presence. Consequently, it is becoming more and more popular.