If you're a veteran cannabis fan, or even if you just keep an eye on the industry from time to time, chances are you've come across dabs.
When compared with smoking joints or bowls, dabbing often doesn't even look as if it exists within the same realm. You're no longer dealing with plant matter and instead you're suddenly handling a hook and blowtorch.
It's understandable that some users might be hesitant to dive into an ingestion method which is reminiscent of Breaking Bad, but there are plenty of reasons why more people are beginning to turn to dabs for their high.
Dabbing is a form of cannabis consumption which requires cannabis concentrates, such as wax, rosin, budder, shatter, or any kind of Butane Hash Oil (BHO.)
Concentrates, as we discussed in our recent article, are typically created using a solvent, which is often either butane or CO2, mixed with freshly ground plant matter. Then, via a technique known as solvent extraction, the essential oils are stripped from the plant, and the butane is boiled off. This leaves you with a highly concentrated honey-like substance.
But why all the effort? Why not just roll a joint?
Well, let's learn about dabbing.
What Are Cannabis Dabs?
Cannabis concentrates have been around almost as long as the plant itself, namely in the form of kief and hash. And, while these concentrates were certainly more powerful than traditional flower, cannabis dabs could easily knock them out of the park in terms of potency
On January 19th, 2005, Cannabis Culture released an online article called 'Beautiful Budder,' about a man named 'Budderking' who had invented a new form of hash oil called "budder."
According to Budderking, Budder was created after a decade of trying to make liquid cannabis honey oil. Eventually, this led Budderking and his colleagues to create a product called "Glass."
"It was refined oil made with a multi-step alcohol process. Then we took it further, and it hardened into something that looked and felt like amber. We liked it because it was very strong and easier to smoke than oil," Budderking said.
Compared to other cannabis concentrates, Budder is clearly in a league of its own. Dana Larsen, the editor of Cannabis Culture believes Budder could be the strongest cannabis concentrate in the world.
"BudderKing gave me two hits at the 'Beyond Prohibition' conference in Vancouver, using his propane torch and hot knife in the parking lot on the hood of his car," Larsen recounted.
"It hit me hard…. among the very highest pot highs I've ever had. It was very clean, but I also almost felt like I was on a psychedelic."
To consume his Budder, Budderking created a device that would let users to vaporize the concentrate. The device allowed users to place their budder onto a small, heated surface and inhale the resulting vapor through a pipe. This device, while only available for a limited time, went on to become the blueprint for the current dabbing rigs that we see on the market today.
Why Do People Dab Cannabis?
People dab for several reasons. One of the main motivators is curiosity, as dabbing is one of the newer and more unique method of recreationally consuming cannabis.
Although the trend is certainly on the rise, with studies showing that cannabis concentrate sales increased 145.8% over two years (October 2014–September 2016), and comprised 21% of product sales.
Curiosity aside, people are also undoubtedly drawn to dabs due to their potency.
If you're smoking a joint, THC levels will typically be between 12-25%, with 25% being some really strong stuff. Dabs, on the other hand, boast THC levels that reach upwards of 90%.
You aren't just getting stoned when you take a hit off a dabbing rig, you're going interstellar. As a result, dabs have also proven to be popular with veteran smokers who have high tolerance levels thanks to years of smoking the plant.
Lastly, you're not smoking when you dab. You're heating the dabbing nail and then placing the wax on top of it, which avoids many of the negative carcinogens and toxins involved with traditional smoking. And, given the potency of budder, wax and shatter, it's unlikely you'll be vaping that much to begin with.
Having a small, but highly potent dose of a cannabis concentrate can also be a popular option for those who use the plant for medicinal purposes. Through dabbing, you can access all the benefits of cannabinoids in an accelerated sense, while only having to inhale a small amount of vapor.
This was, after all, the reason Budderking made Budder in the first place:
"I didn't create Budder so I could make money; I created it so people could inhale pure cannabinoids," explained BudderKing.
"I see Budder as a spiritual THC high and a harm reduction method. One Budder hit gives you two joints worth of cannabinoids all at once, and it's kind to your lungs."
How Can I Dab Cannabis?
Dabbing may look complex, but once you've got all the parts it's really quite simple. First, you'll want to get your hands on a cannabis concentrate. If you wish to make some yourself, rosin is your best bet. All you'll need is some parchment paper, a hair straightener, and some flower or kief.
For those who wish to access a more potent high, you can use Butane Hash Oils (BHO's) such as shatter, budder or wax. These are the concentrates where you'll find the highest amounts of THC and cannabinoids.
Though whatever you do, don't try to make these at home. BHO's can be highly explosive when made incorrectly, and many people have learned that lesson the hard way. Unfortunately, you'll have to leave it to the professionals when it comes to most cannabis concentrates.
And don't stress too much about whether you dab budder or shatter, as they're virtually the same thing. The only difference between different types of BHO's is their appearance, which is made through agitating the cannabis wax in different ways. BHO's will generally have the same THC levels among them.
Okay, now all that's out of the way, let's get into it. Once you've chosen your concentrate, then you'll need to pick out a dabbing rig.
The cost of a dabbing rig can range anywhere from $50 – $400 depending on the size, quality and design you wish to purchase. Some rigs can look very much like a bong, while others resemble something from a science fair. However, at the end of the day they all do the same thing; dab.
If you're struggling to decide what model to go with, keep in mind that both Snoop Dogg and Cheech and Chong each have their own signature dabbing rigs. Did that just make your decision easier or tougher?
From there you'll need a dabbing nail—either made from quartz, titanium or ceramic—and a dabber. To make things simpler, most people opt to buy dabbing rig sets which will also include a nail and dabber, rather than buying each part separately. After you've got those, you'll need a blowtorch and a Carb Cap. We'll explain later.
Now that you've got all the ingredients, it's time to dab!
First you'll need to load a tiny amount of wax onto your dabber, so that it's easily accessed. Then, using the blowtorch, heat up your nail until it goes red. Once red, pick up the dabber and slowly lower the wax onto the nail, and inhale the resulting vapor. To avoid losing any vapor while you inhale, you can also place the Carb Cap over the nail during inhalation.
Remember, the THC levels are going to be at least 3x stronger than joints or bongs, so start at a very low dose, and make sure you're seated comfortably when you first try it.
And if you're still uncertain about dabs, it's understandable. When it comes to cannabis, dabs are still extremely new and extremely different. As Dana Larsen said, dabs are so strong, that they almost make you feel like you're on a psychedelic drug.
Not only that, but because of how recently dabbing emerged on the scene, there are very few studies on the health impacts or effects of dabs over longterm use. Unfortunately, the verdict still isn't clear on what dabbing does to our bodies.
So by all means, don't rush into the dabbing craze, and if you do, pace yourself. Otherwise, you've got plenty of alternative avenues to get your hit – from vaping, to edibles to even microdosing your cannabis.
If you do, however, wish to proceed with dabbing, put your seatbelt on and prepare for a wild ride. Well, by seatbelt we mean have some tasty snacks beside you, because you certainly won't be running any marathons after a dab hit.