If the wave of cannabis legalization wasn’t exciting enough for you, it’s also bringing some very cutting-edge changes to the way we enjoy this age-old plant. These days, a question we hear over and over is: “What is dabbing?” and “How are dabs made?”
Simply put, dabbing is the rapid vaporization and inhalation of cannabis concentrate on a hot surface.
Of course, there’s much more to it than that. On the upside, dabbing offers a highly refined cannabis experience, one free from the harsh, bitter and unpleasant flavors of burnt plant matter.
But it’s important to be aware of these concentrates’ high potency: inhaling them as you would cannabis flower—or even the smoke from vape pens—would be an overwhelming experience.
Especially when you’re starting out with dabbing, our rule of thumb is to “start low and go slow.” As we’ll explain in more detail, we advise you to use the minimal amount of concentrate possible. Take your time, savor the rich and detailed strain-specific flavors, and enjoy the experience.
The Science: Vaporization and Cannabis Concentrates
First of all, it’s important to recognize there’s a difference between “vaporization” and “smoking.” The science behind vaporization is that by heating the compounds in cannabis to the point at which they become volatile and inhalable—but not to the point that the plant matter combusts—they release their active cannabinoids but not the harsh, bitter and potentially harmful irritants into your lungs.
Then again, dabbing doesn’t employ cannabis flower at all. The concentrates you’re vaporizing —sometimes called wax, shatter, and BHO, among other names—are created by careful extraction of cannabis flower into a highly refined and potent form. Please note that the type of concentrate is important too. It’s important not to use alcohol-based extracts for dabbing.
Side Effects of Smoking Dabs
It’s important to note that, given the high potency of concentrates (usually between 50 – 80% THC, compared with 10 – 25% for cannabis flower), it’s easy to administer more THC than you intended. While you can’t technically overdose on cannabis, having too much can be a disorienting and unpleasant experience. If you’re new to cannabis, we recommend you start with other, less intense administration methods, such as traditional vaporizers, before trying dabbing.
Dabbing: What Equipment You’ll Need
The equipment used for dabbing isn’t particularly high-tech or complicated, but it is somewhat different than “traditional” pipes. In addition to the cannabis concentrate (remember, no alcohol-based extracts!), a standard setup would include:
- Water pipe: Or, as known in some forms as a “bong”
- Nail: Not the variety used for carpentry, but a special heating element specifically for this use
- Dome: Again, a purpose-made vessel used to trap the vapor before inhalation
- Torch: Such as those used for browning foods like crème brûlée
- Utensil: “The dabber”—with which to apply the “dab” of cannabis concentrate
The process is fairly straightforward:
- Use the torch to heat the nail until it starts to glow red-hot.
- Place the dome over the nail to allow it to cool somewhat (you’ll want to ask your budtender about specific times for specific materials).
- Lift the dome and, using the dabber, apply a tiny—as in crumb-sized—speck of concentrate to the nail. Inhale slowly as the oil vaporizes.
- Exhale and enjoy the experience! (We recommend you stay seated during this entire process as the rush of THC, especially for new users, can be intense.)
Needless to say, there are variations on how to dab wax, such as electronic and “domeless” nails, for one. But the basic idea remains the same.
We’re excited that you’re curious about dabbing, and we want to make the experience as easy and pleasurable as possible. We hope this article was helpful, and we’d love to answer your questions in person next time you stop in!