Mind Blown: A Little Dab Will Shatter Your Whole Outlook on Cannabis

Dabbing is the hardcore way to consume THC, and it's revolutionizing the industry.

"The first time I took a dab, I passed out for 14 hours straight," a former roommate tells me. One moment, he's inhaling the fresh, pungent, flavorful wisp of vapor (in hindsight, the wax was likely butane soup), and next: waking up to realize that the sun has already set, and he's missed a flight. The day came and went while we lay catatonic on the living room couch.

We thought we'd actually OD'd on weed. 

 For top brand names and strains, wax is worth more per gram than gold.

Dabbing has become popular in recent years due in part to the robust cannabis community that lives on social media. And as new legislation is being written on a seemingly weekly basis, access to high-quality marijuana has opened up across the country, spurring a wave of innovation in nearly every sector of the cannabis industry. Enthusiasts and entrepreneurs are driving innovation in functional glass art and setting standards for quality testing of product, and wax and dabbing have become the main draw at events such as the High Times Cannabis Cup series and Chalice Cup, a celebration of "hash, glass, and art," in San Bernardino, California. 

In Washington and Colorado, extraction artists experiment with various techniques—employing different solvents, extreme pressure, and dry-sifting methods—in search of a formula that yields the cleanest, safest and most potent concentrates. Wax, shatter, crumble and butter account for nearly 40 percent of sales in California dispensaries, according to BuzzFeed.

For top brand names and strains, wax is worth more per gram than gold, and it's being branded as such. Like any other commodity or medicine, the name and logo on the packaging, and the presentation, are nearly as important as the potent product inside.

Image via Ben Karris/TheKIND

*Brian, A frequent dabber I meet at a glass shop in Hollywood, tells me about an L.A.-based brand that he gets down with.

"Right now, I enjoy Tree Base Klear concentrates. They are solvent-free and lab tested at 88 percent THC."

Notice Brian's choice of words, and what he values about the product: "They come in a easy-applicator syringe which makes handling the high potency, syrup-like solutions much more manageable." 

The sales points come across more as "medicinal tools," less as Cheech N' Chong. Brian tells me, "I medicate primarily to alleviate anxiety."

To some users, dab is the cleanest way to consume cannabis and offers an efficient, intense and sometimes psychoactive high. Al Jazeera reports: "These new concentrates can reach a staggering 90 percent THC." 

Not every marijuana enthusiast approves of extracts. Some consider dabbing tantamount to using "actual" drugs, mostly because of the processes involved from extraction to consumption, which mimc—for instance—the smoking of tar heroin.

Mainstream media reports of home-extraction operations gone wrong paint a portrait not far off from a chemistry teacher and his unwitting student cooking meth in an RV outside suburban Albuquerque. Similarly, the use of a torch and "nail," or "banger," in order to vaporize the end product doesn't make for wholesome optics.  

The fears of explosive lab mishaps are founded. Accidents do happen, and houses do blow up. The associated risks of dabbing are real: Extraction involving solvents presents dangers to the people producing dab and to those eventually consuming it. Electronically heated nails can tip over and burn down a home. The high itself can be extremely disorienting for a consumer who's not ready for it, or doesn't know what to expect. 

A blog post on Leafly paints a clear picture of the conflicted sentiments around concentrates:

"'Blasting dabs' has become a dividing point within the community both because of the intense high that it produces and for the image that it presents to outsiders."

By and large, dabbers are connoisseurs, much more selective than the average stoner about what they consume. The dab buyer is not just choosing between a heady indica, pungent sativa, or aromatic hybrid; the dabbist is asking the budtender behind the counter the name of the lab that tested their wax, and what percentage of THC it came out to, or if it contains CBD or flavor terpenes. 

The connoisseur looks into the extraction process and finds out if the batch was nug run derived, or trim or—if price is no object—pressed rosin tech.

Few expenses are spared within the dabbing community, which is inclined to purchase expensive artist-crafted, hand-blown glass, made primarily to function as a dab rig, but also regarded by collectors as items high in dollar value and social currency.

The premium is paid in pursuit of a premium experience. In short, dabbing is a more efficient way to deliver an instant result. 

One downside to any usage beyond casual dabbing is that it can diminish the experience of simply smoking cannabis.

 "As far as dabs go, they've definitely augmented my THC tolerance," Brian explains. "But stopping for prolonged periods to reduce my tolerance seems counterintuitive. It would probably cause me greater anxiety." 

As the use and production of concentrates expands; so does the general knowledge around them, including the different properties that various extraction methods will yield and how to achieve specific effects.

Image via SC Labs

A few years and many chesty coughs deep into the glob game, dabbing has become part of my morning routine. It's predominantly how I consume THC and has changed how I view the marijuana experience entirely. I'll still smoke a joint or bowl if passed in my direction, I'm not an animal. But if I have the option, I'll go for a dab.

*Name changed at request of source.