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Robert Bergman

December 10, 2019

If you’ve ever consumed marijuana, you have probably heard of dabbing. Even if you don’t exactly know what it is, chances are you’ve heard about it and have wondered some things, such as: Is dabbing safe? Is it better than smoking joints? Is there a wrong way to do dabs? 

All of these are very good questions that I will answer in this article. I’ll explain everything that you need to know about dabbing so that you can decide whether or not it is good for you. 

What Are Cannabis Dabs?

what are cannabis dabs
Smoke exhale.

A dab is a dose of cannabis concentrate created from the extracts of various cannabinoids, specifically THC. It’s at least four times as strong as smoking the product in a blunt, joint, bong, or pipe. Instead of delivering a slow-acting high overtime, users feel the effects of dabs immediately.

People have been dabbing for at least a decade. However, it became really popular when cannabis legalized in multiple US states.

Technology has also helped with the popularity of dabbing. Advanced marijuana extraction methods have helped creators flood the markets with various types of cannabis concentrates, including high-quality dabs. 

How Do You Dab?

A dab is green or brown in color, with a thick gummy like texture, much like hot wax. The substance is generally smoked using a modified bong, called a dab rig. The biggest difference between a bong and a dab rig is that dab rigs are equipped with male joints rather than female ones (stems facing down). Also, instead of using a slider bowl, you use a nail or a banger. 

The user chooses whether they would prefer to use a nail or a banger. Nails are long with a small flat platform for placing your dabs. They come in glass, quartz, ceramic, or titanium.  Titanium nails are the most sturdy, whereas ceramic nails are typically medical grade and do not require seasoning.  

Bangers, on the other hand, are shaped more like buckets and often come in quartz. Many regular dabbers prefer this style because they are easier to use and can be combined with a carb cap.

Note: A carb cap is completely optional, but it can optimize your smoking experience. 

Once you’ve chosen your style, place the oil or wax on the nail or banger, and heat it using a torch. Propane torches work fine. Then, inhale the smoke through the dab rig. This provides an intense high that’s felt immediately.

While this may sound like a lot of equipment, it doesn’t have to be. Many DIY dab bongs are crafted using a simple nail or a knife. As long as the material can be safely heated and you have a way of inhaling the vapors, you are dabbing. 

Want to learn more about the marijuana life? Download Ganja Livity to read about the Jamaican marijuana experience. 

Why Are Dabs So Strong? 

I can’t say this enough: dabs are extremely concentrated. At times, a dab can contain more than 95% THC. This alone allows dapping to deliver a much stronger euphoria than smoking the flower form of cannabis.

What Are the Advantages of Dabbing Marijuana?

advantages of dabbing marijuana

Dabs aren’t just the latest fads. Both recreational users and medical cannabis patients have found positive advantages to them. These are just a few of the benefits of dabbing marijuana:

  • Swift Delivery – The euphoria kicks in almost instantaneously
  • Powerful High – Delivers very strong high due to THC levels possibly over 90%
  • Relieves Nausea – Causes munchies quickly, making dabs effective for treating chronic nausea and loss of appetite
  • Pure Extract – Offers a clean smoke that’s easy on the lungs
  • Little to No Resin – Extraction process gets rid of most unwanted materials
  • Less Prep – Much simpler to smoke a dab than rolling a joint or blunt or packing a pipe of bong
  • Cleaner taste – No more leftover bowl residue taste to worry about. Only pure weed. 
  • Longer lasting – A single hit can stay in your system longer than a joint

Like your cannabis strong? Try growing these high THC strains at home. 

Behind the Myth: Are Dabs Dangerous?

are dabs dangerous

There is no proof that dabbing itself is dangerous. However, the production process can be dangerous, as it does pose a huge fire hazard. This is especially true for amateurs.

How Are Dabs Made?

Dabs are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. Usually, this is done using butane or carbon monoxide. This creates a sticky, wax-like oil filled with pure cannabinoids, including a high level of THC.

When making medical marijuana dabs, aromatic oils, terpenes, and CBD are also extracted. All of these extracted oils are commonly referred to as:

  • Budder
  • Shatter
  • Wax
  • Butane Hash Oil – BHO

Is Making Dabs Dangerous?

Butane gas is used to remove the THC and other cannabinoids from the plants. Extremely high heat is used to heat and evaporate the butane, leaving smokable concentrate behind. This part of the process is the most dangerous, even under expert conditions.

Why is it so dangerous?

The gas from the procedure tends to remain in the air. That means any open flame or spark can lead to a deadly explosion. Although most are small, any explosion can cause tiny sparks that set roofs, trees, and other items and structures nearby on fire.

What Is Dirty Oil?

Extracting concentrates for dabbing is a tricky process. Amateurs perfect their skills every day, sharing their experiences on online forums and YouTube videos. They share their DIY dab making skills with the virtual world, but there’s no way for viewers to test the QUALITY of their products.

Once again, 

It’s important to complete the process properly. Otherwise, you may be making dirty oil. Creating dirty oil means possibly consuming extreme amounts of harmful residue or chemical contaminants.

How to Limit Dangers When Making Dabs

If you must create your own dab oil, you should focus on doing so safely. There are effective ways to ensure your dabs are top quality while ensuring your safety. 

  • Use High-Grade Products – Only use top quality solvents when extracting concentrates from cannabis for top quality dabs
  • Create in Closed Loop Butane Extractors – Use this type of equipment to help prevent accidents, including fires and explosions
  • Test in a Lab – This measure how potent and pure the concentrates are according to the market
  • Get Professional Training – YouTube videos and online tutorials are nice, but professional training is much better

Is Smoking Dabs Dangerous?

Here’s the deal. Dabbing is not for amateurs. 

When you dab, you are inhaling a cannabis concentrate, which may contain more than 90% THC. Therefore, first-time dabbers may choke and cough incessantly. 

Other than that, no studies have been released showing the long-term effects of dabbing. Therefore, it may or may not be safer than smoking the plant form of cannabis. 

Some have hypothesized, however, that dabbing could lead to increased tolerances for marijuana in general. And given the extreme concentration of dabs, this could possibly worsen withdrawal symptoms.

Is Dabbing Hurting the Positive Image of Marijuana?

is dabbing hurting the positive image of marijuana

One of the reasons dabbing is taking a bad rap is because of the way dabs are smoked. The oils are placed on a nail or in a glass bong. Then, a torch is used to heat up the waxy substance.

Here’s the problem: 

To many, this looks too much like smoking crack. 

Some have even gone so far as to liken it to smoking meth and other hardcore drugs. This has led to cannabis taking on the persona of also being in the hardcore drug category. 

We do not want this because comparisons like this could lead to major setbacks in the US federal government marijuana legalization movement.

Of course, there are other ways to consume dabs that don’t involve the use of a torch. You can also try these creative ideas:

  • Add your wax or oil to a joint before smoking it
  • Place the concentrate into a vaporizer pen
  • Put some wax on the tip of a pipe, so that a small amount melts while smoking

These options are a more discrete way of enjoying extremely potent marijuana. 

How the traditional process of dabbing looks isn’t the only reason there are critics. 

The high potency and immediate onset of dabbing is another reason for the bad reputation. Some amateurs don’t fully comprehend how much more potent dabs are than hits of weed. 

As a result, they may smoke too much at one time. This could lead to an uncomfortable high or even passing out – only making it easier for anti-legalization arguments. Many people that are against marijuana want to prove that it is possible and easy to overdose. Therefore, in the eyes of some, dabbing makes the entire industry seem dangerous.

Dabbing VS Edibles: What’s the Difference?

dabbing vs edibles

Today, many users consume cannabis without smoking it. Instead, they indulge by eating and drinking marijuana-infused foods, snacks, and liquids. These are all known as edibles.

Cannabis edibles are made by distilling the active ingredients found in the plants. This creates a hash oil concentrate. The oil can be smoked as a dab or added to foods and drinks to create edible marijuana products.

Generally, dabbing concentrates contain 60-90% cannabinoids. As a reference, serving sizes of legalized edibles contain cannabinoids at 5-10%. 

That means one single gram of cannabis concentrate at 90% may contain up to 900mg of cannabinoids. Because the extract is so concentrated, it’s almost impossible to produce anything less than 5g of cannabinoids per single dab.

Translation: One tiny dab could be similar to an entire marijuana brownie.

Keep in mind that even a small dab is much more potent than any other form of cannabis. Therefore, if you have a low tolerance or bad reaction to edibles, dabbing probably isn’t a good idea for you.

Tip: Read my article, The Basics to Making Marijuana Edibles, to learn how to make edibles at home. 

Dabbing Life: How to Dab Safely

how to dab safely

When used at the correct doses, dabbing can be safe and enjoyable. However, for some, it may be hard finding the best doses for their systems due to the high concentration of THC in dabs.

Here’s where it gets tricky. 

Currently, there are no tools that measure the proper amount per serving size. And the phrase “tiny amount” means different things to different people. 

If you’re dabbing in a dispensary, your budtender will determine the proper dosage based on the facility’s policy. When DIY dabbing at home, be sure to purchase legal concentrates, wax, shatter, or hash. Their potency levels are printed on the packaging labels.

You need some type of pointed tool to deal with the shatter. A scooping tool works best for working with extracts. The goal is to ensure you on dab a tiny amount.

For a do-it-all tool, try using a broad-tipped paddle-shaped dabber.

Prepping Your Extract for ‘Tiny’ Deliveries

One popular way to ensure you only use tiny amounts when dabbing is to separate the concentrate into portions as soon as you get it home. For example:

  • You purchase 1 gram at 90% making it 900g of cannabinoids
  • Break it down into 9 equal portions, giving you 100g per dab
  • Place the 100g dab on your bong and take small hits of it 

Store leftover dabbing material (oil,wax, etc) in silicone containers if possible. The material is very sticky and can be challenging to remove. Silicone helps with this. 

Note: You should be able to get 4-5 dabs out of each 100g portion. Amateurs are advised not to smoke the entire dab at one time.

Tips for First-Time Cannabis Dabbers

If you’re a first-time dabber, always start small no matter how much flower you usually smoke. The amount of processed endocannabinoids another user can handle may be too much for you. 

Take it slow. Learn exactly what works best for your system. Start with an almost microscopic-sized dab, and add tiny, tiny bits more as needed. This is known as micro-downing, which is just like wine tasting. 

Just like tasting wine slowly, micro-downing allows you to savor the flavor of the dab. This also delivers a more consistent, powerful high.

Happy dabbing

The founder of I Love Growing Marijuana, Robert Bergman, is a marijuana growing expert that enjoys sharing his knowledge with the world. He combines years of experience, ranging from small-scale grows to massive operations, with a passion for growing. His articles include tutorials on growing... [read more]

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