What are dabs? The short answer is that they're a method of consuming cannabis that produces extraordinarily strong highs. That’s because dabs require you to burn potent cannabis concentrates at high temps, producing smoke that’s virtually pure THC. But if you've been curious about dabbing, don't let that scare you off. Here's what you need to know.
Where do dabs come from?
Dabbing is a relatively recent phenomenon within pot culture. Although the technique has been around for a while, it's only started trending recently.
That might have something to do with Carolina Panther quarterback Cam Newton, who catapulted something else that's called dabbing to national fame in the NFL, causing some confusion for newcomers to the term.
But don’t be confused — Newton's dab of choice is a hip-hop dance move, and everyone from your little cousin to your granny can get in on the dabbing fun. For cannabis users, however, dabbing is something else entirely (though fits of dab dancing have been known to occur after smoking dabs).
You know what dabs are: insanely potent THC concentrates. So how are they made? Cannabis concentrates are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids from flowers using solvents like butane or CO2. The result is a sticky and viscous oil. The variations in the extraction process produce changes in the consistency of the oil, which has a variety of names as a result (including "wax," "shatter," "budder," and the old-time-y-sounding "butane hash oil").
Do dabs get you too high?
There’s nothing subtle about dabbing — people dab to get super, super medicated. And don’t expect any delicious flavors or subtle tastes with dabs: Terpenes (the compounds in cannabis that add citrus, pine, or other natural flavors to its smoke) are so delicate that they don’t typically survive the chemical extraction process. This is straight-to-the-point cannabis consumption.
The incredibly strong effects obtained from dabbing have raised some concerns, even among advocates for marijuana use and legalization.
While there is still no known lethal dose of cannabis, dabbing has caused some users to pass out and can cause other extreme side effects from the psychoactive powers of THC, including paranoia. So if you’re new to dabs, approach these concentrates with caution.
The basics of dabbing
If you'd like to give it a try, here's a simple dabbing technique to get you started.
First, you need to get your hands on some cannabis concentrate and a glass piece designed for doing dabs. The main difference is that dab rigs have a “nail” instead of a bowl. If push comes to shove, you can modify a traditional glass bong with a nail to make it ready for dabs, but it’s easier to pick up a specific piece just for dabs. Dabs, of course, are essentially THC concentrates that come in a variety of forms (e.g. waxes, oils, or the aforementioned hard, amber-like pieces called “shatter").
So here’s the process:
1. Load a chunk of your concentrate onto one end of a specialized device called a “dabber.” This is essentially a long rod-shaped tool, often made of metal.
2. Heat up the “nail” on your dab rig until it’s red-hot. (This is where those torches come in.)
3. Give the nail a second to cool. Then, using the dabber, press the dab against the nail. It will vaporize while you inhale the smoke through your piece.
4. Get ready to be incredibly blazed.
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(Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws. To learn more, click here.)