How to Dab: Dabbing for Beginners

If you got here via Google and you’re not disciplining a wayward teen, you may be curious about cannabis dabs. So what is cannabis dabbing and how do dabs work?

Dabbing cannabis products is something to try, whether you’re experienced with smoking flower or you’re new to ganja entirely. The key is understanding what you’re dealing with and how to approach the experience.

What Are Dabs?

Cannabis dabs are concentrated extractions made from cannabis flower. Typically, a manufacturer uses a solvent such as carbon dioxide or butane to remove the cannabinoids, including the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD, leaving a very sticky, oily, marijuana concentrate.

In fact, it’s the final consistency of the product that usually determines its name. Cannabis concentrates might be called badder, budder, crumble, shatter, wax, rosin, live resin, honey oil, or just hash oil depending on who is talking, how the product looks and feels, and how it was made.

Extracts made with butane are generally called butane hash oil, or BHO. However, they can be changed with processing to have different consistencies. For example, a BHO might be left as shatter, or it might be whipped up for a consistency more like a badder.

Once you have the dab itself, you consume it via some form of vaporization, not smoking.

What Is Dabbing?

So what is dabbing, actually? Typically, to “smoke” or use cannabis dabs like wax, you need some kind of dab rig—something like a bong or vaporizer for dabs—and a heat source like a blowtorch unless the rig is electronic. The user heats the dab on a dab nail or banger, or other hot surface, and inhales the vapor after it passes through the rig. Thanks to so many great dabbing devices and better extraction techniques, cannabis concentrates are now much more common.

Now, although you might sit back and smoke a giant fatty or hit a little vape pen all day if that’s your thing, dabbing is a little different. The main difference between smoking or vaping cannabis and dabbing is that cannabis extracts are more potent in their THC levels.

In fact, cannabis wax and other types of dabs are probably the most efficient, quickest way to get a very “high” feeling, if that’s your goal. And if it’s not, be careful! In fact, even if it is, you should still use a lot of caution.

The key to dabbing is savoring the flavor. Many extracts are also filled with terpenes, the fragrant oils that lend that classic smell and taste to cannabis. However, depending on the extraction process used, it can be difficult to preserve these volatile compounds, so not all extracts are created equally when it comes to terpenes and dabbing.

Why Do Some People Think Dabbing Is Dangerous?

Facts are facts: dabbing has the potential to be dangerous, like most things. In fact, we’re guessing most activities that involve a heat source do.

However, don’t get confused: manufacturing dabs is the much more potentially dangerous part. This is particularly true if you don’t know how to handle pressurized CO2 or butane, for example, yet you’ve Googled things and believe you do. In other words, the presence of many amateur “scientists” and cannabis manufacturers means that the already tricky manufacturing process can be dangerous.

This also means that, depending on where you buy your dabs, you may not be buying a wholly dependable product. If an amateur created it, there’s really no way to be sure of the purity or quality of that cannabis product. Impure BHO or other forms of cannabis oil can contain excessive amounts of residual butane or other solvents, and other chemical contaminants—and that can potentially be hazards to your health.

How do you make sure dabs are safe? Buy them from a dispensary. Why does this keep you safe? Because regulation required in most places typically demands: use of only closed-loop extraction methods and high-grade solvents; manufacturer use of trained extraction professionals only; and lab testing for all products to measure concentrate potency and purity. These steps tend to eliminate the health and safety production problems people think about related to dabbing. Legalization brings safer marijuana use with it!

But what about the torch thing—are dab rigs actually safe?

Yes, just know how to dab safely. Here’s what we mean.

All you really need to dab cannabis is a handheld torch and a nail attachment for a dab rig. You handle the whole thing from stem to carb cap basically the same as you would a water pipe, otherwise, except for the blowtorch. This is a less costly route for new dabbers and people just giving concentrates a try.

Of course, heating a glass or metal nail with an open torch does look kind of risky, especially if you’re just a bystander. And you’re not wrong: if you do get very “high,” you’d better be careful with any open flame.

This observation has paved the way for torch-less dabbing devices such as electronic nails (enails). These setups take away that dangerous vibe and offer precise temperature control for dabbers of cannabis concentrates such as cannabis oil, shatter, and wax by eliminating the torch altogether.

Heating cannabis at lower temperatures not only enhances flavor, but also reduces risk of exposure to carcinogens such as benzene. High temperatures also carry more risk of releasing compounds from metals.

Can You Overdose On Dabs?

Just a dab on that hot nail is good! Dabs are not globs, in other words. Start low and go slow when it comes to your cannabis use, especially with extracts.

Cannabis extracts are potent for anyone, but especially for unseasoned dabbers. In fact, dabs are often 60 to 90 percent THC, so just a very small dab will achieve serious effects.

If you dab too much the first time, the side effects may be way too much from an intense high that was more than you expected, and it may make you uncomfortable, to say the least. And although there is no way that a cannabis overdose is going to be fatal, starting small with dabs is never a bad idea. That is the way to achieve the most comfortable, best experience.

Finally, be sure of where you buy your dabs and extracts. Look for lab testing results for things like pesticides and residual solvents, not just THC concentration, other cannabinoids, and terpenes. Becoming a label reader can help you cut down on health risks in all areas of your life.

Final Thoughts on How to Dab

There are tons of benefits to dabbed cannabis, too! Check out our post on the benefits of dabbing for more information on that.

But for now, consider this. Dabbing lets you experience the delicious and fragrant, full-spectrum terpene experience cannabis has to offer without burning smoke or ingesting anything. It delivers more potency and intensity for your buck. You can see why some people love to dab.

And it’s easy to try dabbing cannabis, even as a beginner. There are so many concentrates for dabbing available in dispensaries, you can take your choice. Despite the fear and hype about dabs, they are just one way of consuming cannabis. Dabbing manufacturers in some places may need more regulation, but overall, both recreational consumers and medical marijuana patients can gain a lot from dabbing concentrates.

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