Guide to Cannabis Dabbing

Guide to Cannabis Dabbing

Although doing a “Dab Dance” has become a YouTube sensation featuring professional athletes who score a goal or a win, dabbing cannabis concentrates has been around for several decades. Medical marijuana legalization has been a catalyst for cannabis extraction techniques that produce high concentrates of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), enabling “dabbing” to go mainstream.

A “dab” is a small, single dose of cannabis concentrate, called, “budder,” “wax,” “BHO” (Butane Hash Oil) or “shatter.” Inhaling the vapors from these concentrates, a process known as “dabbing,” results in a more intense euphoria than other methods of using marijuana .

Dabbing Equipment 

A dabbing rig is a specialized type of pipe used for inhaling vapor after cannabis concentrates are exposed to extreme heat, usually delivered with a butane torch. Equipment includes

  • Nail --The heating surface on which the dab of cannabis concentrate is heated.  The nail essentially is burner that uses an external heat source (usually a butane hand torch).  Nails are usually made of:
    • Titanium -- By far the preferred heating element for dabbing, titanium retains heat very well.  However, the very thing that makes it desirable can be its downfall:  Overheating can burn the concentrate rather than create vapor.  A water diffuser can be used as an additional temperature control.
    • Glass --While glass works well with in bongs and pipes, is usually not the first choice in dabbing rigs.  Though they are often the least expensive option and therefore appealing to beginners, they don’t retain heat as well as other options.  They also tend to break easily.
    • Ceramic -- Like glass, ceramic breaks very easily, although it does a better job of retaining heat.
    • Dome -- Many nails have a separate piece, called “dome,” made of glass, which fits over the nail and has a small opening in the top to captures the vapor and direct it back through the pipe. Once the burner is hot and the dab is in place, the dome is put over the nail. Because these can be challenging to use, a variety of nails without domes are available.
  • Dabbing Wand -- The wand, often made of titanium, is the utensil used to transfer the “dab” of cannabis to the nail.
  • Hand Torch/Butane -- A butane torch is the best tool to heat your dabbing nail -- Propane gets hot very fast and is not as safe to use.  

Cannabis Concentrates Used For Dabbing

Cannabis concentrates are made by extracting THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) from the flowering female cannabis plant by forcing some sort of solvent, usually high-pressure butane gas, through the material. After extraction, a variety of techniques are used to create the following different concentrates.

  • Shatter --Shatter is smooth, amber-colored, translucent and solid. It is the purest and most potent cannabis concentrate because it involves a second extraction process that removes fats, lipids and waxes. This can result in a THC content of more than 80 percent. However, the additional processing also means that terpenes, which provide fragrance and may have some therapeutic properties, are lost.
  • Butane Hash Oil (BHO) -- BHO, most commonly used for vaping, is a gooey, sticky liquid that can be hard to handle. Also known as honey oil, it can retain a full flavor profile. THC levels tend to be less consistent.
  • Budder/Wax -- Cannabis Wax, or Budder is cannabis oil that has been whipped over a hot water bath until it is yellow and chunky. Based on processing, the result can vary from a gooey product (budder) to a soft, brittle texture (crumble or honeycomb). Was retains more terpenes and tends to be more flavorful than shatter, but has lower THC levels. 


Effects of Dabbing

Due to the high concentrations of THC, a small amount of shatter, wax or oil is needed to achieve a quick, intense result. Estimates are that one “dab,” depending on processing, can be four times as strong as smoking a marijuana joint.

Risks and Precautions

The most significant risk in dabbing is the processing of marijuana plant products into BHO, which entails using highly flammable materials (butane or CO2).  Home extractions without proper ventilation and equipment can be dangerous, as can be the possibility of chemical contaminants left behind by processing.

It is anticipated that as more dispensaries become licensed to legally manufacture and distribute cannabis concentrates, the risks of home production will diminish. Additionally, “torch free” rigs have begun to enter the marketplace.

Benefits of Dabbing

For medical marijuana patients, especially those with chronic pain, nausea and other debilitating ailments, dabbing offers the fastest possible delivery system with a very low level of respiratory impact.