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Is Dabbing To Pot What Crack Is To Cocaine?

Why The Comparison?

I’ll admit there are times I’m a little too set in my ways, but there’s just something about dabbing I find rather peculiar. And it’s not just the act of dabbing I find off-putting, but it’s common characteristics of dabbers themselves, too.

I’ve chilled amongst a small handful of enthusiasts, but a fascinating interaction with 2 avid users left me wondering, “is dabbing to marijuana what crack is to cocaine?” Conversation was sparked while waiting in (a very long) line at a dispensary. I’d admitted that I’d never dabbed before and expressed my resistance to doing so.

In their attempt to sell me on the idea of dabbing as the superior form of ganja consumption, those two fellas managed to demonstrate exactly why it doesn’t appeal to me. Their selling point? One tremendous high from one little hit. Maybe it’s the fact that I have a low tolerance for smoking, or that I prefer edibles – but it’s just as likely their intense demeanor that repelled me.

Far from the vibe of the laid back stoner, most dabbers (not all) I’ve encountered tend to be wired and antsy (dare I say slightly strung out!). It was a disturbing observation; the last thing marijuana advocacy needs is a product that justifies federal prohibition of cannabis. Morbid curiosity drove me to Google the question: “Is dabbing the crack of pot?” Lo & behold, there it was – an article with that exact title featured in The Fix.

Victoria Kim’s story explores the rise in popularity of dabbing, and the rift it’s caused within the cannabis community. Clearly, I was not alone in my skepticism.

The term dabbing refers to the practice of inhaling the vapor of melted butane hash oil (otherwise known as BHO, a cannabis concentrate). The process typically involves the use of a dab rig, which is essentially a domed water pipe with a heatable surface called a nail (usually made of glass, quartz or titanium).

Users dab the concentrate onto the surface of the nail – after it’s been smoldered by a blowtorch – and inhale the vapors of the melting wax. As a concentrate, the effects of dabbing are extremely potent and it has an instant, yet long lasting effect. As such, dabbing is popular among consumers who’ve developed higher tolerances to smoking bud. It’s also considered a more economical way to stay stoned since it only takes a small amount of the concentrate to achieve an intense high.

On average, a joint filled with dry herb boasts about 15% of THC whereas concentrates pack a punch anywhere between 60 – 90%. HelloMD describes that concentrated weed oil – or dabs – are produced when butane is poured over marijuana to separate the THC from the plant and dissolve it into the butane. The THC solution must be pressed through a filter. The end product is thick, gooey substance high in THC and often goes by the name of wax, shatter or budder. After extracting the THC, the concentrate should be ‘purified’ of any trace solvents.

The Controversy

Dabbing is a more processed, potent version of marijuana, hence the crack/coke analogy. Like crack, dabs are typically more cost effective than its less-processed counterpart (it doesn’t help that it comes in a hardened rock-like form, either). There’s also some evidence suggesting that dabbing is a more addictive means of consuming marijuana. In 2014, a scientific review stated that:

Analyses revealed that using “dabs” created no more problems or accidents than using flower cannabis. Participants did report that “dabs” led to higher tolerance and withdrawal… suggesting that the practice might be more likely to lead to symptoms of addiction or dependence.

The Fix reports that the main argument against dab production stems from the rise in explosions caused by careless hash oil production attempts. Others are health related, such as inhalation of “dirty” butane (from poor filtration) or contaminants like pesticides, herbicides and fungi.

In addition, more hospitalizations have been attributed to dabbing, through faulty production and consump tion. With a track record like that it’s no wonder advocates are publicly expressing concerns that dabbing is damaging marijuana’s reputation.

“Seeing teenagers wielding blowtorches or blowing themselves up on the evening news might incite a new anti-pot paranoia that co uld set the legalization movement back decades,” writes High Times senior editor Bobby Black, who notes that the techniques used to produce dabs “bear an eerie resemblance to those used for harder drugs like meth and crack.” – Victoria Kim, The Fix

From Eerie to Irie

Initially, dabbing looked like some sorta fancy freebase session to me – and I was thoroughly amused by the use of the handheld blowtorch. That said, just because dabbing gives me the mild creeps doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile approach to highness.

It isn’t that dabbing is ‘bad’ so much as it’s fairly new, poorly regulated and misunderstood. As a growing trend, dabbing has its fair share of advocates, like Daniel “Big D” de Sailles, a partner at Top Shelf Extracts, who attests to the wonders of dabbing.

In addition to being an effective pain reliever, “it helps with both harm reduction – it practically cures withdrawal symptoms in people who are alcoholics or addicted to speed or pharmaceuticals… It works every single time, and it’s easier to regulate your dosage. You take a fraction of a percent of a gram, and you’re fully medicated and exactly where you want to be,” he told High Times.

Connoisseurs appreciate dabbing as a more flavorful way to get lifted. Additionally, the vapor is thought to be less harmful to the lungs than smoking, and emits far less of a scent.

It’s safe to say that consuming any mind-altering substance comes with some degree of risk so for those of you curious (or brave) enough to indulge, get a load of Dab Lab’s tips to ensure the optimum dabbing experience:

Avoid low-quality products. Only purchase lab-tested cannabis concentrates from reputable sources, and ask your bud-tender about testing results and recommendations.

Learn to use a dab rig properly. This includes understanding the tools involved, being mindful of heating devices and hot surfaces, and investing in a dab rig you feel comfortable with.

Never attempt to perform chemical extraction at home. If you’re interested in experimenting with concentrates safely, try making your own rosin.

Dose your concentrates responsibly. Start with less: a tiny dab can be much stronger than a full bowl of flower. The good news with dabs: you don’t have to consume as much to feel the same effects!”

As dabbing grows in popularity so does the controversy around its safety.