What Is Dabbing Marijuana?

June 20th 2015

Thor Benson

A lot of people who know something about the marijuana scene have heard the term "dabbing," but there are many who haven't actually tried it. That's not to say it's not popular, as it has seen a resurgence in the past few years among marijuana users. Dabbing has been around for decades, but new techniques for accomplishing it have recently emerged. Even if you've heard of it, you might be wondering — What exactly is dabbing?


Dabbing is simply smoking cannabis concentrates using a rig that requires a butane torch. Essentially, you pull off a small amount of cannabis concentrate from a container using a metal poker, and then a device called a nail (which looks like a metal bottle cap) is attached to the stem of a smoking device (like a bong), and is heated using a butane torch. Then, the concentrate on the poker is put inside the nail, and the marijuana enthusiast inhales the concentrated marijuana smoke. There are other ways of doing it, but that's the traditional method.

There are several kinds of cannabis concentrate that can be used to dab. We'll go over the main ones. The first is Shatter. Shatter looks like a hard candy, and it's transparent. It is regarded as the most potent marijuana concentrate for dabbing, as it is heavily processed. According to High Times, Shatter can reach a concentration of 80 percent THC. The next, Budder, looks like yellow caviar. It goes through less extraction than Shatter, so it retains more flavor and contains less THC. Budder can reach somewhere around 70 percent THC. Finally, butane hash oil, or honey oil, is more liquid and tends to vary in concentration. The previously mentioned forms of concentrate are all derived from butane hash oil. Since the others are more refined, they are typically more potent. These concentrates can be used in the previously mentioned rig or in a vape pen.

To make a marijuana concentrate, manufacturers typically start by running cannabis through a solvent like butane or isopropyl alcohol. That's one of the reasons manufacturing concentrates can be very dangerous because of the flammable chemicals involved. There have been many reports of people trying to make concentrates at home and causing explosions.

Smoking dabs can also be dangerous, if not done incorrectly. Done in moderation, smoking dabs isn't significantly more unsafe than other methods of smoking marijuana, unless you get a tainted product. However, smoking dabs at a level beyond your tolerance can cause hallucinations that can cause you to do risky things. Just think: Shatter can reach 80 percent THC, while the most potent marijuana bud you can find probably won't have more than 25 percent THC. Just like with eating marijuana edibles, it's simply about knowing what you are ingesting and practicing caution. 

This may all sound like a lot of people playing with toys to get highs they could get with a lot less effort, but dabbing actually has an important place in the cannabis world. Many medical marijuana patients require potent medicine that doesn't contain excess plant material when it is smoked, and smoking concentrates can be a great way for them to get their medicine. For the recreational user, it may be about a quicker or more effective high, but some people need these methods.