Are you ready for the rig?
By Travis Crane
Shatter, wax, budder, crumble, rosin, high terpene full spectrum, hash oil. For people on their first time dabbing, there’s a lot to learn about marijuana concentrates. If you’re about to do you first dab, take a deep breath, don’t let the blow torch freak you out, and arm yourself with knowledge. Let’s dive into the hottest trend in the cannabis industry and what to expect from your first time dabbing.
First time dabbing Q&A
Q. So what exactly is a dab?
A. Simply put, a dab is a concentrated form of THC that is extracted from cannabis flower using some type of solvent, such as butane or CO2, as well as newer methods that don’t involve solvents like rosin and ice-water hash. There are even distillate options that isolate just THC while removing other cannabinoids and terpenes to create a more potent product.
Concentrates are also consumed in a different, much more intense manner than marijuana in its more familiar dry flower (bud) form. A blow torch is used to heat up a metal, glass or ceramic element that takes the place of a normal bowl-piece that would be on a bong. This is called the nail. The bong-looking device that is used for dabs is commonly called an oil rig or just a rig. The concentrate is then dropped or “dabbed” into the nail using a “dabber” or narrow pointed tool with the concentrate on the tip.
The high heat of the nail from the blowtorch instantly evaporates — or at a lower temperature, melts down — the concentrates. The vapor is then inhaled like a normal hit from a bong. The difference between a dab and a bong hit, however, is real.
Q. What’s the difference between dabbing and smoking bud?
A. Compared to dry flower, concentrates are much more potent, with certain concentrates surpassing 80% or even 90% THC, whereas the highest a dry flower strain has achieved is 34%. Suffice to say taking one dab compared to one puff from the pipe will yield much different, and much more intense results, especially for first time dabbing.
Imagine if there was a tiny little speck of cannabis about the size of a breadcrumb, and consuming that one crumb did more than an entire bowl-pack. That is what a dab is in comparison to dry flower. Whereas a few puffs from a pipe may lead to a nice effect that lasts a couple hours, a dab will provide stronger effects for the same amount of time if not longer.
Additionally, the taste of concentrates in comparison to dry flower is much cleaner and smoother, though I promise it won’t seem that smooth after you exhale (particularly on your first time dabbing).
A tale of first time dabbing
Now it’s story time. My first dab smoking experience was intense, scary, relaxing, and exhilarating all at the same time. It wasn’t necessarily what happened to me, but what happened to the friend I was with. We’ll call him Frank. The two of us were very different in our enjoyment of cannabis — mine being much more frequent than his, his being very little outside of special occasions.
While hanging out at Frank’s place, another friend from down the block came by with some wax. We’ll call him Mau. This was back in the early days when concentrates first started hitting the market, so I had very little info about them and Frank was clueless. I had smoked with Frank maybe one other time prior to this, and it was pretty tough to convince him then.
I managed to convince Frank to take a dab with me so I wouldn’t be alone taking one for my first time dabbing. I was instantly struck with awe and confusion upon seeing how it worked. Mau turns on a small blow torch and begins heat up the nail while I stare like a caveman that just discovered fire.
Mau hands me the dabber with the wax on the tip, at which point I said, “That’s it?” There was no way a tiny little speck could actually be that effective, I thought.
“Trust me,” Mau replied. “This will be plenty.”
I take the dabber as Mau hands me the rig with the red-hot nail on top. After waiting about 30 seconds, I rub the dabber inside the nail as smoke billows from within. I inhale and pull the hit in through a central hole in the middle of the nail. The taste was like an amplified cannabis flavor without the harshness of plant matter, followed by an instantaneous attempt by my body to expel my lungs.
Imagine taking the biggest bong rip of your life, only to cough your brains out for minutes afterward. Compared to the coughing I endured from my first dab, a bong rip is nothing. I coughed my brains out for five minutes, easy. Frank followed up with what looked like a slightly bigger dab than mine, which was the first sign that things were about to get very, very weird.
Frank smoked once a month tops, and had even less of a clue about dabs than me. With the knowledge that he is just supposed to pull as hard as he would from a bong, Frank ripped the dab faster and harder than anybody I’d ever seen. By the will of some greater power, he managed to hold it in for a few seconds before exhaling a massive cloud.
Now, I thought my coughing fit was bad, but Frank made me look like a champion once he started. It was like watching a sitcom on TV, but instead of a laugh track, it’s a cough track. Non-stop coughing ensued as his face turned bright red. What followed is the reason you should always do your research before dabbling in first time dabbing.
Frank went into the bathroom after he’d been coughing for probably 10 minutes, and comes out a few minutes later and says in-between coughs, “Am I not supposed to be able to breathe?” Panic ensues (mainly from Frank), while everybody else giggles quietly knowing Frank couldn’t actually die from a dab. We manage to calm him down enough as his coughing starts to fade, which gives way to a sedated horse effect.
Now at this point, I was feeling terrific. The effects of a dab compared to dry flower are much more noticeable immediately after, which fades into a lighter-feeling high that isn’t as cumbersome as dry flower. It’s like getting all the great effects of a bong rip without the cloudiness that sometimes comes along with it.
Frank, on the other hand, was on a whole different level. He had forgotten how to use his limbs, and at this point was under a blanket on the couch where another guy was giving him water through a straw because he couldn’t move his arms to take the cup. This brings us to the conclusion of this wild first time dabbing, and the reality is that it isn’t near as crazy or extreme as its been made out to be.
It’s all about the individual. Frank’s tolerance was much different than mine, and so we both handled the dab in very different ways. I was much better suited to tolerate the extreme difference in effect due to my experience and built-up tolerance.
Your First Time Dabbing
Now you know what a dab is, what makes it different from normal cannabis, and an anecdotal story that shares both sides of the experience. When it comes to your first dab I cannot stress enough, always start small. Dabs are already very small, so if it looks too small to you, it’s probably just the right size to start with.
Be aware that you are consuming a much more potent form of cannabis and THC, and you will notice the difference instantly. Due to the potency, you can also quickly build a tolerance, and going from dabbing all the time back to normal smoking might be less rewarding than before you started taking dabs as it won’t provide the same strong effects.
Lastly, just have fun! There’s an entire culture dedicated to dabbing, and you can find it by following 710 friendly hashtags. Dabs are always getting better with new methods of extraction coming about all the time, and your local dispensary will always have a bunch of options to pick from. Pick the brain of your budtender and figure out what strain would be best for your first dab and find some good things to do while high. Just don’t do the stupid dab dance afterward. You’ll look like an idiot.