An Introduction To Dabbing
An Introduction to Dabbing
Remember knife hits? That was a process for smoking traditional hash—heat a butter knife to red hot using the stove, combust a piece of hash between the hot knife and a cold one, then inhale the smoke using a bottle. Modern dabbing is basically a knife hit through a bong.
Yes, a special kind of bong and a special kind of hash (generally oil), but the same basic idea applies—instead of adding fire to cannabis (like a pipe), you’re adding cannabis onto a heat source. Now it’s Titanium or Quartz instead of your parents’ tableware.
As this form of medication has become more popular over the period the federal government has allowed cannabis business to flourish (since 2008)—businesses which use high tech equipment to produce large quantities of the cannabis concentrate most commonly used for dabbing, Butane Honey Oil (BHO). BHO has been produced in small amounts by growers and traffickers for decades, often using PVC pipes to extract, then the heat of the sun to attempt to purge excess solvent. This was a dangerous and ineffective way of producing oil, leading to a contaminated product. For good reason, this was not a popular extraction method.
But with the explosion of the internet alongside the medical marijuana movement, that began to change. Early YouTube bloggers like Bret Maverick documented their experiences working with “open blasting,” using a glass or metal tube to “run” or “blow” BHO directly into an open Pyrex vessel. Across internet forums, technique was endlessly critiqued, leading producers all over western states to continuous improvements—leading to the popular introduction of degassing ovens and then closed loop extraction machines (CLS). With a CLS, BHO can be safely produced in wholesale quantities. Since the first popular discussions in 2011, BHO has become a national phenomenon.
This is a perfect time to mention that modern dabbing (and oil) is different than similar traditional products. Going back to the 1960s, the infamous Brotherhood of Eternal Love produced “hash oil” or “red oil” in bulk—is notably different than modern BHO in that it is decarboxylated (or “activated”). This means that heat has been added to remove the rest of the solvent, something that is still done with modern alcohol-extracted oil (aka “Rick Simpson Oil”).
That is what makes modern dabs so medicinal. The use of degassing ovens allows the product to remain at close to room temperature during processing, meaning that the concentrate still has all of the synergistic terpenes of the original plant material.
So a dab, vaporizing only cannabinoids and terpenes (with only a small amount of inert material), is more like an essential oils diffuser than a bong hit—so its popularity in medical cannabis programs is not surprising, with many patients needing to intake large doses of cannabinoids.
Over the next few months, this column will be exploring dabbing, the effective use of dabbing for medicine, and the surrounding dab culture. If you have any feedback about topics you’d like to see, please leave feedback or contact me on Instagram @medicalandy.