When it comes to marijuana consumption methods, times have certainly changed for the better. Once upon a time, the best you could hope for was a few puffs from a poorly rolled joint. Today, there are lotions, edibles, capsules, and concentrates, and more.
One of the processes of consuming concentrate is known as dabbing. Proponents claim that it is significantly safer than its dry herb counterpart, primarily due to a lack of combustion. However, advocates of flower believe that dabbing can also lead to the ingestion of harmful chemicals. Some also believe that its potency makes it a risk to the health of newcomers.
Let’s take a look at how dabs compare to flower regarding strength, health risks, and more.
What Are Dabs?
Cannabis dab concentrates come in various forms, including wax, shatter, and crumble. They are all extracted from cannabis flower and known for their extremely high THC (or CBD) content; hence the term concentrates.
An increasing number of manufacturers are offering concentrates with a THC content of over 90%!
You can consume concentrates via a dab pen, which is akin to a vaporizer. Alternatively, you can use a dab rig, which is a device specially created for dabbing. Both options use a heating element to vaporize the dab. When you inhale the vapor, you get very high, very quickly. Some users like to add a sprinkle of concentrate to their flower for an extra kick.
What Is Marijuana Flower?
Everyone who has heard of marijuana knows about flower, even if they haven’t heard it called “flower” before. Cannabis has been around for a very long time, and dry flower (bud) is still the most popular form of consumption.
You can smoke it in a joint or go wild with a bong. Whatever the method, marijuana flower is associated with getting high. In the modern era, breeders are creating more and more potent hybrids. However, the THC content seldom rises above 30%, with 15-25% being the most common range.
Things to Consider: Is Dabbing Safe?
One of the biggest dangers associated with dabs is the risk of getting burned during the extraction process. This is especially true for those who attempt DIY extraction at home. However, you will have no such issues if you purchase it ready-made from a reputable source. It is common to use butane in the DIY extraction process, and that IS a risky business.
For starters, butane can heat up the metal or glass that you use to extract cannabinoids. If you touch the substance, expect a lot of pain. There have been a few examples of explosions when amateurs try to extract THC from marijuana for use as concentrates.
One of the most tragic cases occurred in November 2013, when David Schultz caused an explosion in his apartment building. One person died, and several more were injured. He is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence.
Using a Dab Rig
If you use a rig to consume concentrates, you have to heat up the nail with a torch. The combination of getting extremely high, coupled with exposure to intense heat, is always a worrying one. While common sense should prevail when using hot nails, that isn’t always the case when high. A safer alternative is a rig with an e-nail, which heats itself.
Harmful Chemicals in Dabs?
It is often assumed that dabbing is significantly safer than smoking flower because of the lack of combustion. However, dabbers aren’t necessarily free from exposure to chemicals. For example, be wary of sellers who extract their THC using butane. Although lab-grade butane is relatively pure, it is expensive and hard to find.
Manufacturers sometimes cut corners and use low-grade butane, and parts of it get into the end product which you ingest.
The issue of whether exposure to vapor is harmful to one’s lungs is still open for debate. There are concentrates with 500 ppm of residual hydrocarbons. While that sounds bad, it is no worse than when you smoke a joint.
Dabs vs. Flower: Potency
It has often been said that you can’t die from a marijuana overdose. This is because it has never happened in human history! While it also won’t happen with dabs, the extreme potency can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. Remember, there are dabs on the market with a THC content of over 90%.
Cannabis concentrates are sometimes known as “pot on steroids.”
According to marijuana advocate Dr. Dustin Sulak, a single inhalation of a dab offers up to 10 times the THC (and other cannabinoid content), as does weed.
If you’re new to cannabis and consume too much concentrate without developing a tolerance, you may lose consciousness. Above all, make sure you either dab at home or with a friend, just in case the high becomes too extreme.
Before Dabbing, Know Your Marijuana Tolerance
The amazing THC content contained in high-quality dabs means that your body will quickly become accustomed to the psychoactive cannabinoid. Eventually, you will get to the stage where you need a greater amount of concentrates to get high.
In theory, you could suffer from withdrawal symptoms if you use dabs for long enough and suddenly go cold turkey. However, there is no concrete evidence for this assertion.
Dabs vs. Flower: Things to Consider
The most significant health risks associated with marijuana arise when you smoke a joint. While smoking, combustion can reach approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant begins to combust at around 392 degrees. As combustion causes smoke, there are similar risks as there are when you smoke tobacco.
Chemicals & Carcinogens
When you vaporize your dabs, around 95% of the gases contain cannabinoids. In contrast, the gases produced by combustion consist of just 12% cannabinoids. Also, the combustion of marijuana produces a few known carcinogens and tar. This could lead to chronic bronchitis as they irritate your lungs.
If you’ve ever used dabs, you’ll notice that the glass and water remain cleaner for longer. When you smoke flower via a water pipe or bong, it is striking how quickly the glass and water become dirty. The glass typically becomes black with tar and other substances, which can take a toll on your lungs. Research into how dabs affect your lungs is still ongoing, but users routinely report cleaner hits with less lung irritation.
Dabs vs. Flower: Which Has the Better Flavor?
One of the best things about concentrates is the burst of flavor you enjoy when you purchase a high-quality product. As well as consuming a cleaner substance, with better cannabinoid content, dabs may have a higher level of terpenoids. This is crucial because the marijuana plant’s terpenes are responsible for its aroma and flavor.
However, concentrates can lose their aroma and flavor during the extraction process. This is because terpenes are extremely sensitive to heat. Some producers have started reintroducing terpenes into their dabs after extraction. This results in an even better level of flavor than the flower from whence they came.
Combustion destroys an enormous number of terpenes because it exposes the flower to extreme heat. Important terpenoids such as beta-caryophyllene, alpha-pinene, and linalool have boiling points between 242 and 388 degrees Fahrenheit. CBD has a boiling point of between 320 and 356 degrees.
Using vaporizers that heat concentrates to temperatures in the low 300-degree range should theoretically result in a better flavor than smoking flower.
Dabs vs. Flower: Difficulty of Consumption
The most common way to consume flower is by smoking it. Some people also like to use their culinary skills to create tasty treats and edibles. If you go down this route, make sure you decarboxylate your marijuana first. This process ensures the THC-A transforms into potent THC.
The decarb process happens automatically when you smoke a joint. For use in cooking, heat your flower in the oven at around 220-245 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-45 minutes.
Dabs, however, offer a greater degree of versatility. The most common form of consuming concentrates is via a dab rig. This involves placing the substance on the hot nail and inhaling the vapor.
However, you can also create ingestible oils and tinctures. Alternatively, you can add it to food and beverages, or even sprinkle some on your joint and smoke it. There are also different dab forms, including sugar, crumble, sap, oil, wax, shatter, resin, and honeycomb.
Dry Herb vs. Dabs: Discretion
One of the biggest downsides of flower is a complete lack of discretion. If you smoke a joint in public, the smell of the weed is sure to give you away. The smoke fills the air with the unmistakable scent of Mary Jane. The smoke also clings to your clothes and smells terrible the following morning when stale.
When you use dabs, however, there is no smoke. Therefore, the vapor does not ruin your clothing or hair with the scent of weed. Another bonus is that dab pens are designed to look like innocuous devices. You can even control vapor production to ensure you have a clandestine vaping session.
Dry Herb vs. Dabs: What About Quality?
As flower has been on the market for a lot longer than dabs, it has the edge in quality. You can find high-quality flower in every licensed dispensary in any state where marijuana is legal for medicinal or recreational purposes. There are so many reputable sellers in these states that there is no need to take any chances.
Although dispensaries also sell dabs, it isn’t as easy to find premium-quality concentrates. Dabs are widely available online, but you must be very careful when choosing a supplier. Ideally, producers will use supercritical CO2 extraction, which is clean and guarantees high-quality concentrate. However, some use butane for extraction, which could provide contaminated samples. Buyer beware!
Final Thoughts on Dabs vs. Flower
There is really no best choice here, only what is right for you. Both methods have their benefits and drawbacks. One pro of dabbing is that it can offer a rapid high, as long as it is performed with clean, tested products. Some medicinal patients find dabbing a useful consumption method for alleviating chronic pain or other symptoms associated with medical problems.
However, its extreme potency means you have to be careful when using dabs or risk developing a tolerance. You could also ingest harmful chemicals if butane is used to extract the cannabinoids.
Flower is the all-time classic form of marijuana, and it will not go away any time soon.
It is easier to get premium-quality bud from a dispensary, and you can enjoy a controlled high. Alas, smoking weed is far from discreet, and the smell usually gives the game away!
It is also a fact that smoking flower leads to combustion, which means you potentially inhale chemicals, tar, and carcinogens. The combustion process also destroys terpenes and cannabinoids that are crucial components of marijuana.
Whatever your position is in the great marijuana dabs vs. flower debate, the fact remains that both have their pros and cons.