What Is a Dab and How Is It Made?
Images of diamond-encrusted buds are what usually come to mind when marijuana is mentioned. But today’s stoners don’t just fancy flowers. They’re die-hard about dabs. But what is a dab exactly? How are dabs made? And are dabs safe? To find out we visited with an expert; Addison Demoura the co-founder and COO of Steep Hill Halent Laboratory, the first and foremost authority on testing cannabis products, including dabs, located here in Oakland, California.
What is a dab? Dabs are individual doses of concentrated cannabis. Dabs mainly refer to butane hash oil, also known as BHO, but the definition of dabs includes a variety of concentrates including wax, shatter, budder and errl—all named after their consistency. To be exact, there really isn’t an ‘official’ definition for dabs. You wouldn’t expect Webster’s dictionary to be up to date with the definition of dabs, right? That’s what we’re here for, man.
Marijuana concentrates are nothing new. In fact, they’re ancient. The tiny THC crystals that cover cannabis flowers or buds were first separated from the plant thousands of years ago. Early stoners realized that those shimmering crystals, or kief, could be pressed into blocks, also know as hash, making them easier to handle. And technology has continued to help refine the way concentrates have been made—boosting their potency and popularity—leading to things like dabs.
Dabs can contain upwards of 80% or even 90% THC, but typically range between 50 and 75%. You’ve probably heard about high-CBD strains that don’t cause much of a head-high, right? Well, the extraction process can also be designed to concentrate CBD (cannabidiol) for non-psychoactive medical use. That means you don’t necessarily always get high from taking a dab. But, taking a dab is one of the best ways to get really high, really fast.
How to Make Dabs
There are a number of different extraction methods used to separate the compounds from the plant matter, says Addison Demoura, while kicking back in a co-worker’s office with us. Demoura is friendly, fun to talk with and has been growing and selling weed far before it was cool. He’s the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Steep Hill Halent Laboratory, here in Oakland, California and one of the coolest motherfuckers in the scene. “There’s water extraction methods, co2 methods, subcritical extractions, closed loop, open blasting for making BHO,” Demoura lists. “There’s alcohol extractions, propane, butane, hexane and the list goes on.”
The most popular on that list of ways to make dabs? Butane hash oil. BHO gets its name from how it’s made. The typical process involves passing butane gas through a tube filled with cannabis plant matter, sometimes trim sometimes beautiful flowers. The low temperature of the liquid butane crystallizes the cannabis resins. As the butane exits the tube the resins and butane are collected. Since butane is a volatile molecule and boils at -1° C, it can be evaporated away leaving behind nothing but resin. Many connoisseurs will then purge their oil in a vacuum chamber. The result of this process is what gives BHO its characteristic textures from wax, to crumble, to shatter, to budder.
Is Dabbing Safe?
Is dabbing safe? Demoura, who has given up on flowers and only dabs, says his lab can do trace residual solvent screening on any kind of concentrate. This allows Steep Hill to ensure there’s no remaining chemicals like residual solvents, pesticides or other harmful contaminants in dabs before they go to market in places like Oakland’s Harborside Health Center or The Berkeley Patient Group. In fact, Steep Hill can test any cannabis product—from dabs to cannabis-infused gummy bears, determine its ingredients and list their amount.
“I can walk into CVS and buy medication that’s regular-strength, extra-strength, child-strength, day-time, night-time and I can see the exact milligram amounts (of medicine) in each product,” Demoura says. That’s because testing allows manufacturers to account for each and every ingredient. And the same can be said for companies manufacturing and selling dabs nowadays. Now if the law would just catch up?
How to Dab
Want to learn how to do a dab? It’s easy, all you need is the right equipment and something to dab. Then just watch this video presented by the mighty High Times magazine’s Bobby Black. You’re welcome.
Have you ever tried a dab? What do you think of dabs? Let us know in the comments below…
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