How I learned to stop worrying and love the dab

The future of the industry and the new reefer madness — dabs are here to stay.

To this day, even in the enlightened and savvy Bay Area, I still hear it whenever this particular character makes an appearance.

“What is that stuff?”

When the answer comes, it takes a while
to process.

“That’s… weed?”

If ever there was a disruptor, concentrated cannabis is it. If the multibillion dollar cannabis industry wasn’t moving fast enough for you, the emergence of high-end, high-potency concentrates has upended the table in the space of just a few years. You want innovation? A homespun renegade trade is now the purview of scientists using lab equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars.

Almost half of some dispensaries’ sales are now concentrated cannabis. And yet it’s still a stranger.

So under-the-radar is concentrated cannabis that a friend of a friend recently mistook some high-end wax for particularly floral lip balm (maybe it was the terpenes). Let that sink in: A cannabis product that many casual cannabis users can’t recognize has seized a significant portion of the cannabis market.

That is true cult status with no parallel in any other industry.

And even if you’ve never dabbed a day in your life, concentrates matter. Concentrated cannabis may determine where the industry and movement go.

Fears of would-be hash makers blowing up their homes with poorly-contained butane are indeed overblown. As contributor Greg Zeman points out, Thanksgiving turkeys cause far more fires than hack hash labs.

That doesn’t matter to law enforcement or politicians, who — already unable to deal with cannabis in flower form ­— now have a new and poorly-understood “menace” to deal with. Some cops are wasting no time and are eagerly lumping in concentrate-makers with meth cooks. Unfortunately, both can be treated just the same under the letter of the law.

Worry over dabs is the new reefer madness. And with some dabbers overdoing it into an oil-induced spontaneous coma, or with unscrupulous manufacturers putting poorly-purged, butane-filled extracts on the market, concentrates may provide prohibitionists their best shot yet at convincing soccer moms that legalization is a bad idea.

In typical cannabis industry style, dabs are also splitting the movement. Competing camps have emerged: those who swear by the safety and efficacy butane-derived concentrates, and those who abhor anything made with a chemical solvent and have staked out a “solvent-free” realm. Meanwhile, there is absolutely no scientific knowledge as to how healthy this is for our minds or lungs.

As usual, we’re still learning on the fly. Some extraction methods claim to capture unheard-of levels of terpenes — the compounds that determine how something smells, and may also determine how cannabis makes us feel. There is also great medical potential: As top industry writer Angela Bacca tells us, by dabbing CBD-rich extracts sick people are able to get relief almost immediately.

One thing is clear. Concentrates are not going away. As always, it’s better to try to understand something first before proceeding. If we can demystify dabs for you with this, our concentrates issue, we’ve done our job.

Photo by Mike Koozmin