Last week, I facilitated my friend’s first dab. She watched me light the titanium nail with a torch, her eyes wide as if to say, “I didn’t know we needed welding tools to do this.” I placed the sticky globe over the nail and told her to her place the dab inside once the red hot metal cooled. She awkwardly took the dab rig in one hand while balancing the crumbly oil on the dabber in the other. When it met the hot nail, the crumb of wax evaporated into a thick cloud that quickly disappeared as she sucked it in her lungs. The exhale began smooth, but ended in a fit of violent coughing followed by what I call the “dab stance” (laying face-down on the floor).

This is what dabbing can look like to a first-timer. For those who have never seen or tried dabbing firsthand, mainstream media paints an even sketchier image, using words like “the crack of marijuana” to describe it. They also often conflate the consumption of cannabis extracts with the dangerous and sometimes explosive practice of home butane extraction.

These types of statements are neither accurate nor helpful to an increasingly cannabis-curious public, but the fact remains: dabbing scares off almost everyone who isn’t a cannabis heavyweight. Juggling foreign tools, knowing which oil to buy, dosing, and the transmission of misinformation in the media are all reasons for other demographics to dismiss dabbing altogether with a “no thanks, I’ll stick to flower.”

Videos of parents and grandparents dabbing almost always carry a comical tone, showing how unlikely it is for older generations to enjoy this method of cannabis consumption. But what if dabbing looked different?

Traditional Dabbing vs. New Dabbing Technology

Dabbing concentrated cannabis with a torch and nail

“I don’t know…it looks like crack. Or meth,” one parent said after we showed him how to take a dab. He complained about the number of tools required, and noted that the blow torch seemed a dangerous ingredient in the process.

I agreed and thought back to the time our torch malfunction and resulted in a massive fireball, and the time it tipped over and scorched our carpet, and the time the knob got stuck and wouldn’t stop spewing butane.

“Most seniors don’t like to play with torches — shooting fire out of one of these can be scary for a novice,” another said. “E-nails are very hot and must be handled with great care. Ever touched one? Bad idea.” 

Product innovators, now privy to the challenges, dangers, and stigmas of traditional dabbing methods, are seeking out new ways to harness the effects of dabbing – without the torch and nail.

VapeXhale is one of these tech-forward pioneers. Something between a bong and a vaporizer, their device known as the EVO captures the sensations of dabbing without requiring cumbersome and dangerous tools. The concentrate is placed in a glass tube, heats for seven seconds, and then the glass neck fills with smooth smoke-like vapor packed with THC – and yes, it hits like a dab, unless you consider coughing fits an essential part of the dabbing experience. When I spoke with VapeXhale’s founder and CEO Seibo Shen, he said, “We wanted to condense the vapor until it’s as thick and opaque as a bong without increasing the temperature.”

Traditional nail-and-torch dabbing can produce temperatures as hot as 1000 degrees Fahrenheit – with that amount of heat, you burn off many important flavor compounds (called “terpenes”). Not only that, the vapor off a hot nail can be pretty harsh on the throat and lungs. Using modified air pressure to lower compound boiling points, technology like the EVO delivers the potency of a dab without scorching your insides.

The Benefits of Cannabis Concentrates and Vaporization

The VapeXhale EVO unit with some cannabis concentrates and buds

Why bother with dabbing when you have flower?

There are advantages to using cannabis concentrates, just as bud offers its unique set of benefits.

  • Extracts strip essential compounds from cannabis, leaving behind the plant matter that leaves sticky tar-like resin when smoked.
  • Concentrates can have pronounced flavor profiles, especially when producers reintroduce terpenes after the extraction process.
  • A little bit goes a long way. Rather than having to smoke or vaporize a lot of flower for a heavy effect, you can use a small amount of extract and get dramatically more potent effects. This is particularly useful for those treating pain, insomnia, or other stubborn symptoms.

You don’t have to dab to get the benefits of cannabis extracts, but dabbing is a great way to deliver effects quickly and with unprecedented strength. Dabs hit harder and faster than oil-filled wicked vaporizer pens, for example, and they don’t require solvents like propylene glycol.

Although edibles can be stronger than dabbing, inhalation methods are very different from ingested cannabis. For example, I’ll dab as a quick remedy for nausea and appetite loss. In my experience, an edible takes too long and doesn’t have the same nausea-relieving effects as concentrates.

As you can see, dabbing can benefit cannabis consumers of all demographics, but first we need technology that delivers controlled doses at controlled temperatures. Dabbing can be an unpleasant (and, at worst, dangerous) experience for first-timers and novices, so the key is to find ways to minimize discomfort through innovation. VapeXhale and similar producers are leading the charge, but what exciting new inventions will we see in the coming years as cannabis engineering peaks?


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