What is a Dab? A Guide to Marijuana Dabs & Concentrates

What is a Dab? A Guide to Marijuana Dabs & Concentrates

Dabbing—it’s not just the hip dance move your little cousin taught you. In a country that is growing more and more accepting of marijuana use, dabs are an intensely specific way of consuming THC in a quick amount of time. But what are dabs? Where can one get some?

This article aims to answer questions about Dabs that beginners might have about this honey-colored, sticky product. Scroll down to see the answers to questions you may or may not have!

What is a Dab?

Dabs, in essence, are any kind of extremely powerful concentrate of THC. With a nickname born from the fact that only a dab, or a small amount of product, is needed to get a powerful high, dabs can be produced as a byproduct of grinding regular marijuana buds or extracted from cannabis through a chemical reaction.

Dabs were introduced to the United States around the late 1960s but only became popular in use alongside the rise of vaporizers. Dabs have become popular in the mainstream consciousness too, specifically because of rising cases of careless dab creators exploding their homes or apartments with butane gas, a highly flammable chemical used to create extracts.

The increased use in dabs comes from the quick and intense high it provides.

How are Dabs Different from Cannabis Flower?

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An older or inexperienced marijuana user may wonder what all the fuss around dabs is for. A regular joint is still the simplest, most accessible, and most conventional way of consuming marijuana, and it hasn’t failed in all the centuries marijuana has been used for. Blunts are likewise easier to create, and a water bong offers a smoother inhale and can come for as cheap as $15.

Despite a dab’s higher price point and more complicated setup, its main appeal comes from the fact that it delivers a much faster and potent high and pain relief than smoking flower does. This is due to the dab’s strong THC content. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive ingredient within marijuana, producing the euphoric sensation of being ‘high’ by targeting the dopamine center of the brain. While the maximum percentage of THC concentration in cannabis is around 25%, dabs can go up to anywhere between 70% and 90%. For users who require an immediate high, such as those seeking pain relief from chronic illnesses, or those who have developed a tolerance to dry cannabis, dabs provide an attractive alternative to going sober.

Additionally, as dabs are concentrates, they provide a purer vaping experience. Smoking dry cannabis produces burnt plant matter, which can then release resin and hot smoke into your lungs. For those with easily irritated lungs or those who are concerned about maintaining the health of their throat and lungs, dabs provide a smoother experience.

Finally, dabs provide a stronger high than dry cannabis because of its high THC content. That increased content can also produce a more hallucinogenic high, which is attractive to some and not at all appealing to others. Unfortunately, as it is so concentrated, the high dabs produce can be shorter-lasting than those created by dry cannabis.

What Kinds of Dabs Are There?

As dab is just the name for THC concentrate, there is actually a wide variety of dabs available on the market. The two main categories they fall under are extract forms and byproduct forms. Extract forms require a chemical process in order to extract the THC from dry cannabis, while byproduct forms naturally come from the use of regular dry cannabis.

Some common extract forms are

Shatter Dabs

Shatter is semi-transparent and comes in thin, amber-colored sheets. When it is cold it shatters easily, hence its name. Shatter is popular since it is thought to be one of the purest extracts. You can store shatter in parchment paper—just make sure to keep it in a stable, room-temperature environment, or get ready for your shatter to shatter!

Budder/Butter Dabs

Honey Oil Dab about to be smoked

Photo from Wikipedia Commons


Creamy like peanut butter, budder is made by whipping shatter into a thick, creamy substance. Its appeal comes from its slightly more shelf-stable properties, although having your shatter turn into budder over time can also be a sign that the original cannabis wasn’t purged and pure enough

Crumble Dabs

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The driest of all concentrates, it is easy to portion and use crumble as it’s already in a tiny, crumbled form. Because of its fine consistency, it is best to store crumble in silicon or glass containers with tight lids.

Wax Dabs

Concentrate wax for dabbing in a container

Photo from pexels.com


To those with their glass half full, it looks like brown sugar. To those with a half-empty outlook, it looks like straight earwax. Despite its appearance, wax is an easily stored form of concentrate that has decarboxylated THC, which offers an intensely powerful high. It can be stored in any container that you don’t mind getting sticky.

Oil Dabs

Marijuana Hash Concentrate Oil in Pans

Photo from pxfuels


Unlike the other extract forms, this honey-like oil is made from CO2 instead of butane gas. It tends to come in a syringe so that you can easily squirt it into your rigs. While the use of CO2 produces a different tasting oil compared to the extracts made with butane, oil operates in a very similar way to the other products. It should be stored in its original syringe or in a silicone container

Rosin Dabs

Rosin for dabs

Photo credit: Flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/amoosefloats/16608844335 Steven Schwartz


A sticky substance created when heat and compression are applied to a bud of a cannabis flower. It uses the entire bud to produce a clear, golden, and sticky rosin.

Live Resin Dabs

This is incredibly hard to find substance due to its unique production method. Fresh cannabis plants are used to create this concentrated oil, hence the live part of its name, and many believe that this is the ultimate, purest form of THC possible.

Common byproduct forms include:

Kief Dabs

The most accessible of the THC concentrates, kief (pronounced almost like queef, yes) is the golden-green powder left in the bottom of your average weed grinder in the aptly named kief catcher. After finely grinding up a bud for a joint or whatnot, the kief left underneath can also be smoked for an intense and potent high.

Hash Dabs

Hash is simply hard-pressed kief or compressed resin. It tends to be crumbly yet sticky and is easy to use and store. All you need to do is take a small crumble and store it in a clean and airtight container.

How Do I Dab?

To an inexperienced user, dabs may seem too complicated to use. However, with the proper rig and set up dabbing will be easier than doing the dance move.

One of the most difficult parts of dabbing doesn’t even involve any machinery. Due to the concentrated nature of THC extracts, it only takes an incredibly small amount of dab in order to get you high. There are specific dabber tools available that help measure out the dosage perfectly every time you dab, but when using for the first time it is highly recommended to read the label, consider the specific product’s percentage of THC, and ultimately lowball your dose and increase from then on. For example, a small dose is barely the size of a crumb.

For the actual act of dabbing, you need a rig. There are three main kinds of rigs that you can dab with, and they are:

Oil Rig

The classic set up for smoking dabs, an oil rig is a water pipe with a nail, a dome, a torch, and a dabber. The torch is the heating agent that heats up the nail, which the glass dome then goes on top of. Once the dome is heated, use the dabber to apply the dab directly onto the nail and then inhale. It might be tricky to navigate the sticky dabs and the extremely hot nail and dome, but practice makes perfect! Soon you will be a master at using an oil rig to smoke dabs.


Man holding THC wax vaporizer pen

Photo from Wikipedia Commons


A less intensive tool is a vaporizer, although they specifically work best with wax, shatter, and oil dabs. They can range from cheap to fancy and expensive. The appeal of vapes comes from the fact that they are simple to assemble, discreet enough to use in public, and can be charged with a regular USB cord. However, their range is limited compared to the classic oil rig set up.

Atom Bomb Rigs

Atom bomb rigs are a combination of the above two rigs, with the dab product still being manually added into the atomizer. However, the rig itself will heat the dab up with a battery into an inhalable vapor. Thus, it comes with the ease of an electronic heating agent but the dosage can be controlled manually.

Are There CBD Only Dabs?

Dab on wax paper

Photo credit: Flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/amoosefloats/17548136534 Steven Schwartz


The short answer is yes, there are CBD, or cannabidol, only dabs available on the market for those who want instant pain relief without the high THC provides. However, they are hard to find as most marijuana products are focused on THC concentration and potency. Since regular dabs contain both the psychoactive THC along with the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory CBD, most users opt to go for a more conventional dab.

Most CBD dab products have similar names as THC dab products do, such as CBD Crystals/Shatter, CBD Wax/Crumble, CBD Budder, and CBD Honeycomb.

CBD only dabs are great for therapy and are an alternative for users who seek instant and potent pain relief without the addition of a potentially hallucinogenic high.

What Are the Dangers of Dabbing?

While dabs are a more processed form of marijuana, they still maintain a lot of the same risks as smoking dry cannabis does. That is, it doesn’t matter in what way you consume THC, as you will still feel the side effects of worsened anxiety and paranoia, impaired motor control, negative interactions with certain medications, and etc.

Additionally, when it comes to smoking marijuana, it also doesn’t matter whether its smoke or vapor you are inhaling: a foreign substance is entering your lungs. Thus, smoking marijuana still raises concerns around lung and throat health, regardless of the manner.

Finally, the specific dangers of dabbing lie mostly in the issue of dosage. As mentioned above several times, dabs are a concentrated extract of THC. To compare to dry marijuana, dabs can have up to 90% concentration of THC compared to a mere maximum of 25% concentration in smoked marijuana. There have been reports of patients being sent to urgent care due to using too high of a dose, which then caused severe lethargy and hallucinogenic highs that the users were not expecting. Thus, it’s always best to lowball your dosage, especially when first using dabs, and then increasing the amount over time.

Some minor concerns about dabs that extend to all mind-altering substances are based around making sure that your dab products are well-sourced. Since many dabs are produced through the use of chemical reactions involving butane gas and carbon dioxide (CO2), products that come from sources that refuse to disclose their procedures and viability should be ignored in favor of your health.

All in all, dabs are just like any other marijuana product—if used carefully and conscientiously, it will simply provide a pleasant high and pain relief.

Where Can I Get Dabs?

Dabs are currently legal wherever marijuana products are legal, which as of 2022 includes California, Vermont, Oregon, and 7 other states. 33 states in total have legalized medical marijuana as well, including the District of Colombia. If you are in Denver Colorado go to Life Flower Dispensary for Dabs and they are also open late until midnight.

As for costs, dabs are usually more expensive by the gram compared to dry marijuana. However, the increased concentration of dabs makes it so that they are comparable to dry marijuana in terms of longevity.

However, dabs are available both in-person and online, especially since their popularity seems to be on the rise. Rarer forms of dabs, such as live rosin or even CBD only dabs, might be trickier to find but the world of the internet is vast and wonderful. Just be sure to research your seller before purchasing.

As always, those interested should first check their state’s regulations on marijuana use for any purpose before partaking.

In Conclusion

Dabs are a great alternative to smoking conventional cannabis flowers, as they offer a higher potency of THC. However, their high is a little shorter, the cost is more expensive, and the chance for hallucinating is also increased. But overall, practice makes perfect—and those who have mastered the art of dabbing rarely go back.


You knew it was coming, the text in this article is informational only and not intended to be legal or medical advice or recommendations in any way. Use this information as you will with your own discretion.

The bottom line is – be safe, follow the rules, and enjoy some Mary Jane while you are in the Bicentennial State for your Rocky Mountain High!