Confession time: I’ve been smoking pot over half my life, but, until recently, I’d never done a dab.
It wasn’t for lack of opportunity. I hang out with a pretty wide network of cannabis enthusiasts, I’m a prescription cannabis patient, and I make a good portion of my income working around and writing about weed. I’m constantly researching trends in consumption and culture, so I’m well aware that concentrates are the preferred way a lot of people like to get their smoke on and that extraction technologies are getting better by the day.
Here’s the truth: I’ve always been mildly afraid of concentrates. OK, actually afraid. Like, sort of terrified.
For as long as I’ve been on social media, I’ve watched these woke-ass millennial stoners melt blobs of concentrate on the ends of elaborate dab rigs and smoothly exhale these impossibly thick, billowy clouds of smoke like it ain’t no thang.
As someone who started smoking dope in the late 90s, and basically stopped actively learning the cool new ways to get high after discovering vaporizers in the mid-aughts, those massive, cartoonish clouds look like next-level, nouveau-millennia stoner stuff I could never, ever pull off.
I should clarify: I used to be able to hang (sort of). I learned to smoke using all the atypical biggest-hits-possible rigs one turns to when they discover and fall in love with marijuana: bongs, blunts, multi-paper joints, blades, bottle tokes (or ‘BTs,’ as they’re affectionately known on Canada’s East Coast), whatever. My friends and I made pipes out of everything (as you do when you're a teenager and smoke on a part-time job budget). And if high-test concentrates had been a thing when I was in high school, I can guarantee I would have been gorging on Dunkaroos in my buddy's basement between rips on a cloudy amber dab rig, instead of a MacGyver-level gas mask/gravity bong hybrid held together by duct tape and bathtub caulking. I came up in cannabis culture before concentrates hit big, and by the time I was a proper adult and realized I didn’t need to smoke like a gangster rapper to be cool (and that I didn’t really enjoy it, either), the prospect of learning a whole new way to get high seemed really, really intimidating and pointless.
And if I’m being really honest, though I used to hold my own in a session circle, I was never really much for marathon smoking. Really heady highs make me anxious and generally uncomfortable, so as I slipped into the confidence of actual adulthood and discovered the joys of medicinal, metered dosing and intentional consumption, I adopted a comfortable routine of vaping therapeutically and puffing conservatively on joints at parties. Though I’ve definitely been around social dab circles and been curious, between the prospect of burning myself horribly in front of a group of people who actually know what they’re doing, or spending the rest of the party on the floor like the too-high loser staring at her hands wondering why fingernails aren’t on the other side, I’ve always declined.
All to say, I’ve been experimenting a bit with vape pens over the past year, and a few months ago, summoned enough courage to try a little shatter in a joint.
The sensation was nothing close to what I was expecting: instant clarity wrapped in a full-body hug, with the biggest energy boost I’ve ever received from cannabis. My eyes felt wider, and my breaths felt deeper.
When I started telling veteran dabbers I was thinking about writing this piece, they all said the same thing: that dabbing can offer a similarly uplifting high.
So maybe I’d been worried for no reason. For the good of journalistic integrity and science, I elected to figure it out.
Still totally unsure how to dab on my own or which rig to use, I reached out to friends at Dr. Dabber, who suggested their Boost E-rig. It’s a portable, battery-powered unit with domeless nails, which comes packaged in a sturdy, snap-front case. It’s a solid little rig, with a simple glass water filtration mouthpiece. Dr. Dabber claims it “replicates the dabbing experience perfectly,” and because I was pretty jazzed that I probably wouldn’t burn my house down with it, I took their word for it and agreed to try out the Boost for my first sesh.
So, I get the thing. It looked simple enough, but I still didn’t know what I was doing, so I acted like any other inexperienced, yet totally eager (but still basically terrified) stoner would: I read the manual cover-to-cover and called a budtender I was pretty sure wouldn’t laugh at me. He recommended I use the ceramic nail (the Boost comes with three, including a quartz and a titanium) and go low and slow. I got set up at home with someone I trust, threw on comfortable pants and positioned an arsenal of snacks nearby. We nicknamed the rig the ‘whitey pass-out machine,’ and were officially ready to get our dab on.
With the Boost heated and ready, I speared a conservative portion of a sticky indica shatter on the loading tool and smeared it on the nail. Like the total rookie I am, I didn’t co-ordinate the melting, choking and inhaling quite right, and the volume of smoke didn’t knock me out of my chair. Did I exhale an Instagram-worthy cloud? No. Did it matter? No.
I got the hang of it after a few tries, but I definitely could have (should have) stopped after one pull. Reasonably quickly, I became self-conscious of every word that came out of my mouth and it felt like I was talking through the end of a long tunnel. My brain and mouth began communicating on a two-second delay, so I decided it might be better I just stop talking and start taking selfies. All I could see were the circles under my eyes, which looked about a million times darker than usual, so I stopped doing that, too.
Reading quietly seemed safe, so I made the mistake of picking up the Boost manual. Immediately, I discovered whoever wrote it missed a word on the health disclaimer page, which makes the warning mean the opposite of what the sentence intends: that the Boost should, in fact NOT be used by women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or persons with or at risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, or taking medicine for depression or asthma. Because I’m a totally neurotic editor when I’m stone sober, the discovery pretty much ruined me for the night (BECAUSE PREGNANT WOMEN COULD BE DABBING COMPLETELY UNAWARE OF THE DANGERS RIGHT NOW!). I obsessed about the error to the point of nausea and I shuffled to bed without the stomach to rip into my Doritos. It’s also worth noting it was 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night.
For science, I gave the Boost another couple tries in the days following my inaugural sesh. I nailed the giant rips, but was grateful I conducted the subsequent experiments alone in my garage (and may have spent a little time staring at my hands afterward).
I'm going to go ahead and position that, much like blades, bongs and BTs, dabbing isn't really for me, either. The effects are too cerebral for my tastes, and the sensation is the exact opposite of the functional, purposeful use I've come to love and depend on as part of my wellness routine; I’m more confident than ever that I was biologically engineered for conservative cannabis consumption. I tip my hat to those among us who love those monster, eye-rolling rips, though, and recommend mature, dab-curious tokers give the rig a try at least once if afforded the opportunity; even if I learned I still can’t hang with the hardcore stoners, there’s great benefit to exploring new ways of consuming cannabis.
After experimenting with Dr. Dabber’s Boost E-Rig, I’ve grown increasingly impressed and even more convinced that we’ve come really far as a technologically advanced stoner subculture. The Boost, and emerging pieces of canna-tech like it, exist in this next-level class of creative engineering that’s constantly evolving to get people really, really high.
I read mixed reviews about the unit before trying it. Some complained about the apparent fragility of the unit, and cautioned the heating element is easy to break. It’s definitely not the kind of thing you want to knock over (which we did, twice). The kit is well-appointed, with everything one might need to complete their ritual, and I imagine it offers those who rip dabs regularly a practical solution for dabbing on-the-go.
I suspect that dab purists might reject the automated nature of the unit’s design and may feel like they don't have the same kind of control one would find in a traditional setup. It’s hard to argue that the thing isn’t a slick little machine, though. It's relatively easy to use, efficient and produces huge blasts – once you know what you’re doing.
Check out Dr. Dabber’s Boost here.
Victoria Dekker is an award-winning print and online journalist, focusing on life, culture and business in the cannabis sphere and beyond. Connect with her on Twitter @deadtowrite.