Dabbing through the eyes of a diehard flower smoker

CBD dabs: BHO amber glass against yellow background

After more than ten years of consuming cannabis, flower has never faltered as my favorite iteration of the plant. I enjoy the ritual of grinding and packing a bowl. And the cool wave that rushes over me after a hit is beloved at this point. But even with my romantic view of flower consumption, through all those years, I’ve also worked in the industry. This means I was a first-hand witness to the dawn of dabbing.

I was enamored with the concept after pulling a hit of Jurassic Amber Glass (an amalgamation made from trim of many strains) from a tube bong with a slide and bell attachment for the first time.

The dawn of dabbing

Dabbing seemed like a dressed-up version of knife hits, the art of heating two metal knives on the stove before smashing bubble hash between them and inhaling the vapor through a milk jug with the bottom cut out. The rudimentary process still leads to a damn fine hit, and what I might be considered an early iteration of dabbing.

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But that brings me back to the slide and amber glass. I was excited because I felt the beginning of a new subset of the culture–even if the process took two to three people and quick, calculated movements that were a little overwhelming.

While the evolution of dab rigs and extracts fascinates me, as I said, I’m a flower girl. If money was no object, I’d be rolling and smoking joints all day. But in the name of efficiency, I generally opt for my Sackville Crystal Ball Pipe.

Honestly, since 2008 when I was picking up at the Vapor Room in San Francisco’s medical days, I’ve always had the same ritual. Every week I buy an eighth or two and one edible as a little treat at the dispensary. When I get home, I roll one joint and enjoy the heck out of it before parsing the rest until my next trip to the store.

Now in our year of the lord 2023, I’m doing that same dance. Wax just isn’t on the menu for me. Even though I’ve never been one to bring extracts to the sesh, I’ve been dabbed out, tapped in with a dipstick, and hit my fair share of infused joints.

Moving past huge, hot dabs

Back in the day, dabbing always propelled me into a state. In the early days, people dabbed each other out like it was a challenge, serving up quarter-gram globs onto a stainless steel nail that was usually far too hot.

The unstoppable coughing, aggressively watery eyes, and sometimes sleep that followed always made me question why people ritually dabbed. Turns out the secrets were in a low-temp nail, smaller amounts on the dab tool, and choosing the right product.

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After leaving the Bay Area in 2013, I ended up budtending in Flagstaff, Arizona. Brands in the mountain town were only just figuring out how to blow wax. Since it wasn’t readily available and dab culture wasn’t big, not only was I not buying the product, it wasn’t a regular contender in group seshes either. So I didn’t dab for a few years until moving to Bellingham, WA, where adult use has been legal since 2012.

The Bellingham cannabis industry had dialed in its wax game a bit more than Arizona at that time, and this is when I found my favorite way to consume extracts: high CBD dabs. When I was budtending in Washington, Trail Blazin’ Productions still grew a cut of Pennywise. The cultivar produces a mostly equal amount of CBD and THC. After harvest they blew Pennywise into a stable, reddish-hued BHO, and in this product, I found my perfect dab.

Finding the perfect product

Cannabis flower has long provided the perfect mellow vibes that my brain and body seek, but I often experience some residual anxiety. For me, anxious thoughts can be especially consuming after a night out with a new group of people or a hectic work week–and sometimes, a high-THC flower that fulfilled my other therapeutic needs would exacerbate these uncomfortable moments. But dabbing Pennywise took a Zamboni to those nagging thoughts. It was the first time a cannabis product had worked so instantaneously and thoroughly for my nerves.

I became a Pennywise wax fan for life but it seems I was alone because this was the only high-CBD BHO on shelves at the time, and the brand has since discontinued the entire strain. Consumers drive the product lines, and I guess people weren’t buying CBD extracts. Now, my trusted anxiety supplement is impossible to find–but it remains my favorite way to dab.

Taking a dab doesn’t have to propel a person to outer space, though patients I met while budtending have told me that’s helpful when replacing prescribed opioids or kicking harder drugs with the help of weed. But for me, a humble stoner, that type of trip wasn’t necessary. When I found CBD wax though, the game was changed, even if I can’t find it at dispensaries anymore.

The rapid evolution of extracts and dabbing coincided with my decade-plus in the cannabis space, and I’m thankful to remember the early days with multi-person dab rigs attached to bongs designed for flower. Knowing how far the space has come makes it even more exciting to ponder where it will go–I can only hope it moves toward more CBD wax options at dispensaries.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of GreenState.com and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.