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Chemistry of Cannabis: A Dab Will Do Ya


Now that marijuana is legal for any responsible adult in a lot more places, you might be hearing about folks doing “dabs” or talking about their new “dab rig.” If you’re ready to get your brain baddered and shattered like a Rolling Stones song, then step into the wonderful world of cannabis concentrates. All of the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids with none of the extra components.

Just a dab of concentrates

Because all the flavors, aromas, anti-oxidants and especially the cannabinoid “high” is separated from the plant matter and chlorophyll, a drop size dab of concentrates is equivalent to a whole bowl of bud.

Essentially, what’s being done is all those furry trichome hairs that coat your favorite flowers are isolated and condensed into the ultimate of marijuana essence. There are a number of varieties, generally named for their texture and method of extraction.

Those furry trichome hairs are where all the action is.

The first distinction between dab varieties is concentrate or extract. Many consumers use the words interchangeably but specifically extracts are a concentrate made with the use of a chemical solvent.

Extracts are a form of concentrate but not all concentrates are extracts.


One of the simplest forms of dab extract is Rick Simpson Oil or RSO for short. It uses pure drinking alcohol for an extraction solvent. Butane is used for Butane Hash Oil (BHO) and CO2 makes “wax.”

Concentrates which avoid the use of solvents generally use “mechanical” means to break away the trichomes. Kief and Hashish are examples. You can also find “rosin” and “dry sift.”

Concentrate terms and names

When you go to the dispensary, the dab options all seem like coded messages to the uninitiated. After a few shopping trips you’ll soon get the hang of it. “Nug run” means dried and cured bud were the starting point.

Trim run means the concentrate was condensed from the leftover dried leaves. Whole plant means just that. “Live resin” means “fresh or flash-frozen, not dried, cannabis was used.”

Sprinkle a few crumbs on your bud.

The next thing affecting dab names is the texture which can run the gamut from applesauce consistency “sauce” to hard and brittle “shatter.”

Along the way you’ll find badder, budder, crumble, and sugar wax. There are some differences in the varieties which affect the way they are consumed. The drier, grainier versions are great for spooning into a bowl of bud. Shatter is better suited to dab rigs and vaporizers.


When people talk about “dabbing,” they usually mean heating a concentrate to vaporization point. Because that’s the most popular method dab and concentrate are often used in place of each other. There are other options though, vape pens, topicals, edibles and more. Folks just starting to dabble in concentrates can sprinkle a little in a joint or bowl to try it out with minimal investment. Dab rigs can get fancy and high tech.

They range from basic bongs with vaporizer attachments to specially designed wax vaporizers like the Puffco Peak and Lookah Unicorn. Today’s hipsters like to go the pre-filled vape pen route. No matter what your preference, always consume cannabis responsibly and dose appropriately. With concentrates, they taste so darn good that it’s easy to get carried away.

What do you think?

Written by Mark Megahan

Mark Megahan is a resident of Morristown, Arizona and aficionado of the finer things in life.

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