New York Times Mangles Dab Coverage

Has "plain old pot lost its edge?" That's what the recent New York Times article, "Chasing Bigger Highs, Marijuana Users Turn to 'Dabbing'," contends. 

The article begins with two teens puffing on a vape pen in public. One of the two geniuses the Times selected to be the article's main sources opines, "Marijuana is the beer of THC as dabbing is to vodka." Very scientific, for sure.

According to Times reporter Sarah Maslin Nir, a dab is a form of concentrated marijuana that's inhaled solely via pens. No mention is made of the true meaning of dabbing, which is to use a rig, heat a nail and suck down a massive hit. It's probably better that Nir didn't focus on the blowtorch aspect of dabbing (though this technique is being replaced by safer electronic nails).

A marijuana extract is defined as a "yellow, waxy substance that can contain high levels of THC." That's partially correct, but fails to mention the variety of extracts, such as oil that's used in cartridge style pens, which are becoming the most popular way to costume concentrates. How did Nir miss this growing trend?

Predictably, she quotes the DEA ("the use has serious physical and psychological side effects") and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse ("side effects… include hallucinations that cause people to end up in psychiatric facilities"). Did Nir visit any such facilities to corroborate these statements? Of course not.

Even NORML deputy director Paul Armentano weighs in on the negative aspects of dabbing: "When a product is more potent, and when the route of administration is conducive to people experiencing a very strong high very quickly, then one can argue that the risk of abuse goes up."

It's likely Armentano said some favorable things that were not used in the article. For instance, he might have told Nir that dabbing is not just a recreational activity. 

In the May-June issue of Freedom Leaf, Rick Pfrommer writes about its popularity among medical patients:

'Far from young folks looking to get as high as possible, some medical users report that dabbing with highly concentrated cannabis is the only way they can relieve their pain. This benefit has begun to change the perception of dabbing.'

Still, negativity persists, even among those in the marijuana community, such as California NORML director Dale Gieringer, who was quoted in a recent Boston Herald article about dabbers falling over and breaking their teeth.

As a New Yorker, I don't get to dab often (on a nail). But when I'm in legal states, I take advantage of the opportunity to inhale concentrated cannabis. Just sit down and enjoy it. Most likely, nothing bad is going to happen. It's just marijuana, after all.

As far as the New York Times is concerned, I was hoping they'd have a better understanding of new developments in cannabis — especially since they've jumped aboard the legalization bandwagon over the last few years. But apparently, you can't teach the Old Gray Lady new tricks.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.