We asked this same question to cannabis users like yourselves and received a plethora of answers, to which we’ve gathered logical explanations to help guide our newest members.
Let’s start with the basics.
Flower, aka weed, is the herb and actual flowers that develops out of the cannabis sativa plant, that is then dried and used for consumption by means of combustion or extraction. Although species are disputed, the different “strains” of cannabis are usually classified into sativa (known for its uplifting high), indica (known for its relaxing body high) and hybrid (a mixture of both). It’s important to know that only female cannabis plants flower, creating the plant medicine, cannabinoid-filled buds that sparkle in the light. Male plants are typically slashed dead and thrown out if found in cannabis cultivations since they could hurt the production and yield of the fertile plants.
“I like flower because its easier, more controllable,” says Laura (23). “I just like rolling a joint and smoking it.” Predictability and control play a huge role when using cannabis, since control can easily be lost amongst the pursuit of the high. For new users, we recommend starting with small amounts of flower, which ranges in potency between 10 and 25 percent THC, to see how your mind and body initially react to the newly-introduced chemicals. We recommend trying some single-strain pre-rolled joints to take the stress out of the situation.
If the flower is being used to make concentrate, the dried plant material is then brought to a lab where the cannabinoids and terpenes are extracted from the flowers’ pistils. Don’t be intimidated: Concentrates are exactly what they sound like–the cannabis plant concentrated down–often testing in potency between 50 and 90 percent THC. Think of them as the finer, tiny chemical compounds that contain the cannabinoids and terpenes that deliver a chemical change to your endo-cannabinoid system that gets you “high.” Although new cannabinoids are being discovered all the time, the main cannabinoids the industry has been focused on are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component of cannabis) and CBD (cannabidiol, the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of marijuana). *Blog coming soon on cannabinoids, terpenes and how they affect your high.
“I definitely lean more towards flower but both are excellent. Flower winds me down and relaxes me more, which is the biggest reason. Flower is also easier to control how high I get, it lasts me longer, and has been much more social than concentrates, in my personal experience,” says Johnson (25). “Concentrates are great for portability and getting super high now and then, but if I had to pick one or the other, flower is the winner.”
Do you even dab, bro?
The term “taking a dab” or “dabbing” comes from the act of using a metal tool to pick up a small clump (or dab) of concentrates to vaporize. Concentrates are also called wax or oil, for short.
Different methods of extraction are used to produce a product with higher potency, cleaner wax and more–that’s where the different names like shatter, live resin and rosin come from–each name indicates a different method of extraction from the plant. Extraction methods that use chemicals like butane, propane and CO2 are often cheaper compared to going solvent-free. Concentrates require a higher temperature to vaporize, around 185 degrees Celsius (365 degrees Fahrenheit), verses flower which is burned, losing a good deal of the beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes during the combustion process.
“It really depends on how I’m feeling. If I want a bit of an extra buzz then I’ll go with concentrates,” says Cal (26). “Sometimes you just have a feeling, like I really need a dab right now, for stress relief especially.”
Prepare your throat for the heat.
From a personal opinion, flower is the OG and will always be delicious, but it’s difficult to consume large quantities of flower on a daily basis without hurting your budget and your throat. More basically, the more you consume cannabis (of any medium), your body will start to build a tolerance to THC. You’ll start to need to smoke more flower to achieve the same high you once achieved after only two hits. (Coughing is a whole other issue.) “If I know I have to get stuff done later on, I won’t take a dab,” says Taylor (24). “A dab is a more luxurious high–it’s a mini vacation.
Flower is a working-man’s drug.”
For others, “It depends on how much time you have; sometimes I won’t take a dab because of the process and sometimes I will. It could also have something to do with what I’m doing that day,” says Kyle (28). “I’d rather wake up and hit a bong rip, than wake up and take a dab.” A sativa-leaning hybrid flower like Blue Dream would be a good fit for an easy high any time of day.
Experiment with your own process.
It’s normal for cannabis users to go through their own trial and error process in order to find the right medium and temperature that works for them. Both flower and concentrates require some preparation time, whether that’s grinding up weed to put in a bong, or heating up your rig for the proper dabbing temperature. “It kind of just depends on my mood and what I got going that day. I’m always going to be leaning towards the concentrates, just because that’s my jam,” says Chad (29). “When I’m smoking flower it’s usually if I’m in a social setting, verses when you have dabs and everyone is just f*cked up.”
Efficiency is definitely a strong suit for concentrates. “If I have more time to sit down and roll something up, then I’ll go with flower,” says Whitney (26). “Dabs are more on the go, especially if you have a pen with a cartridge. They’re straight to the point–you get nice and high, nice and quick.” Stash Club’s High Tops vape cartridges are a high-necessity.
Different users bring up different points, all valid. Sometimes preferences can be dependent upon the situation. If you can smoke inside your residence, for example–most rented spaces have restrictions about smoking inside. Do you have an outdoor patio or backyard where you can consume? Any outdoor chill space with no smoking restrictions is ideal. If you’re in an apartment with minimal outdoor space available, concentrates are often preferred since they don’t stink up a room like combusting flower will. When you smoke concentrates, the wax is being vaporized rather than combusted, producing a significantly less harsh smell that doesn’t linger.
Users generally think that concentrates, especially in the form of a portable pen, are best for on-the-go situations. Many dab and wax pens come equipped with micro-USB chargers and resemble actual fountain pens, making them perfect to throw in your purse or bag.
“I’m more of a concentrate smoker. I take dabs when I’m home because they get me as high as I want to be really fast, and the terpene profile on anything live is just unparalleled to flower most of the time,” says Keri (31). “I do carts on the go out of pure convenience; they don’t smell, there’s no real effort that goes into getting high on the go with a pen. Concentrates tend to give me a cleaner high with less of a ‘crash,’ they don’t smell in public and my tolerance is borderline out of control and they’re the only thing that makes me feel how I want to. I love flower too, though. I smoke a lot of flower, mostly just for the actual act of smoking I think though. There’s something about smoking a joint.”
For many users, smoking cannabis has turned into ritual.
“Smoking flower to me, I appreciate the whole act of it. It’s when I have more time and want to sit and enjoy it,” says Michael (24). “Dabs are more of a means to an end–it’s going to be aggressive and I’m going to get very high.” The sacred process of examining nugs, sniffing the funky aroma, breaking up the sticky buds by hand or squishing them into the grinder, twisting the filter just right, laying out the paper and sealing it with a lick.
Other consumers use flower and concentrates for different purposes or at different times throughout the day. “I think it depends situationally, I smoke more concentrates when I’ve got a lot of stuff to do and am on the go, because I stay more motivated. I smoke flower when I’m like relaxing and winding down because it usually makes me sleepier,” says Taylor (25). Whether you’re a first-time user or you’re just sharpening your cannabis knowledge, we encourage users to always consume responsibly. “I like concentrates better, like a pen, because it’s concealable, discrete, and I get higher for longer,” says Lilly (26). “I’ve found that my 60-year-old mother occasionally likes a sip of my vape pen, too.”
- Grinspoon, Peter. “Cannabidiol (CBD) – What We Know and What We Don’t.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard University, 5 June 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
- Pate, David W. (1994). “Chemical ecology of Cannabis”. Journal of the International Hemp Association. http://www.internationalhempassociation.org/jiha/iha01201.html