Study: Does Marijuana Dabbing Cause Cancer?

Marijuana dabbing, the increasingly popular method of inhaling high-potency concentrated cannabis, may be hazardous to your health, according to a new study.


Researchers at Portland State University discovered that dabbing may expose users to elevated levels of cancer-causing toxins, including benzene, compared to other methods of inhalation. 

The study, published earlier this year in the American Chemical Society’s ACS Omega, raises serious health concerns about the practice of dabbing, especially among the younger population who prefer this method of vaporizing.

“Given the widespread legalization of cannabis in the United States, it is imperative to study the full toxicology of its consumption to guide future policy,” said Rob Strongin, a Portland State professor and lead author of the study. “The results of these studies clearly indicate that dabbing, although considered a form of vaporization, may, in fact, deliver significant amounts of toxic degradation products.” 

Dabbing has been around in some form or another since the 1970s, but the practice has skyrocketed into popularity over the past decade. Essentially, a dab is a small dose of highly concentrated cannabis that is heated on a hot surface and then inhaled. Focus on the word “concentrate” — and fully grasp the meaning.

Cannabis concentrates are exactly what they sound like: Take the herb and extract all the THC out of it as you can. The extreme amount of THC in the concentrate means you will need very little (just a dab) to achieve the psychoactive effect.  But trying to accurately and consistently heat the concentrate to the proper temperature is hard — and that is part of the problem.   

The difficulty users find in controlling the nail temperature put users at risk of exposing themselves to not only methacrolein but also benzene,” Strongin said. “Additionally, the heavy focus on terpenes as additives seen as of late in the cannabis industry is of great concern due to the oxidative liability of these compounds when heated. This research also has significant implications for flavored e-cigarette products due to the extensive use of terpenes as flavorings.” 

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