AH, THE MIGHTY DECATHLON. The name comes from the Greek words for "10" and "feat," and Olympians from around the planet gather every four years to partake in the competition that many deem to be the greatest challenge for any elite athlete... but fuck that.
We decided to undertake an athletic feat that was a little more "us"—the Dabcathlon—since "dabs" are all the rage with the young and fashionable set. ("Dab" refers to the portion size needed to get stoned out of your mind on cannabis extracts with THC levels that can reach 90 percent or more—also see "wax," "shatter," etc.) To do so, we gathered five contestants to each take 10 different types of dabs, then perform a challenge of mental or physical agility to accompany each dose:
Josh, Dabcathlon inventor, coach, and administrator. Mercury cannabis correspondent and author of the weekly Cannabuzz pot column. Professional stoner who outpaces everyone else involved in experience with, and knowledge of, cannabis.
Anna, the paper's youngest full-time staff member, and the only contestant who's ever done dabs before. Smokes daily.
Colin, brother of a longtime Mercury associate and part of the extended family. Smokes daily.
Bri, stand-up comedian and writer, sometimes for the Mercury. Regular pot smoker.
Marjorie, Mercury managing editor and casual smoker.
Steve, Mercury editor in chief. Has not smoked since last year's Mercury Weed Issue.
We gather on a sunny afternoon at Marjorie's house. Using a VapeXhale unit [see "The Great Vape-Off" on pg. 4, and "Trying Out a Very Expensive New Vaporizer," Cannabuzz, Jan 7], Josh finalizes the selection of dabs on the dining room table. The mood is optimistically nervous. Anna is the only contestant who really knows what she's in for. There are frightened last-minute questions about how dabs compare to whippits and crack, and whether there's a chance one of us will fall down or shit our pants. Nobody asks why there's a rubber syringe on the table, but everyone wonders. (This question was never answered.) Josh promises us that nobody is going to barf.
1. Complete as much of a 1040 tax form as possible in three minutes.
Dab: Mad Farmaceuticals' "Nug Run" of Lemonberry butane hash oil (BHO), 93.8 percent THC
The first dab kicks off with much coughing and adjusting to the new experience of smoking a concentrate. Colin goes first, and the others are emboldened by his calm handling of the effects. He happily begins filling out the form, pleased that he remembers his address. Steve goes next, and while he confesses that he's "scared" just before taking his hit, he seems to quickly adapt, proudly announcing that, "Yes, I do wish to contribute $3 to the presidential campaign!" as he officiously works his way down the form. Bri mentions a post-dab headache, but admits it may be because of the tax form.
Meanwhile, Anna forgets both her wages and to set her timer, but seems to be enjoying herself. However Marjorie has become downcast and fidgety, looking clammy and a little green. Possibly in reaction to Marjorie, Steve similarly begins to deteriorate. They exchange cringes as Josh describes the "dab scene" and how it "tends to not always bring out the best in people."
One dab in, and things are already looking grim.
2. Say the alphabet backwards.
Dab: Dab Society's "Sour Diesel" BHO extract shatter, 79.3 percent THC
Everyone is keyed up, and the pressure to perform—we are men and women of words, after all—is ridiculously high. Colin sets the bar, completing his recital in 50 long seconds, with much pausing and swaying to and fro. He also offhandedly notes his "great pain relief," though it's unclear what pain he'd previously been feeling. Steve finishes in a nail-biting 40 seconds, seeming greatly aided by the technique of rocking his hips and pointing his fingers in dancerly fashion. "This feels twice as bad... or half as good," he says airily.
Anna is next, and completes the task in 70 seconds, with grave trepidation. Bri closes her eyes and soldiers through in 55 seconds, but forgets the "F" and switches "R" with "S," noting that she "feels great physically." After gingerly trying to take a "baby hit" that nonetheless makes her hack with watering eyes, Marjorie's time is 47 seconds and flawless, but is drawn out by numerous bouts of hysterical giggling.
The room loses its collective shit when the smoke alarm finally goes off. We take this as a sign and move to the backyard.
3. Complete an "egg walk" through a very basic obstacle course marked with croquet hoops. A large serving spoon is used, to make the event remotely doable.
Dab: Crash Wax's "Cotton Candy" BHO crumble, 92.49 percent THC
The sunshine and fresh air have given us all a second wind, and the mood is lifted. Marjorie's hostessing efforts to create a tranquil and freakout-proof environment, complete with romping puppies, has inadvertently upped the ante. The dogs are running amok, growling and biting each other's faces as they intermittently crash through the croquet course. It is decided we must play through them.
As we settle into lawn chairs and Josh arranges an extension cord to power our dab device, a small voice pipes up from over the fence. It is the four-year-old girl who lives next door, and Marjorie tenses at the sight of her. The girl has a habit of hopping over the fence, which would, at that moment—what with the array of drugs—not be optimal. We are advised to try and ignore her, though she is basically shouting and waving her arms at us.
With bonus obstacles now in place, Colin runs the course, bringing him into close vicinity of the neighbor girl. "What are you doing?" she asks. He steps agilely over the snarling dogs. "Oh, just doing an egg walk." He then enthuses about what a great bouncy ball she has, dominating the conversation until he's able to complete the course and escape out of earshot. Next up, Steve deflects the girl's unintelligible questions by reverse-confusing her, asking her about a hammer.
Bri is so taken aback by the child's rapid-fire babbling that it greatly compromises her performance. (With zero patience: "What?! No. No... NO! I don't know! What's your name?") Hassled and clearly anxious to get away, she forgets to do the second half of the course and flees. Anna takes it in stride, chatting away and missing just one hoop of the course.
4. Blow up a balloon with the exhaled dab hit.
Dab: Mad Farmaceuticals' "Cheese" propane hash oil (PHO), 72.57 percent THC
Josh takes a moment to ask the participants how they're feeling. Everyone mumbles, "pretty stoned," and Colin also mysteriously notes that he "feels a little spicy." Someone asks if we've done the fourth dab yet. "No? That's this one? Oh Jesus...." Impairment has now set in.
Colin takes his dab and sighs wearily. "What am I doing?" Steve looks wistfully into the distance, smiling happily while saying, "That's good. That's a good one." No one's sure what he means. Bri blows up her balloon and launches into an extensive coughing fit. She pats the balloon full of smoke. "This is my little dab baby," she coos. "It was in my body!" Then, losing the plot: "This is the face of the ad campaign for dabs! White people... oversaturated."
It's Marjorie's turn. She takes her dab and immediately blows out. "You're supposed to blow the balloon up with your hit!" admonishes Steve. Marjorie's eyes widen. "Since when?!"
5. Perform a field sobriety test: walk a straight line, heel-to-toe; stand on one leg with eyes closed and touch nose with alternating hands; track a moving finger with eyes.
Dab: Dab Society's "Critical Jack" BHO shatter, 81.97 percent THC
"Oh fuck, it's about to get Critical," says Colin, before attempting to walk a straight line with difficulty. He topples over when he tries to close his eyes while standing on one foot. "I'm totally getting higher every time," he explains.
Anna shows her first sign of weakness after taking her fifth dab: "That one knocked the wind out of me." She struggles to walk a straight line. She wobbles on one leg, but gets the nose touches done. Miraculously, her eyes track well, though she points out that "the 'cop' who administered that test had a real case of the giggles."
Steve's up next, and decides to play a theatrical card, yelling, "Whaddya want, pig?! What? You should NOT be in authority over ME! The rent's too high! TOO HIGH!" This devolves into a long rant. Everyone tunes out while he eventually arrives at a surprisingly tearful conclusion. Finally he tries the tests, and does just fine.
Bri takes her dab, and exclaims, "Oh my god!! Just thinking about being in my body right now is the worst." She's coughing too hard to walk in a straight line. She stops. "Let me just take a cleansing breath." It works, and she does well on the rest of the test. Marjorie is recovering from a (non-Dabcathlon-related) knee surgery and can't do the physical challenges, but Josh decides she should take a dab anyway. She asks no one in particular, "Does it feel the same as being high?"
There's a somber, 15-second pause before Marjorie answers her own question: "Yeah... yeah. It does."
6. Bike around the block (or paint your nails, or complete a word jumble, or post on Facebook).
Dab: 1859's "Blue Dream x Harlequin" BHO, 63.6 percent THC
Steve decides to tap out, to the relief of everyone else, who immediately follow suit. Mutiny ensues, and there's ardent refusal of any more dabs. There is much mumbling along the lines of, "I'm, like I'm... yeah... I'm done. Yeah."
Except Anna, who takes the sixth dab and thus becomes the undisputed winner of the Dabcathlon. Bri, with utter sincerity, tells her, "Fucking rock 'n' roll, dude. That's so cool."
Even though it's over, Anna and Steve successfully bike down the street for therapeutic reasons, but will not attempt to go all the way around the block. Colin is earnestly instructing the note taker: "Can you please put me down as, 'Fully stoned, to the fullest... period.'"
Bri also declines a sixth dab ("This reality hasn't even begun to sink in"), but does decide to complete the Facebook post challenge, because she wants someone to come give her a ride home. "I'm on drugs," she writes. To our knowledge, no one responds.
Josh asks for our final thoughts. "Right now, I just feel like I've got a hobo sleeping in each eyelid," says Steve. "I'm pretty stoned," Anna says nonchalantly. "I've been really high on edibles, but with this I'm not so high. It's more like a 'plateau high.'" Bri: "I don't know... I just... I don't know, dude." Josh turns to Marjorie, who thinks a minute then asks, "Wait, what's the question?"
Colin jumps in, suddenly finding himself. "I have to say I felt pleasant for the most part, but I also have to admit that, given the choice, I don't know why I would want to smoke something that tastes so chemically when I could just use something to vape the plant's—"
"HAAARRGHWOOOUUGHHH..." It's the sound of Bri, who has suddenly turned around and puked on the lawn. We all sit still and silent in the perfect sunshine, unsure of what to say. Birds sing.
It goes on for an impossibly long time, full-body retch after full-body retch. We're helpless. Nobody can move.
When it finally ends, the mood is broken. Plans for a pizza run dissolve as people begin to excuse themselves. One by one they slink away ("Oh, are you going that way? Hey, I think maybe I'll just catch a ride..."), leaving only Steve and Marjorie, who sit, long after the others depart, watching the dogs lick vomit out of the grass.
"So... would you say that was a success?"
"I have no fucking idea."