Decarboxylation of Weed: What It Means and How to Do It

Eating MarijuanaHave you ever wondered why marijuana is commonly smoked or cooked into foods? Have you ever been curious why edibles get you high but eating raw marijuana will not? If so, it would seem the most forward conclusion one could make would be that heat and temperature conditions must have something to do with this phenomenon. And you’d be 100% right! Using heat exposes the cannabinoids in your weed to decarboxylation, a process of changing the chemical structure to be available to the body through the bloodstream.

Though the previous statement is a bit of a simplification, it nonetheless serves as a jumping-off point for the science to come. Ahead, we will take a look at the number-one reason the decarboxylation of your weed matters and how to do it safely at home (hint: it involves heat).

Activating the Effects

In relation to marijuana, the word “decarboxylate” means to remove an oxygen and carbon molecule from the THC, CBD, and the other various cannabinoids found naturally in the plant. Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds which give marijuana its various effects. Using decarboxylation on your weed removes the chemical bond that prevents the cannabinoid THC, among others, from readily entering the bloodstream.

This is why eating marijuana fresh from the plant will not produce the psychoactive effects associated with smoking or vaporizing it, positioning decarboxylation of your weed as one of the most important aspects of processing edibles, tinctures, or other non-smoked or vaporized consumption methods at home.

Decarboxylation allows various cannabinoids to more freely enter the bloodstream, allowing the THC to enter the bloodstream through the mouth, stomach, and intestines more easily. Still, however, this is likely the reason the effects do take longer to kick in when using edibles because the active cannabinoids have to go through the digestive system, ultimately being exposed to the metabolic processes of the liver.

Changing the Chemical Structure and What It Means for the Experience

Decarboxylating WeedIf you live in a state with recreational marijuana, there are undoubtedly requirements by the state regulatory agency overseeing the program requiring that cannabinoid concentrations and pesticide use be tested before the product gets to the consumer. While this is the loose marijuana equivalent of alcohol by volume (ABV), it presents a problem when the consumer population was raised in a culture where cannabis gets you high or arrested, and not much has been done to better understand the plant. Seeing THCa and THC on a label can easily confuse the under-experienced or previously black-market consumer. It’s not a matter of such consumers’ frequency of use; rather, it is an expression of legal policy which did more to penalize the use rather than eroding the demand.

The change in user experience via decarboxylated marijuana over raw or dried marijuana is dependent upon the cannabinoid concentrations in the raw plant material, as well as various environmental factors pertaining to the weed decarboxylation process. The most simple and accessible explanation of decarboxylation as it pertains to marijuana is that decarboxylation transforms the THCa to THC, CBDa to CBD, and can activate the numerous terpenes and flavonoids found naturally in the cannabis plant. Terpenes give marijuana its flavor and smell.

THCa, unlike THC, produces no high and has been shown to interact at a neurological level differently than THC. CBDa and CBD, while both are non-psychoactive, differ in how they express their effects at the neurological level, but ultimately they mimic the effect profile of each other.

How to Do It

Decarboxylation of your weed, also known as decarbing, is essential if you want the biologically available form of THC, CBD, or various other less prominent cannabinoids to be available to the body without having to smoke or vaporize the product. Decarbed weed can be used to infuse oils, can be easily added to salad dressings or spice mixes, and is able to produce the high recreational consumers are often seeking.

Under standard environmental conditions, cannabis would grow, produce flowers, and die. After the plant is dead, the remaining plant, its flowers, would remain, being exposed to oxygen. A process of oxidation would eventually cause the THCa to lose an oxygen and carbon molecule, becoming THC. We can greatly expedite this process by adding heat.

This is why smoking or vaporizing marijuana has been the millennia-deep, tried and true method of using marijuana.

While heat is the agent of change in this situation, the reason thermal heat works is due to the boiling point of various cannabinoids and terpenes contained within the plant. Not only does decarboxylation help to activate the cannabinoids, if done at temperatures which are either too high or too low, you can over-activate or under-do the decarb process, changing the effect profile entirely.

I’ve found the temperature 220 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to 1 hour works perfectly for me.

First, you’ll want to measure out your desired amount of weed for decarboxylation. This varies by both the user and the intended dose. Ensure it is ground finely, and place it in an oven-safe container (preferably a Pyrex or other glass). Spread uniformly in the container. Next, you’ll place the container in the oven, covered. At the 25-minute mark, stir your weed, ensuring even decarboxylation as best you can. At the hour mark, remove from oven and let sit for five to ten minutes before removing.

You can now use your decarbed weed! Happy medicating!

Article by: Joey Wells