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What is Decarboxylation?

Decarboxylated cannabis

If you have ever been told to “activate” your marijuana, there’s a chance you already know about decarboxylation. Good news: we’ve put a guide together to explain:

  • What is decarboxylation?
  • What does decarboxylation do to cannabis?
  • How do you decarboxylate cannabis?
  • Do you need to decarboxylate concentrates?
  • Is decarboxylation necessary for edibles?

Curious about cannabinoids? Check out our guide discussing the effects of cannabinoids.

What is Decarboxylation?

Decarboxylation is the application of heat over a period of time to increase psychoactive properties in cannabis. Cannabis, fresh from the plant, contains tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A) and cannabidiolic acid (CBD-A). THC-A does not cause any intoxicating effects until it is decarboxylated (or decarbed), which turns it into the THC most marijuana consumers are familiar with. Many cannabis connoisseurs choose heat to decarboxylate or “activate” the THC in their marijuana.

Note that CBD-A may also have unique effects pre- and post-decarbing, but is not known for psychoactive properties. For this guide, we’ll focus on decarboxylation as it relates to THC.

What Does Decarboxylation Do to Cannabis?

Cannabinoids within raw cannabis flower contain an extra carboxyl ring or group, COOH, attached to their chain. This is a fancy way of saying that this extra carboxyl prevents the psychoactive effects of marijuana. Decarboxylation destroys this carboxyl and releases carbon dioxide. While decarboxylation affects all cannabinoids, the one that causes obvious effects in the human body is THC. This is why you can tell when your marijuana is decarboxylated--if it hasn’t been, you likely won’t feel a psychoactive reaction when consuming your cannabis.

Wondering how cannabinoids work together? Learn more about the entourage effect.

How Do You Decarboxylate Cannabis?

Knowing how to decarboxylate marijuana is a bit of an art, so you may not want to start with your prized, premium flower until you’re confident in what you’re doing. Most cannabis connoisseurs use one of two methods to decarb their bud: baking or sous vide.

  • Baking: If you’re baking, make sure your oven reaches a consistent temperature, otherwise, your flower won’t evenly decarboxylate. From there, it’s up to you. If you start low in temperature, the process will take longer, but it’ll be safer for your flower. We recommend around 200 degrees. If you push it higher, you might burn your bud. Break your flower into small pieces and place it on parchment paper, then, start with about 20-25 minutes of baking. Add time as needed until your marijuana is a darker, but still green, shade.

    Note: Your house will smell like marijuana. To cut down on the smell, consider decarbing in a mason jar or Insta-Pot.
  • Sous vide: This method combines water or steam, sous vide precision cooker, kettle, heat-safe plastic bag, grinder and cannabis. Grind your flower and put it in the bag. Seal it tight with as little air as possible inside. Put the bag in the pot, cover it with water, and put the precision cooker in. You want to set it to around 230 degrees. This process takes a little over an hour to complete, and, because the cannabis is in a bag, it can cut down on the smell if you prefer your house doesn’t smell like marijuana.

Just like when consuming marijuana, the decarboxylation process should be done low and slow. It’s easy to push your temperatures too high and ruin your flower, and no one wants that.

Do You Need to Decarboxylate Concentrate or Flower for Inhalation?

Nope. If you’re a cannabis consumer that prefers to inhale your marijuana, chances are the process you use to do that—like vaping or smoking—decarbs your cannabis for you. Think of your typical marijuana oil cartridge. When you attach the cartridge to a battery to vape, the battery heats the oil up. This converts the THC-A in the concentrate to THC for you.

If purchasing a concentrate like a sublingual or tincture, the process of decarboxylation is already complete. You would actually ruin your product if you tried to decarb it.

Wondering what a sublingual is? Learn more about sublinguals today.

Is Decarboxylation Necessary for Edibles?

The answer to this isn’t so straightforward. If you’re purchasing ready-to-eat edibles from a licensed dispensary, you don’t need to do anything to them. They are ready to be consumed as soon as you’d like because they have been decarboxylated in the manufacturing process.

If you’re interested in creating your own edibles, you can decarb your cannabis to ensure you get the most THC out of your marijuana. If you prefer a less intoxicating edible, you don’t have to decarboxylate your cannabis. It simply comes down to preference.

If you’d like to create your own edibles, but you don’t want to have to do any decarboxylation, you can purchase products that already have activated THC in them, so all you have to do is add them to your recipe and enjoy.

Interested in learning more about edibles? Check out our edibles guide.

Do You Need to Decarboxylate to Consume Cannabis?

Not at all. Most cannabis products you purchase from a licensed dispensary are ready to be consumed. But if you’re curious about decarboxylation, why not visit one of our local dispensary locations? There, cannabis experts can walk you through our products and help you decide the best way to enhance and enjoy your cannabis.

Recreational Cannabis is not available in all states. Cannabis is for medical use only and may only be used by certified patients in Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.

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