Three large cannabis flower nuggets with smoke swirling out of the top

Cannabis Decarboxylation: Understanding How to Decarboxylate Marijuana

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?

What is Cannabis Decarboxylation?

Decarboxylation is the application of heat over a period of time to increase psychoactive properties in cannabis. Cannabis, fresh from the plant, contains THCA and CBDA, neither of which produces the infamous intoxicating effects. It’s not until these cannabinoids are decarboxylated (or decarbed) that THCA and CBDA turn into THC and CBD. 

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.

What Temperature is Needed to Decarb Cannabis?

Finding the right temperature is key, as you want to ensure it’s effective without ruining it. The best temperature to decarboxylate marijuana buds is around 200 degrees. If you push it higher, you might burn your flower.

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.

Oven Decarboxylation

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.

How to Decarb Flower in an Oven [3 Steps]

Step 1: Break your flower into small pieces and place it on parchment paper.
Step 2: Start with about 20-25 minutes of baking.
Step 3: 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 Decarboxylation

This method combines water or steam, sous vide precision cooker, kettle, heat-safe plastic bag, grinder, and cannabis.

How to Decarb Flower with a Sous Vide [3 Steps]

Step 1: Grind your flower and put it in the bag.
Step 2: Seal it tight with as little air as possible inside.
Step 3: 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.

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. This converts the THCA to THC for you.

If purchasing items like sublinguals or tinctures, 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’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.

Cannabis Decarboxylation FAQs

Do you need to decarboxylate cannabis edibles you purchase at a dispensary before you eat them?
Not at all. The cannabis edibles you purchase from a licensed dispensary have already been activated and are ready to consume.

Are cannabis oils pre-decarboxylated? 

Cannabis oils found in vape cartridges need to be decarboxylated prior to consumption, which is why consumers have to connect cartridges to a vaporizer battery. The battery heats the oil to the right temperature, decarbing the cannabinoids inside.

Why is decarboxylating cannabis important? 

Raw cannabis flower does not provide psychoactive effects unless it is exposed to the right amount of heat or light. Only then will the cannabinoids - THC, CBD, etc. - produce the desired effects.

Decarboxylation & Cannabis

If you’re curious about decarboxylation, why not visit one of our local dispensary locations? There, cannabis experts can walk you through available products and help you decide the best way to enhance and enjoy your cannabis.

This content is not intended as medical advice.The information provided is meant to encourage cannabis education, not replace direct patient-healthcare professional relationships. Always consult your primary care physician or other healthcare provider prior to using cannabis products for treatment of a medical condition. Any statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.Products referenced are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Products are only available where consumption of cannabis is legal.