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9 June 2020
Cannabis Decarboxylation

What is “Decarboxylation”?

If you’ve ever put raw marijuana on a cracker and tried to eat it, you probably didn’t feel a darn thing. The sublime effects of edibles can’t be achieved by eating cannabis raw. It is missing a very important step. Raw flower doesn’t contain much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it has tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). In order to get THCA to turn into THC cannabis must be decarboxylated. This step is called Decarboxylation. This is a fancy science word for a chemical reaction which removes a carboxylic acid (COOH) from THC, releasing carbon dioxide in the process. 

In the curious case of cannabis, decarboxylation turns THCA into the active ingredient THC, which is the compound that actual gets you feelin’ all good inside. Drying or curing the cannabis can cause a small amount of decarboxylation to happen, but it’s still not very much.

Next time you buy some dried cannabis, just look on the packaging. It’s unlikely that there’s much more than 1% THC displayed on the label. But there’s a secondary number on the label, Total THC. This is the total THC + THCA amount determined by advanced chemical analysis. This number is required by government regulation and gives you the best idea of how potent the weed is.

Decarboxylation starts at 90°C and is basically caused by applying heat over time. When cannabis is dried and cured slowly, it can partially decarboxylate the flower. When you smoke or vape your bud, a high level of heat will cause the decarboxylation to happen almost instantly. When you inhale the heated vapor or smoke, you feel it’s effects. Unfortunately, Total THC doesn’t translate directly into THC that you can realistically decarb and then consume. This is because there’s a chemical battle going on for your THC. At 85°C, THC starts to degrade into cannabinol (CBN) from oxidation. CBN is a super weak version of THC and makes you sleepy. At 157°C, THC evaporates and unless you’re constantly inhaling this means you’re losing it to the sky.

The thing is, it’s really rather tricky to trap that vapor and put it in your nummy treats. To get around this, you can decarboxylate cannabis by heating it slowly over time in an oven. This allows the cannabis flower to retain it’s structure which can then be easily infused into food.

To get the best decarb efficiency and extract your money’s worth of THC from the cannabis, you need to use appliance decarburization. Wait, “appliance”? That’s just another fancy term that essentially means the oven in your kitchen. With modern temperature control in convection ovens, you’re capable of achieving 80-90% efficiency in your decarb.

Here’s our recommended method of decarbing your cannabis:

To decarb your bud, grind it up semi-finely and put it on a baking sheet in a preheated oven at 220°F (~104°C). Bake it for 45 minutes (up to an hour if you’re feeling dangerous) and then let it cool. It’s that simple. We’ve verified the effectiveness of this method to be ~ 90% efficient using the testing kit available from CB Scientific. Fair warning, baking your cannabis can release a strong odour into your kitchen. If the smell makes you uncomfortable, we suggest you turn on the exhaust fan above the stove if you have one, or open a window.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and see if you can notice the difference! You can also try a considerably lower temperature and longer amount of time, which could potentially allow you to preserve certain terpenes, which would just evaporate away at higher temperatures. This takes a lot of trial and error and can’t provide any guidance on how much THC you’ll end up with. Once done, you can take your newly decarbed weed and steep it in your favourite cooking fat, allowing for easy infusions later on. But we will save that for another article. Happy trials!

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