Decarboxylating Marijuana: Why It's Important

byhellomdMarch 8, 20165 minutes

Cannabis users who are planning on cooking with marijuana any time in the near future need to learn one all-important trick: decarboxylation. Decarboxylation is the process by which consumers heat cannabis through vaporization or flame to release the psychoactive compounds within the plant. This allows people to enjoy the psychoactive properties of cannabis and put together tastier and more potent homemade edibles. Here's what you need to know about the decarboxylation process.

Why Decarboxylate?

When cannabis is in its raw state, it contains a great deal of a compound called THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), which has a variety of medical benefits but doesn't produce psychoactive effects. When cannabis is heated, however, it goes through the process of decarboxylation, which releases the carbon dioxide within the compound, turning THCA to psychoactive THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This allows consumers to enjoy the full range of psychoactive effects that cannabis has to offer, and is a necessary step for those who intend to cook with marijuana.

Decarboxylating Cannabis Without Damaging Terpenes

When beginning the decarboxylation process, one of the most important things to keep in mind is temperature. While marijuana needs heat in order to decarboxylate properly, too much heat can damage the delicate compounds within cannabis, burning it and making it smell and taste charred and bitter. Because of this, low, slow heat is best. Lower temperatures allow the cannabis to decarboxylate properly without compromising the delicate terpenes (the compounds and oils that give different strains of cannabis their distinct tastes and smells) contained within it.

In addition to providing a satisfactory olfactory and oral experience for marijuana aficionados, terpenes also possess a wide range of benefits, from stress relief to increased focus. Heating marijuana on a flame that's too high can damage the terpenes enough to destroy those rare and sought-after health benefits.

How to Decarboxylate Cannabis

While decarboxylation may seem like a difficult process, it's easy to do at home using simple tools and your own oven. Just follow these directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 240 degrees F.
  2. Break the cannabis plant into small pieces, making sure to break up the buds and flowers into small chunks. Keep in mind that the decarboxylation process is the same no matter how much cannabis you choose to use.
  3. Spread the pieces of marijuana out into a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet. Don't leave any empty space in the pan or pile marijuana into double layers, as this will interrupt the decarboxylation process.
  4. Bake the marijuana for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to ensure the herb is baking evenly.
  5. When the cannabis begins to reach a rich, dark color and looks dry, remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the cannabis to cool at room temperature. If you're unsure whether the cannabis is done, touch it. Cannabis that has properly decarboxylated should be dry and crumbly to the touch, but not black or crispy.
  6. Once the cannabis has cooled completely, transfer it to a food processor. Pulse the marijuana in a food processor until it's coarsely ground (like coarse coffee grounds). Be careful to avoid processing the marijuana too much or else you'll wind up with a fine powder that's difficult to sift. Once the marijuana is ground properly, store it in a plastic zip bag or an airtight Tupperware container for use in extractions and homemade edibles, like cannabis-infused butter.

Tips for Effective Marijuana Decarboxylation

In order to ensure you're decarboxylating your marijuana properly, follow these tips:

  • Decarboxylate everything you plan to cook. Because active (post-decarboxylation) CBD and THC have myriad health benefits, as well as anti-cancer properties, decarboxylating all marijuana before cooking with it is a great way to ensure tastier edibles that are also better healthier. While raw cannabis is ideal for inhalation, decarboxylated cannabis is the go-to marijuana form for cooking.
  • Use an oven. Many people who are decarboxylating cannabis for the first time try to decarboxylate small batches of marijuana using a simple lighter or torch. Unfortunately, this is an uneven heating method that makes it easy to burn some marijuana while leaving the rest raw. To avoid this, always head straight to the oven for your decarboxylation needs. In addition to providing more even heating and a higher-quality end product, the oven makes the entire decarboxylation process simple and is the perfect way to process a large amount of marijuana at one time.
  • Allow the marijuana to cool completely. Once newly decarboxylated marijuana has left the oven, it's important to allow it to cool completely. This preserves the terpenes and makes the marijuana easier to handle.

While decarboxylation isn't a word found in many novice cannabis users' vocabularies, this simple process is an important tool to transform the non-psychoactive compounds of cannabis into psychoactive ones. Decarboxylation is a must for anyone who intends to cook with cannabis, as it allows consumers of edibles to reap all of the medical and psychoactive properties of cannabis in a tasty package. For experienced cannabis consumers and novices alike, decarboxylation is an important tool for every cannabis lover to have in his or her toolbox.

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  • Decarboxylation
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