Cannabis Corner: What is Decarboxylation?

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The cannabis plant contains many chemicals called cannabinoids and as I’ve written in earlier posts, there is an entourage effect when you consume the entire plant. When combined, the chemicals tend to complement and promote each other – basically meaning that the parts together equal more than the whole when it comes to impact on the body.

One cannabinoid found in plants is THCA. This is the notorious THC (the cannabinoid that gives you the “high” sensation) in its un-decarboxylated form.

Okay, wait. What the heck does that mean?

Un-decarboxylated THCA has an extra little acid attached (the “A”) which prevents it from giving you the well-known sense of euphoria. How do you get rid of the “A”? By applying heat – mostly in the form of a flame. It’s why if you ate raw cannabis, you might not get much of a head sensation, but when you smoke it, thereby releasing that acid, you will definitely feel the effect.

Some people prefer the un-decarboxylated form. They are more interested in the body effect as opposed to the head effect (for the record THCA is a very potent anti-inflammatory.) You’d still get some effect with raw flower but not nearly as much where the acid has been released.  

However others, especially those who are using cannabis recreationally instead of therapeutically, prefer a product that gives them the head sensation.

Enter decarboxylation.

The easiest way to do this is to apply direct heat – a flame to the product. This is why smoking is so popular, it’s the easiest way to remove that little acid.

Another way to do this is to put raw flower in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place that into a low oven (at about 220 degrees) and bake for about 30 minutes.

The problem with these methods, as many people have discovered is that it creates a pretty potent smell and that can be an issue, especially if you live with others who do not partake.

To solve this issue, you can buy a decarboxylator which is like a tiny crock pot for your flower. The better ones (and unfortunately this means the more expensive ones) are very easy to use. You put your flower into the unit, seal it and then press the ON button. In about an hour, your product will be decarboxylated with absolutely no smell (and yes, I can personally attest that there is no smell.)

Once you have decarboxylated product, you can then use it in tinctures, creams, and in edibles. Or you can simply grind up the product and sprinkle it on food – pizza, salads, etc. Be aware that like all cannabis edibles, if you eat cannabis, it will take about an hour to kick in. (Tinctures applied properly take much less time.)

The only concern with using decarboxylated cannabis is that you sometimes don’t know how potent your product is, or even how much you are consuming. Like anything else cannabis related, if you are going to begin decarboxylating your flower and consuming it, go low and slow until you know how the final product affects you.

Wendy E. N. Thomas is a New Hampshire State Representative for Hillsborough District 21. She is also in the NH Therapeutic Cannabis program. She agrees with the State-wide Democratic platform of legalizing cannabis in New Hampshire, she would also like to see the Therapeutic Cannabis program expanded to include Anxiety, Lyme Disease, and insomnia (for starters.)

Thomas also understands that people need to know about what cannabis can do, how to keep it away from children, and how to use it responsibly (in the same way that the alcohol industry talks about responsible drinking.)  All opinions reflected in this article and any future articles on the Democratic cannabis platform are the opinions of Representative Thomas and do not reflect any company or industry.  Thomas works at Prime ATC in Merrimack as a Patient Liaison. The contents of this article are not sanctioned by Prime ATC or any of its affiliates.


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Wendy E.N. Thomas

Rep. Wendy E.N. Thomas, D-Merrimack, represents NH District 21.