Why The Process of Cannabis Decarboxylation is so Important

By Rich Hamilton
Published: December 13, 2017 | Last updated: May 11, 2021 10:22:09
Key Takeaways

Be sure to get the most out of your cannabis culinary creations by making sure your product goes under decarboxylation, a simple process that activates THC.

The most common way of ingesting cannabis is by smoking it, but the use of it as an ingredient in food is becoming a popular alternative, especially for those who medicate with marijuana.


It is well-known that ingesting cannabis through food has the likelihood to result in longer-lasting effects as the cannabis enters the bloodstream at a slower rate through the digestive system, whereas when smoked, it is absorbed into the bloodstream within a matter of minutes and leaves the body far quicker.

While many marijuana smokers have, at some point, likely tried brownies or space cakes, fewer have reportedly tried incorporating their favorite strain into the cooking process.


If it’s ever crossed your mind, then here is some important information that you will need to consider when cooking with cannabis, namely the importance of decarboxylation.


Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in raw and live cannabis. As the plant dries, THCA slowly converts to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Heat aids this process, which is known as decarboxylation, a scientific term that describes what happens to the plant material when you smoke or vaporize the cannabis bud.


(During decarboxylation, also referred to by some as cannabis conversion, what is actually happening is a carbon molecule is being removed from the substance, which allows our body's receptors to respond to it when we ingest it using methods other than smoking or vaping.)

Tetrahydrocannabinol is the primary compound found in cannabis and is what supplies us with some of the medicinal benefits of the plant, as well as the psychoactive properties that create the high feeling that users experience.


Tetrahydrocannabinol, along with cannabidiol (CBD), the other main ingredient in marijuana, attach themselves to receptors throughout the body and in the brain, creating various potentially healing effects.

Because the act of smoking itself does all the hard work of decarboxylation, it is not really a topic that is given too much thought among most cannabis users.

I must admit that, as a smoker, I had no idea what it was or how important a process it is when I first heard of the term. Without this process, however, the THCA would not be activated to THC and you would not get any of the wonderful benefits.

A common oversight by many when they first start experimenting with cannabis in recipes is the idea that simply cooking the cannabis within a recipe will be enough to decarboxylate it, as the food will obviously be heated during cooking.

The heat from cooking will activate some of the THC, but not all of it, as the cannabis will be combined with the other ingredients, reducing its susceptibility to the heat. To maximize the THC potency in your food, you need to decarboxylate your cannabis first before you begin cooking.

How to Decarboxylate Cannabis

Decarboxylation is easier than it sounds. It is a relatively easy process, probably easier than the actual meal prep with cannabis. There are 3 main ways you can achieve this, one way includes heat, one way includes alcohol, one way includes fats. These are the steps that are involved in using heat to convert your cannabis.

  • Preheat your oven to 240°F (115°C). It is very important that the temperature is accurate so you don’t overheat the cannabis and burn it. Likewise, not heating it enough will reduce the amount of THC that is activated. To ensure an accurate temperature in the oven, I would use an oven thermometer to guarantee the temperature is bang on where it needs to be.
  • Crumble the cannabis on to a baking tray in a single, even layer.
  • Bake the cannabis for 45 minutes. From the 20-minute mark onward, check it visually every five minutes. Do not open the door, as you will alter the temperature. Ensure that it is being toasted evenly to achieve a golden-green shade.
  • Remove from the oven after 45 minutes and leave for at least 30 minutes to cool down completely.
  • Finely chop the cannabis—using a food processor is best—and then transfer to an airproof sealable jar.

Once you’ve dialed in the oven and required time, you can decarboxylate a big batch so that you will have a large available store of decarboxylated cannabis ready to be used in your favorite dish.

There are many recipes available that offer something for everyone, along with tips on dosage amounts, which are very important to consider.

Always be certain to make sure that everyone who could potentially be eating your food is aware of exactly what is in it and what the effects could be, as well as ensuring that they are not under age.

If you are going to cook with cannabis, do it responsibly. With great power comes great responsibility.


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Written by Rich Hamilton | Writer, Consultant, Author of The Growers Guide

Profile Picture of Rich Hamilton

Rich Hamilton has been in the hydroponics industry for more than 20 years, working originally as a general manager in a hydroponics retail outlet before becoming an account manager at Century Growsystems. He enjoys working on a daily basis with shop owners, manufacturers, distributors, and end users to develop premium products.


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