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This decarboxylation temperature chart is more of a guide than an exact science. Photo by: David Lozada/Weedmaps
The bottom line: to convert THCA and CBDA into THC and CBD, respectively, you need to apply heat for a period of time.
The following chart shows temperatures and times for activating THCa, CBDa, and CBGa, according to Dr. Adie Rae, a neuroscientist and scientific adviser to Weedmaps.
Read any cannabutter or edible how-to on the internet and it’ll tell you to decarboxylate your weed or don’t even bother. But it’s a little more nuanced than that. Using decarboxylated cannabis when making edibles will ensure your infusion will be chock full of THC, but that’s not necessarily the goal of every cannabis consumer. High-tolerance consumers who want to get every last bit of THC out of their flower should absolutely decarb. Brand new cannabis consumers would be wise to skip this step. And low-tolerance consumers might be happy going either route but should pay close attention to the math if they choose to decarb.
While there are many ways to decarb weed, these two are common and relatively easy:
To decarboxylate weed for homemade cannabutter or other infusion purposes, you can bake cannabis in an oven at a low temperature.
THCA will naturally decarboxylate into THC over a long period of time, but smoking or vaporizing the cannabis flower will decarboxylate it almost instantly. For edibles, decarbing cannabis flower before infusing it in oil will result in an intoxicating final product.
Cannabis and hemp plants primarily produce the acidic forms of the major cannabinoids, THCa and CBDa. Decarboxylation converts the acidic cannabinoids to their non-acidic forms, THC and CBD. Decarbing is achieved by applying just the right amount of heat and time to result in extracting these highly desirable cannabinoids.
The decarboxylation process occurs after the solvent has been evaporated but before molecular distillation. A simplified version of the cannabis extraction process typically flows something like this (for our purposes here, this is a Cold Temperature Ethanol Extraction process):
Decarboxylation Before Molecular Distillation is Critical
When referring to decarboxylation of crude cannabis oil, the process is usually performed on a hot plate for small batches, or in a reactor vessel for industrial-scale operations.
Simply put, decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that is achieved through heating raw cannabinoids to a temperature at which they release a carboxyl group of molecules. Once this has happened the major cannabinoids convert from THCa and CBDa to the more readily bioavailable THC and CBD.
This final step; molecular distillation is generally one of the last processes in extracting and refining cannabinoids. It involves applying deep vacuum and high heat. If any other chemical reaction (such as decarboxylation) is occurring during distillation, you will not be able to properly fractionate (separate) the molecules and you won’t produce a high-quality distillate. This is why the decarboxylation process must be done in full prior to distillation.