THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is the acidic precursor to THC. This effectively means that without THCA, THC would not exist. In its natural state, THCA does not induce the psychological effects THC is prized for. However, through the decarboxylation process (the application of heat), a carboxyl group is removed (the “A”), and raw THCA is converted into usable THC.

Yet, THCA does appear to have its uses. It is theorised that, in the wild, THCA functions as an acidic deterrent against threats such as predators and pests. Moreover, early research suggests that THCA may even provide therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Research suggests that, if harnessed correctly, THCA could display many of the same therapeutic benefits as THC—just without the high.


For smokers and vapers, decarboxylation happens naturally as a result of the toking process. Although much less refined than the methods below, igniting your weed with a flame decarbs the cannabinoids and terpenes immediately, allowing you to quickly suck in and benefit from the effects. However, the excessive heat produced from this method is known to “kill off” some of these volatile molecules. Vaporizing is a bit more controlled; devices are heated up to activate THC and other cannabinoids and terpenes right around their boiling points, allowing for a nearly full dose of each compound.


The most common method of decarboxylating cannabis, especially when making edibles, is simply “baking” it in the oven. There are a few steps involved in this method:

1. Grind up your cannabis until it is even enough to smoothly spread over a thin surface.
2. Line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment or baking paper.
3. Pour your ground cannabis over the sheet, making sure to evenly spread it out.
4. Preheat an oven to 115℃ and place the tray inside for approximately 45 minutes, stirring the cannabis about halfway through.

It is important to be mindful of your oven’s temperature during this process. Cooking your buds at a higher temperature may seem like it would get the job done quicker, but it will most likely just degrade the cannabinoids and terpenes, making it potentially unusable. Cooking it at a lower temperature for a longer period of time is generally considered to be the safest and most effective method of decarboxylating cannabis.

While this is the most commonly used method (and many would say the easiest), there are several other ways to decarboxylate marijuana.


Cannabis can also be decarbed in a microwave, and is basically a modification of the oven method. Instead of spreading your ground cannabis over a baking sheet, spread it over a plate and microwave it for 2–3 minutes. While the microwave method is certainly faster than using an oven, critics believe that microwave decarboxylation can actually damage the potency and terpene profile of your bud.


Marijuana can also be decarboxylated through a boiling/sous vide method. Simply vacuum-seal your ground bud in a heat-safe plastic bag and place it in boiling water for roughly 1 hour. If using this method, ideally you should use a precision cooker set to exactly 95℃. While some prefer this method because it avoids the use of an oven, it does require more time and effort to vacuum-seal your bud beforehand and carefully monitor it throughout the process.


It’s worth noting that cannabis naturally decarboxylates over time if left alone. Its exposure to the elements is enough to gradually turn THCA into THC, and THC into the cannabinoid CBN. However, this process is incredibly lengthy, so heat will almost certainly be necessary in order to push it along. Whichever method you choose, decarboxylation is essential to “unlocking” the psychotropic power of our illustrious THC.

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