What is Decarboxylation?

What is Decarboxylation?

Ever heard the word decarboxylation? It is a fancy word but it has everything to do with cannabinoids.

Here is a story you may all recognize.  Car full of stoners gets pulled over.  In order to avoid arrest someone eats the whole bag of cannabis. Eyes pop wide open and gasps ensue.

Someone in the car chuckles and says, “You are going to get so high!”

Spoiler alert: there is little truth behind this scenario.

Or at least the guy who ate the whole bag isn’t going to get stoned. Why? Because the cannabinoids in the bad haven’t been decarboxylated.

What is decarboxylation and why is this important to know?  When it comes to hemp, as opposed to cannabis, it could mean a possession of cannabis charge.

What is Decarboxylation?

The process of Decarboxylation of THCA to THC

All phytocannabinoids have an extra carboxyl ring or group (COOH) attached to them.  In lay mans terms this means that all cannabinoids produced by plants have an acid that is bonded to them. In order to activate these cannabinoids, you need to apply heat to them to dissipate this acid.  Also time can be used to dissipate this acid, but typically heat is used to do this.  Therefore, cannabis and hemp are usually heated (smoked or cooked) before consumed. Hence, the stoner in the car who ate the whole bag is going to be fine.

When THC or CBD is present in the raw plant it shows up as THCA or CBDA.  The A added to the end of the acronym represents the acid that is bonded to the cannabinoid. The typical effects of these cannabinoids can’t be achieved unless that acid is dissipated.  However, that isn’t to say that there are no benefits to it.

THCA won’t get you high but does have several benefits when it is consumed raw. These benefits include anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective qualities. Local Tampa entrepreneur, cannabis activist, and former candidate for Senate, Joe Redner, is one of the biggest proponents for THCA.  He claims he would juice raw cannabis in order to aid him during his recent chemo treatments.

At What Temperature Does Decarboxylation Occur?

The typical temperature for decarboxylation is at approximately 220 degrees Fahrenheit after around 30-45 minutes of exposure.  Many people choose to decarboxylate at lower temperatures for more time in order to preserve the terpene content of the product.  Bear in mind this is typically done before cooking in order to receive maximum effects when consuming the edibles. The integrity of both cannabinoids and terpenes by using temperatures that exceed 300 degrees F.

As stated above, both heat and time can produce decarboxylation.  For example, CBD, or Cannabinol, is formed through the degradation and oxidation of THC.  This is a process that can occur right along decarboxylation. Meaning old product is normally high in CBN.  CBN accounts for a much more sedative effect than the other cannabinoids do.

Why is this Important for Hemp?

The classification for hemp has everything to do with decarboxylation.  Hemp is defined by US law as a cannabis plant that contains less than .3% Delta 9 THC. The USDA clarified that this percentage is to be taken after decarboxylation.  Currently Phytocannabinoid Rich Hemp Flower is sold legally in all 50 states without accounting for decarboxylation. However, come January 1st of 2020, hemp flower that doesn’t include THCA levels in its .3% Delta-9 THC count are going to be selling an illegal product. Currently, PCR Hemp Flower that test under a .3% for total THC content, rather than just Delta 9, is extremely rare. Soon it will be more readily available. But as of right now, most PCR Rich Hemp Flower will be considered illegal for sale come January 1st.

To clarify, the difference between hemp and cannabis has everything to do with decarboxylation.  Tests done to ensure that Delta 9 THC levels don’t exceed .3% will have to be done post decarboxylation.  There was a point when people who sell CBD had no concern over THCA and soon they are going to have to be concerned or get arrested.

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