decarb blog

Decarboxylation: What Do Medical Marijuana Patients Need to Know?

Medically Reviewed by: Andrew Bucciarelli, BS, PharmD, RPh

Medical marijuana is frequently used as medicine because studies show it can reduce chronic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and muscle stiffness associated to Multiple Sclerosis.  A chemical process, known as decarboxylation, allows the cannabinoids to slightly change and then interact with your body’s receptors to provide certain medicinal benefits. As we’ll see in this article, there is a science when it comes to understanding the marijuana plant and vaporizers can play an important role in the process of effectively using medical marijuana for your condition(s).

What is Decarboxylation?

A lot of people look at the raw form of medical marijuana or “dry leaf” and see that its rich in THCA, but only a very small amount of THC.  This can seem confusing at first, but we must understand that there is one more step involved before we start seeing higher amounts of THC.  All the acidic cannabinoids (i.e. THCA, CBDA) must undergo a chemical process known as decarboxylation or “decarbing.”  Decarboxylation removes a hydroxyl group (COOH) from a compound, releasing carbon dioxide. The “decarbing” process “activates” medical marijuana and allows the cannabinoids to interact with the receptors, which in return gives us the feeling of relaxation and euphoria.   

Most commonly, decarboxylation requires heat, approximately 221°F or higher, to trigger the chemical process.  Put simply, let’s think of medical marijuana edibles.  If you put the raw medical marijuana in something like brownie mix, then the mixture contains mainly THCA with or without CBDA.  However, when you put the mix into the oven and apply heat to the mixture, then it converts the THCA to THC and the CBDA to CBD.  When you remove the brownies from the oven, you have “decarbed” edibles that will produce the marijuana effect that you’ve come to know and desire. You may be asking yourself what if you didn’t apply heat and instead just juiced the marijuana plant for its THCA properties.  The next section will discuss THCA. 

THC vs. THCA

THC and THCA are just two of the many cannabinoids found in medical marijuana. THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is non-intoxicating until heat and/or time convert it to THC.  Even though THCA is typically heated up and used as THC, researchers have found that it has medicinal benefits. Studies suggest that THCA could offer:

Medical Marijuana in PA is tested by a laboratory.  The results of the test are printed on a sticker and then placed on the grower packaging.  Examine the THCA content the next time you purchase dry leaf or the inhalable concentrates.  You will notice the most abundant cannabinoid is THCA.  We will talk more about how to turn THCA into THC via vaporization in the next section.

Vape Pens and Decarboxylation

For those who have experienced the effects of marijuana, you know that THC plays a role in the functions of our brain.   This means THC can impact decision making, attention, motor skills, appetite, and many other functions.  Also, THC impacts the brains reward system and in return can leave us with a feeling of euphoria.    Euphoria is a state of excitement and happiness.  We have already discussed that THCA does not give the same feelings that THC does, therefore we can use vaporization in order to decarboxylate the acidic cannabinoids.  Vape pens apply heat to marijuana and are an easy way to turn the THCA and CBDA into THC and CBD.

  • If you purchase dry leaf, then you can use a dry leaf vaporizer to legally consume your medicine.  Vaporizing heats the ground cannabis, without involving a flame, at a desired temperature allowing the THCA to be converted to THC.  
  • Vape pens, such as cartridges, pods, and disposables, are loaded with a marijuana concentrate. These concentrates, as the name suggests, have a much higher cannabinoid content than dry leaf.  These options contain the purified marijuana oil extract and are often preferred by patients who are looking for a more discreet and easy way of medicating.  Because this might be a stronger option, it is important to understand how to use these pens properly.

Wrapping Up

Your specific condition and experience with marijuana will play a role in your medical marijuana treatment plan. The licensed pharmacists at Solevo Wellness and the Patient Care Consultants can help you determine the right medical marijuana product for your needs. 

We have options available to purchase medical marijuana online. For more information, contact us today or check out some frequently asked questions.