Weed Chemistry 101: Why you need to 'activate' your pot — and how to do it

June 23, 2017
Bruce Wolf SOURCE: Bruce Wolf

Fun fact: eating raw cannabis plants won’t get you stoned. You need to heat up the active molecules in pot to make it work. It's a process called 'decarboxylation.' Time for some Weed Chemistry 101.

Decarboxylation, or 'decarbing' for short, converts the plant’s main active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol-acid (THCA) into the euphoria-causing "THC". It also turns pot's second most common ingredient cannabidiol-acid (CBDA) into "CBD", which is largely responsible for cannabis’ health benefits. Because we have special nerve cell receptors in our body that respond to THC and CBD, consuming or smoking cannabis triggers various changes in our body. Getting high is just one effect. Some people also get relief from joint pain, insomnia, migraines, neuropathy, and loss of appetite.

You can decarboxylate buds by simply heating them — for example, by smoking them in a joint. But if you’re adding cannabis to a recipe, you'll want to take the time to decarb it before you cook. That way, you’ll get the most potency — psychoactive and otherwise — from your cannabis. This also removes moisture from the plant, decreasing the chances of bacterial growth. Here’s how to decarb:

Special Tools: food processor; oven

Ingredients: cannabis flower buds and/or shake


  1. Preheat the oven to 240°F.
  2. Break up the cannabis flowers and buds into small pieces.
  3. Spread the cannabis in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Bake the cannabis for 40 minutes, gently shaking the pan every 10 minutes so that it bakes evenly.
  5. Remove the baking sheet and allow the cannabis to cool. It will be crumbly.
  6. Coarsely grind the cannabis in a food processor. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.

Bruce Wolf
Decarbing cannabis makes it psychoactive.