THC vs THCA: Explained

Decarbing Makes the Difference

We talk about decarboxylation (aka “decarbing”) at length in our article “How to Properly Decarb Your Weed” but the basic gist is that heat, applied properly, will ‘burn’ away that extra carboxylic acid chain in THCA, thus converting it to the THC that will actually give someone a high.

Decarbing can happen in one of two ways. First, the traditional method, which is taking your marijuana and setting it on fire. From here the process of applying heat to the cannabis flower turns THCA into THC, released via smoke, which we then inhale to get high. This process has it’s benefits and detriments:

Smoking Pros:

  • Takes little prep work
  • Relatively immediate high

Smoking Cons:

  • Inefficient
  • The smell of weed smoke

Smoking weed is a classic because applying fire to cannabis and inhaling the results is doable by just about anyone anywhere – Even without fancy million dollar bongs or small batch bespoke blunt wraps people have been smoking weed for a very, very long time, just because it’s the easiest way to go about it. But direct flame isn’t the only way to decarb your weed, and aiming for a more controlled method of temperature can have many benefits.

When most people refer to “decarbing” cannabis what they’re essentially discussing is taking your cannabis and toasting it in an oven for a set length of time at a set temperature. Once your weed has been baked (pun fully intended) the THCA inside has been mostly converted into THC, and at a much more efficient rate than simply burning it.

Decarbing vs Burning

There is a fine line between “converting THCA into THC” and “converting THCA into carbon atoms” (IE: completely burned, wasted and inert), and applying direct heat in the form of fire gives the end user very little control over this line – Direct flame is more than enough to burn away and ultimately destroy the THCA molecules inside your cannabis, and what we’re usually smoking when we light up a bowl or a joint isn’t the bud that’s been directly touched by fire, it’s the bud that’s directly beside that burned bud that reaches the proper temperature for decarboxylation.

If using an oven or some other form of temperature-controlled environment you can aim for a specific, targeted temperature, meaning you can avoid reaching a heat high enough to burn or waste away your THC/THCA. There are benefits and detriments to this method as well:

Decarbing Pros:

  • More efficient
  • More versatile
  • Greater potency (if eaten)
  • Smell is diminished after decarbing is done

Decarbing Cons:

  • Takes time & know-how
  • If not smoked decarbed weed can take longer to kick in

We say that decarbed weed is more versatile because, unlike raw cannabis, it can now be eaten outright. Assuming you’ve decarbed properly (not a problem if you’ve read our article on how to decarb) the THCA within has been converted into THC, meaning it’s completely ready to use as-is. If you want to eat your cannabis straight you certainly can (though we don’t recommend it), or otherwise it’s now ready to be used in an infusion for making marijuana edibles or other concentrated cannabis products such as hashish.

Latest posts