Updated on January 21, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Cannabis-infused edibles have become increasingly popular and are available in an ever-growing variety of products. Edibles range from baked goods, cooking oils, beverages, brownie mixes and CBD mints to THC gummies, all of which can provide the desired effects of cannabis.
But even though they taste good, many packaged cannabis-infused products are made with sugar and may also contain high fructose corn syrup and other unhealthy ingredients. Some medical marijuana patients may prefer to prepare their own cannabis-infused meals and snacks. While it’s not that difficult, preparing edibles does require some knowledge of how to cook with cannabis. It is a little more complicated than just adding some crumbled weed into cookie dough and sticking it in the oven.
Almost any type of cannabis product can be used to make edibles including buds, trim, kief, solventless hash, solvent-based concentrates, and reclaim. Any product that has a measurable cannabinoid content can generally be used. It also goes without saying that the quality and potency of the material will significantly affect the strength of edible products. As an example, edibles that are made from cured, ground buds will be significantly stronger than if you use already-been-vaped (ABV) buds.
Cannabinoids in raw cannabis likely exist in their acidic, non-activated form, and must be decarboxylated to maximize their effect. This sounds more complicated than it is. Decarboxylation simply means that plant materials must be heated in order to for them to yield their full medicinal value. This is an essential part of preparing not only edibles, but also tinctures and topical treatments.
THCA and CBDA, the main active ingredients in cannabis, can’t interact with our cannabinoid receptors in their acidic form. Heating them converts them into THC and CBD, which are active in the body.
The major drawback of decarboxylating is that some more volatile terpenes, along with other aromatics that give the plant flavor and aroma, can disappear during the process. But that can be remedied by adding equal amounts of raw material to heated product.
How to Decarboxylate
The perfect method of decarboxylation has not been established, and there are many different opinions but very little scientific evidence as to what is the best way of going about it.
Here are some general instructions:
Preheat the oven to 225° F / 110° C and line an oven-safe dish or a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
The specific temperature of the oven will dictate how long it will take for the plant material to be “done.” At the above temperature, it will take about 45 to 60 minutes to fully decarboxylate.
Break up the cannabis buds into smaller pieces and place the material close together in the dish, but do not stack the pieces on top of one another.
Bake for about 20 minutes to remove the moisture. The exact timing depends on how fresh your material is. The plant color should deepen from a light to medium brown shade. Remove from the oven when its “crumbly” looking.
Set it aside, allow it to cool down, and turn up the oven up to 240° F / 115° C and wait for it to preheat again.
When the cannabis has cooled to the point where you can touch it, lightly crumble it with your hands and then distribute it evenly over the bottom of the dish.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and make a tight seal and then return it to the oven to bake for another 45-60 minutes for higher THC and 60-90 minutes for higher CBD.
When you remove the material from the oven, allow it to completely cool down before taking off the foil. Whether or not it needs further processing depends on the material that was used. It can be ground up further in a food processor or blender, but be careful not to overgrind it into a super fine powder. It should be stored in a cool dry place inside of a glass (preferred) airtight container, where it will be potent, fresh and ready to use in your next batch of homemade edibles!
About the author
Roxanne Nelson is a registered nurse who has written for a wide range of publications for healthcare professionals and consumers, including Medscape, The Lancet, Prevention, Scientific American, WebMD, American Journal of Nursing, Frontline, National Geographic, Hematology Adviser, American Journal of Medical Genetics and the Washington Post, among others.