13 June 2015
Cannabis Baker: Decarbing and Olive Oil
Author Owen Smith from the Cannadian Cannabis Digest began his foray into the role of a medical cannabis caregiver at the bakery of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club (V-CBC) in 2008. Previous baking experience and a keen interest in learning about the cannabis plant as medicine made him an ideal candidate. He learned a great deal over the next year until he was arrested late 2009 but the response to his arrest was a constitutional trial that made cannabis extracts legal for patients in British Columbia (BC) in 2012.
Owen designed a video tutorial to explain the simple steps used to decarboxylate and extract the cannabinoids into vegetable oils to make a variety of products. This accompanies the dispensaries’ recipe book which only covers the basics of simple extraction, an art which has grown into a modern science in places where extract producers have been legally permitted to work. The recipes and methods continue to be revised and can be viewed at the V-CBC website.
Decarboxylation is the act of heating the plant material carefully to activate the THC-a (dormant acid form). This process happens naturally as the plant matter dries, but through a series of tests, we determined that heating at approximately 150°C (300°F) for 30 minutes can transform close to 98% of the inactive cannabinoids. Chemically, this process removes CO2 from the THC molecule, making it available to the cannabinoid receptors. The chart shows the results of decarboxylation over three tests with grapeseed oil. The left column measures how many milligrams of THC are found in a single ‘Ryanol’ capsule, while the bottom bar shows the temperatures used for the three testing sessions.
For the first test we used a double-boiler to cook the leaf into the grapeseed oil for 5-6 hours, which is the technique we had used for over 10 years. The second test involved heating the leaf for 30 minutes at 135°C (275°F) before double boiling the leaf. For the third test, we increased the temperature to 150°C (300°F) for 30 minutes before adding it to the oil. As the chart shows, the third and final test maximised the conversion of THC-a to active THC; increasing the temperature any more would risk combustion or breakdown of the cannabinoids. The decarboxylation process can be performed before the creation of any medicinal cannabis product to maximise the presence of active medicinal ingredients.
Decarboxylation transforms cannabinoid acids into their active states. Once this is performed you may immerse the dried cannabis into a medium of some sort to facilitate ingestion. Now the question arises, what medium should you use? At this stage you can decide to concentrate your medicine or dilute it. Diluting in vegetable oil may make it easier to measure a dose: two tablespoons is easier to measure than two 'grains of rice' and may deliver the same effect. In either case, at this point your dried cannabis will fuse with the carrier, shedding it’s medicinal compounds into the solution. (NB: In Canada, medicinal cannabis use was restricted to 'dried marihuana' only, forcing patients to keep all of the plant material in the solution, a highly impractical and arbitrary rule).