By Noel Palmer, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, Evolab & CBx Sciences

The cannabis industry moves fast. New products and ways to consume pop up on the shelves of your local dispensary weekly. Recently, live rosin (‘solventless’ oil) and live resin (oil extracted from fresh/wet cannabis generally using hydrocarbons) have become more popular with consumers. These products offer an alternative for cannabis users and an attractive terpene flavor profile. So why doesn’t everyone like ‘live’ products?

To understand this, we have to understand the concept of decarboxylation.

Cannabinoids are initially produced as acidic compounds – meaning there is a carboxylic acid functional group on the molecule’s backbone. When heat is applied to an acidic cannabinoid, this carboxylic acid functional group is driven off and the molecule is converted to its ‘neutral’ counterpart in a process known as decarboxylation. The most common example of this is the conversion of THC-a — a non-psychotropic, acidic cannabinoid found in live oils and flower — to THC, the psychotropic cannabinoid that we all know and love.

Decarboxylation is similar to the evaporation of water. Think of a pot of water sitting on your countertop. At room temperature, the water is evaporating but very slowly. It might take a few days for all of the water to evaporate, but it will eventually disappear. If you raise the temperature of the water, it evaporates faster. In the case of THC-a (THC-acid), heat converts THC-a to THC.

An interesting bit of research by Dussy et.al. has shown that there is never a full conversion of the acidic cannabinoids to neutral cannabinoids. Meaning, if you have a hundred THC-a molecules and you heat them up, you’ll have fewer THC molecules intact. There is always a loss in the conversion in which unexpected and undesired by-products are formed. Dussy’s research group did this work on a Gas Chromatograph, which isn’t technically the same type of vaporization device used in the cannabis industry, but the same physical transformations hold true. In this work, Dussy found that under the most optimized conditions, only 65% of the THC-a was converted into THC — suggesting that 35% of the THC-a was lost due to unpredictable side reactions. In less than optimal lab conditions like your dab rig or vape pen, consumers of ‘live’ products should expect an even greater loss of THC during the conversion process.

In short, 500mg of THC-a could end up as 200mg or less of THC once it is decarboxylated, depending on a number of unpredictable factors.

In order to ensure that our customers can enjoy a consistent, reliable experience time after time, we always decarboxylate our oils. If we put 500mg of THC in a vape, you’ll actually get 500mg of THC along with the strain specific full spectrum terpenes that you expect from our proprietary CO2 extraction processes.

We’re always continuing to explore and refine our extraction technologies, so stay tuned for updates on our unique take on ‘live’ extractions in the coming months.

Check out the Dussy Research here.