When it comes to cannabis, people have been thinking up all sorts of wacky tricks and methods that allegedly add to the whole stoner experience for years. Whether these tricks actually work, however, often remains to be seen. So, what about the whole “put weed in the microwave” trend? The concept may have been popularised by the one and only Snoop Dogg and regurgitated in the media, does this mean that it actually makes your weed better? Let’s find out.
What’s the theory?
Snoop Dogg’s strange habit of microwaving his joints before smoking them first entered public consciousness during a 2010 interview with Canadian musician and presenter, Nardwuar, Snoop explained his actions by stating it’s to “trap all the ingredients inside.”
That may not be the most detailed explanation, but many (understandably) took Snoop Dogg’s word for it. He is, after all, one of the world’s most prominent stoners. Still, plenty of others questioned this approach and wondered to what extent an 11-second microwave zap could really affect the cannabis in a blunt. So, is there any science to support the idea that microwaving cannabis can help to trap the ingredients? Maybe.
The importance of decarboxylation
To many consumers, THC content is one of the most important factors when buying cannabis. In legal markets, this content is clearly labelled on cannabis products bought in dispensaries, however, this isn’t determined simply by the amount of THC in the product. Another cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabolic acid (THCA), is also used to calculate total THC content. This is because, when heated, THCA becomes THC. This is a process known as decarboxylation.
Many people are familiar with the process of decarboxylation, even if they aren’t familiar with the word. It is the reason we have to “pre-cook” cannabis before making edibles – for example, by making cannabutter.
Decarboxylation occurs when heat is applied to a molecule, causing the removal of one or more carboxyl groups. In the case of cannabis, this chemical reaction causes THCA, which is a carboxylic acid, to become THC, and CBDA to become CBD, and so on. THCA doesn’t have the same effect as THC because it is unable to activate the same receptors in our bodies. Therefore, if you’re looking to achieve a satisfactory high from your cannabis, decarboxylation is crucial.
Essentially, this process ‘activates’ the cannabinoids that we all know and love, making the cannabis more potent. When we smoke cannabis, the heat applied triggers decarboxylation pretty much immediately – hence, there is not usually considered to be a need for ‘pre-cooking’ the bud.
The question is, could microwaving cannabis really trigger decarboxylation? And if so, is this necessary if the cannabis is going to be smoked anyway?
Why use a microwave?
Microwaves are now an almost indispensable household appliance. We use them to heat leftovers, cook jacket potatoes, and defrost food – and if you’re Snoop Dogg, prepare blunts. They work by causing the water molecules in food (or cannabis) to vibrate, producing heat that, in turn, cooks the food.
While, in theory, this process could trigger the decarboxylation of THCA, making cannabis more potent prior to smoking, it could also damage the cannabinoids if too much energy is applied. Many cannabinoids have relatively low boiling points, so applying too much heat could actually destroy them rather than activate them. For example, THC has an estimated boiling point of around 157°C and CBD around 160-180°C. So, if you’re looking to try the old microwave trick, it is important to make sure you don’t leave your weed in there for too long!
Of course, the low boiling point of cannabinoids also means that smoking can result in their partial destruction before we get the chance to enjoy them. This is one of the many reasons that a growing number of stoners are turning to vaping.
But is all of this a moot point? Surely, if you already plan to smoke the cannabis, then there is no need to pre-heat it. Well, if you were inclined to think this way, it is likely that many others would agree with you – though it’s unlikely anyone would choose to argue the point with Snoop Dogg.