Decarboxylation is a chemical process that takes away a carboxyl group producing carbon dioxide (CO2). In the cannabis industry, decarboxylation is how chemicals in cannabis, such as THC, are activated. All cannabinoids found in raw cannabis flower trichomes have an additional carboxyl ring or group (COOH) connected to their chain.
In many cases, THCA is the most abundant cannabinoid present in cannabis items (e.g., cannabis flowers and concentrates). THCA, on the other hand, is not intoxicating and must be converted into THC via decarboxylation before any effects can be felt.
Heat and time are the two main catalysts for decarboxylation to occur. Partially decarboxylation occurs as a result of drying and curing cannabis over time. This fact explains why dried, or cured cannabis flowers have trace amounts of THC in addition to THCA. Because of the extremely high temperatures present, smoking and vaporizing will instantly decarboxylate cannabinoids, making them immediately available.