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The chemistry of cannabis products

Do you know why not many people ingest raw cannabis? What are some of the break-down products of cannabis that are pharmacologically active in our body? Cannabis products chemistry is the answer to these questions. Below are some of the most important chemical processes, in the plant itself and in our bodies, that enable us to make the most of cannabis compounds.


This chemical process is responsible for converting a non-psychoactive THCA to THC. Read more on the page Decarboxylation. decarboxylation smoking baking

Active metabolites

One of the body’s responses to compounds entering the body is to metabolize them into a form that can be more easily excreted from the body. Some of the compounds, called metabolites, are also pharmacologically active. Read more on the page Active metabolites.


Cannabinoids are generally not soluble in water. Various efforts have been taken to make cannabis compounds more water-soluble so that they could be incorporated in a wider array of products for different administration methods. One method that is being investigated involves creating a class of drugs called pro-drugs. It is a type of drug that is not necessarily active, but has properties that make it easier to be administered; once it is absorbed, the body metabolizes it into an active form. For more information, read the chapter on pharmacokinetics.

Other reactions

If THCA is not converted to THC, over time and with the exposure to air and UV light, the THCA converts to cannabinolic acid (CBNA).1 When CBNA is heated, e.g. by smoking or vaping, it becomes cannabinol (CBN). The conversion of THC to CBN also happens over time due to light exposure, and more prominently in UV light.2 uv lamp thc to cbn References:
  1. Shoyama, Yukihiro; Yamauchi, Tatsuo; Nishioka, Itsuo (1970). Cannabis. V. Cannabigerolic acid monomethyl ether and cannabinolic acid. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 18(7), 1327--1332.
  2. Narayanaswami, K.; Golani, H. C.; Bami, H. L.; Dau, R. D. (1978). Stability of Cannabis sativa L. samples and their extracts, on prolonged storage in Delhi. Bulletin on narcotics, 30(4), 57--69.