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Ruth LemonVP of Operations
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
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Eating raw cannabis will not make you “high.” Raw cannabis contains inactive compounds that are activated during the process of cooking or smoking cannabis. Although you cannot get high from eating raw cannabis, you may experience some therapeutic benefits.
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Does Raw Weed Get You High?
Again, no, eating raw marijuana will not get you high. This is because cannabis needs to be “activated” through a process called decarboxylation or “decarbing” to provide the effects of being high.
How Does Decarbing Work?
To understand how decarbing works, let’s take a step back and look at cannabis in its raw form. There are over 150 types of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and the most well-known are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabinoids are the active components in cannabis and interact with the endocannabinoid system in the body to provide the effects associated with cannabis ingestion.
THCA and CBDA are thermally unstable. This means that when they are exposed to heat or light, as when smoking or cooking cannabis, their chemical formation changes, producing THC and CBD.
Once these cannabinoids have been “activated” and are ingested, they interact with the endocannabinoid system in the body via cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). CB1 receptors are most prominent in the brain and central nervous system, and CB2 receptors are primarily found in the immune system.
The “high” that occurs after ingesting cannabis results from THC binding to the CB1 receptors in the brain. If cannabis is not activated (i.e., when THCA does not undergo decarboxylation to produce THC), you won’t experience a high. This means that eating raw cannabis will not make you feel high.
However, eating raw cannabis is not dangerous and may have some therapeutic benefits.
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Potential Benefits and Drawbacks
As with most substances, there are benefits and drawbacks to consuming marijuana in its raw form.
No “high” feeling. The only major drawback of consuming raw cannabis is that you will not get the “high” associated with consuming cannabis, and this is due to THC not being activated.
Reduced therapeutic benefits. Due to the cannabinoids not being activated in raw cannabis, it is likely that you may not experience some of the therapeutic benefits associated with the cannabis. However, there are some benefits to consuming raw cannabis, so this may be dependent on the particular strain (cultivar) you are consuming. Utilizing acidic cannabinoids with decarboxylated cannabinoids may be ideal for taking advantage of THCA’s and CBDA’s anti-inflammatory properties (the “entourage effect“).
Insomnia treatment. Research has shown that consuming raw cannabis flower is associated with improved sleep in insomnia patients, and it is also known that CBD can help improve insomnia symptoms. So, consuming raw cannabis or “activated” strains with high CBD content may help improve insomnia.
Neuroprotection. Cannabinoid acids (as they are found in raw cannabis) have been shown to bind to receptors in the body that are important in gene regulation better than their active versions. Because of this, it is thought that consuming raw cannabis may improve issues with the brain-muscle connection and help prevent some neurological diseases.
Anti-inflammatory. THCA has been shown to improve symptoms of inflammation, and this may be because THCA inhibits tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a). High levels of TNF-a can induce an immune reaction, causing symptoms of inflammation.
Reduced cancerous cells. Research suggests that THCA, as present in raw cannabis, might help reduce the growth and limit the spread of some kinds of cancerous cells.
Full of vitamins and minerals. Raw cannabis is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, folate, and calcium. Vitamin C helps to boost your immunity, and vitamin K is essential for blood health. Iron, folate, and calcium are also important for blood health, DNA repair, and bone strength.
Contains anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are a group of blue, purple, and deep red pigments packed full of nutrients. These are what give marijuana buds their purple hues. Research has shown that anthocyanins have many therapeutic benefits and are:
They may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, boost immune system function, and boost overall vision.
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How to Ingest Cannabis for Best Results
There are many ways to consume cannabis. The best way to ingest cannabis depends on what you are trying to get from cannabis and how quickly you need to feel the effects.
Consuming raw cannabis would be a great option if you do not want to experience the “high” feeling but still want the therapeutic benefits cannabinoids can offer. However, be aware that therapeutic benefits may be reduced if you only use non-decarboxylated, acidic phytocannabinoids.
Cannabis can be added to baked goods and other edible products. The process of baking the cannabis “activates” the cannabinoids. It is thought that edible marijuana has a more substantial effect than smoked, and it is also much more discreet than smoking and better for your lungs.
However, it can take one to two hours after ingestion for the cannabinoids to take effect. This is because cannabis has to be metabolized before it enters the bloodstream. Additionally, it can take some time for people to get used to consuming cannabis via edibles; it is easy to take too much and have an unpleasant experience.
The most common way to consume cannabis is through smoking. Smoking cannabis “activates” the cannabinoids and results in almost immediate effects, as the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
However, the heat and smoke can also result in the loss of some cannabinoids, reducing the effects. Additionally, smoking, whether cannabis or other substances, can be detrimental to your lung health.
The Bottom Line
Eating raw cannabis will not get you “high,” and this is because the cannabinoids are in their inactive form in the raw plant. To get the active form, cannabis must be exposed to heat, such as through cooking or smoking.
If you are hoping to get the psychoactive effects of cannabis, it is best to ingest cannabis via another method, such as through edibles or vaping.
Although you cannot get high from eating raw cannabis, it does have some therapeutic benefits that may make it worthwhile.
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