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Pre and Post Basics of Cannabinoids | Gold Spectrum

To understand how pre-cannabinoids and post-cannabinoids work, we need to start with the basics of cannabinoids themselves.

Cannabinoids are a class of chemical compounds found in cannabis plants, with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being one of the most well-known cannabinoids. However, in the raw cannabis plant, THC primarily exists in its acidic form known as THCa (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid).

  1. Pre-Cannabinoids:

Pre-cannabinoids refer to the inactive forms of cannabinoids that are present in the raw cannabis plant before they are decarboxylated, which is a process that removes a carboxyl group (-COOH) from the molecule. Decarboxylation is typically achieved through heat, such as smoking, vaping, or cooking.

Let's take THCa as an example. THCa is the pre-cannabinoid form of THC. It does not possess psychoactive properties and is non-intoxicating. When the cannabis plant is heated, such as through smoking or vaporization, THCa undergoes decarboxylation, resulting in the conversion to delta-9-THC, the active and psychoactive compound responsible for the euphoric effects commonly associated with cannabis.





  1. Post-Cannabinoids:

Post-cannabinoids, on the other hand, refer to the active cannabinoids that are formed after decarboxylation. These compounds are responsible for interacting with the body's endocannabinoid system, producing various physiological effects.
Using our previous example, once THCa undergoes decarboxylation and transforms into delta-9-THC, it becomes a post-cannabinoid. Delta-9-THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the body, primarily the CB1 receptors found in the central nervous system, producing psychoactive effects such as relaxation, euphoria, and altered perception.

It's important to note that cannabinoids, both pre, and post, can have varying effects on the body. For instance, cannabidiol (CBD) is another prominent cannabinoid found in cannabis. CBD itself does not produce psychoactive effects like delta-9-THC. However, CBD can also exist in its acidic form, CBDa (cannabidiolic acid), which is a pre-cannabinoid. Similarly, CBDa must undergo decarboxylation to convert into CBD, the active cannabinoid known for its potential therapeutic properties.


In summary, pre-cannabinoids are the inactive forms of cannabinoids present in the raw cannabis plant, while post-cannabinoids are the active compounds formed after decarboxylation. The conversion from pre- to post-cannabinoids, such as THCa to delta-9-THC or CBDa to CBD, often occurs through processes like heating, and it is this transformation that gives rise to the characteristic effects associated with cannabis consumption.

Oxidation in THC

CBN, or cannabinol, is another cannabinoid found in cannabis. It is not directly produced by the plant but rather formed through the degradation of other cannabinoids, primarily THC. The conversion of THC to CBN typically occurs over time as the cannabis plant ages or is exposed to certain environmental conditions.

CBN is considered a post-cannabinoid because it is an active compound that interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system, although its effects are distinct from THC. CBN is known for its potential sedative properties and is often associated with promoting relaxation and sleepiness.

The formation of CBN involves the oxidation of THC. When THC is exposed to heat, light, and air, it gradually breaks down and loses its psychoactive properties, converting it into CBN. This process is known as oxidation or degradation. It's worth noting that the rate of conversion from THC to CBN can vary based on factors such as temperature, exposure to light and oxygen, and the age of the cannabis plant.

The conversion of THC to CBN can also be accelerated through methods such as long-term storage, improper curing, or extended exposure to heat. Some cannabis products, particularly those with older or degraded plant material, may have higher levels of CBN due to the conversion process.

Final Thoughts

In summary, CBN is not directly produced by the cannabis plant but is formed through the oxidation or degradation of THC. Over time, THC naturally breaks down and converts into CBN, resulting in a different cannabinoid profile and potential sedative effects.
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1 comment

Hi, I hope you’re doing well. I am very interested in medical cannabis research. Could you please add some cited references to your blog posts? Highest Regards, Karla


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