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What Is Powdered Cannabis?

Sophia Delphi May 09, 2022 - 7 min read
Fact Checked
Weed powder in white background

Some people just don’t want to smoke weed.

That doesn’t mean they don’t want to get high or that they don’t want to receive the benefits of medical marijuana. It simply means they don’t want to smoke or vape marijuana.

They may be allergic, or they may have lung issues that make it difficult or dangerous for them to inhale any sort of smoke or vapor. They may have living situations where they can’t take the risk of people noticing the aroma of burning (or vaped) bud. Or they may just be philosophically or personally opposed to the act of smoking.

There are many more options available to those people than there used to be: edibles, tinctures, THC pills and capsules, and for those suffering from external pain, THC topicals.

Add one more choice to the list: weed powder. Let’s find out more about it.

What Is Weed Powder?

The name isn’t slang or a “code word.” It’s simply an accurate way to describe cannabis that, through the magic of science, has been turned into a water-soluble powder that will dissolve in virtually any beverage or food.

The process of creating weed powder isn’t as simple as it sounds. Sure, you can grind up decarbed and activated flower to create a powder, but there’s not much you can do with it other than sprinkling it on food or swallowing it as is — and it won’t provide its full effects when consumed that way.

That’s because cannabinoids like THC and CBD are fat-soluble but “hydrophobic.” In other words, they don’t naturally dissolve in water, only fat. If you’ve ever wondered why you have to use cannabutter or canna-oil to make edibles, now you know; ingested cannabis won’t deliver the effects you expect unless it has bonded with some sort of fat.

So the key to producing potent weed powder was to figure out a way to make weed water-soluble. And it wasn’t until the 2010s that scientists came up with a way to do it.

How Weed Powder Is Made

Other hydrophobic substances have been turned into dissolvable powder since the mid-20th century. The one that’s most familiar to consumers is alcohol, and water-soluble, powdered alcohol is created through a process called microencapsulation.

In simple terms, the alcohol is exposed to compound sugar molecules known as cyclodextrins. These unique molecules are essentially rings of sugar that absorb other compounds — and assume their properties.

What does that mean in real-world terms? Cyclodextrins act just like sugar and can be dissolved in water, even though they deliver all of the effects of alcohol. Presto! Powdered alcohol.

The same process works with decarboxylated cannabis. So if decarbed weed is combined with cyclodextrins, the sugar molecules provide the same effects as marijuana but act like sugar. The sugar-weed compound will dissolve in water.

Even better, the body will recognize and process the powder as a carbohydrate, meaning it’s easily digestible, and the cannabinoids will be processed and released into the bloodstream without losing their potency.

The nuts and bolts of the manufacturing process are more complicated than that, of course. Decarbed weed has to be turned into a semi-liquid slurry with the help of emulsifiers and surfactants, introduced into the cyclodextrins, and then dried so excess moisture can evaporate.

However, a number of companies have perfected the process, and you can now find potent powdered weed available at dispensaries and online (even though its sale on the web might not exactly be legal).

What can you do with it once you’ve purchased it?

Using Weed Powder

Powdered weed has three important qualities. One, of course, is that it dissolves in liquids and food.

The others are that weed powder is odorless and flavorless and that it can be sold in “pre-dosed” packages.

That makes it a form of marijuana that can be easily consumed in several different ways.

Edibles

If you enjoy edibles, just use your imagination. You’ll be able to come up with dozens of recipes that would benefit from a powder that can get you high but doesn’t affect the flavor of your goodies. Brownies that taste like chocolate and not like chocolate and weed? Yes, please!

Infused Beverages and Food

Since powdered cannabis will dissolve in water, it can be added to virtually any beverage or food — and it will provide THC’s full benefits, which aren’t available if you simply mix insoluble, decarbed weed into your tea smoothie, salad dressing, or sauces.

There’s another benefit to infusing your beverages or food with this powder: they’ll hit more quickly than edibles do.

You probably know that it can take 60 minutes or even longer for an edible to provide its psychoactive and medicinal effects because food containing THC must first be fully digested. Weed powder is a much simpler compound, so it passes through the digestive tract and into the bloodstream much more quickly. It can take effect within 20 minutes while still lasting just as long as an edible does.

Using weed powder takes care of two other potential problems, too. One is that people often eat an edible, and when it doesn’t have any effect for 30-45 minutes, they eat another one. That can lead to an often-unwelcome, mind-blowing surprise when all of the THC finally hits. Since weed powder kicks in much more quickly, there’s much less danger of overconsumption.

We’ve already alluded to the second benefit of powered weed: it comes in pre-measured doses. Anyone who’s made edibles knows that you have to use trial and error to figure out just how much cannabutter or canna-oil will deliver your desired effects. Pre-dosed weed powder takes the guesswork out of orally consuming your herb.

Ready-To-Eat “Snack”

You can eat weed powder right out of the package as well.

It won’t be a delicious snack since the powder is virtually flavorless. (Some manufacturers say their powder has a residual taste of creamy cocoa butter.) But it has a texture somewhere between sugar and cotton candy, it immediately dissolves on the tongue, and you begin to experience its effects within 15-30 minutes.

Weed Powder: FAQ

Q: Do you have to decarb weed powder to activate the THC?
A: No, that’s already been taken care of in the manufacturing process. The powder is ready to use as soon as it comes out of the package.

Q: Is weed powder the form of marijuana that’s in the cannabis drinks sold at dispensaries?
A: Yes, and that’s why those drinks have only flooded the market over the last few years. Powdered weed is ideal for flavoring energy drinks, sodas, and other beverages, whether it’s done by manufacturers or by consumers at home. Those manufacturers actually create several different weed powder formulas, one which easily dissolves in drinks and another that’s better used for cooking and baking.

References

Sharma, P., Murthy, P., & Bharath, M. S. (2012). Chemistry, metabolism, and toxicology of cannabis: clinical implications. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, 7(4), 149 [1].

Millar, S. A., Maguire, R. F., Yates, A. S., & O’Sullivan, S. E. (2020). Towards better delivery of cannabidiol (CBD). Pharmaceuticals, 13(9), 219 [2].

Braga, S. S. (2019). Cyclodextrins: Emerging medicines of the new millennium. Biomolecules, 9(12), 801 [3].