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marijuana shelf life

How to Tell If Cannabis Is Past Its Prime

Weed doesn’t go bad the way a jar of mayo or some other food product might, but it can definitely be “off” or even moldy.

Old weed likely won’t lead to any serious health issues if you don’t have any underlying conditions.

It can, however, have a noticeable drop in potency, which can be a big deal if you’re using it for medical purposes. Older weed can also undergo changes in taste and texture.

When stored properly (more on this later), dried cannabis keeps for 6 months to 1 year. Over time, it begins to lose its aroma and potency.

According to some older research, weed loses roughly 16 percent of its THC after 1 year, and it just keeps dropping from there:

  • 26 percent THC lost after 2 years
  • 34 percent THC lost after 3 years
  • 41 percent THC lost after 4 years

It’s mostly in the smell. Weed that’s past its prime will smell different or lose its aroma entirely. Some weed might even smell and taste harsh when it’s been sitting too long.

Its appearance can also give you a clue as to whether or not it’s old. Fresh weed shouldn’t crumble or feel spongy when you break it off. If it does, it’s old and either too dry or too moist.

Consuming it shouldn’t harm you, but be prepared for changes in texture and potency. The exception is weed that’s grown mold, which could potentially make you sick.

Mold is often hard to see unless you look very closely. It typically looks like white powdery or fuzzy spots, some of which can be pretty small.

Moldy weed usually smells musty, kind of like hay. It also tends to have a bit of an “off” taste.

Even if your weed isn’t super old, it’s best to do a mold inspection. A study by researchers from University of California, Davis found bacteria and mold on 20 cannabis samples bought from dispensaries and pot growers in Northern California.

Mold on weed isn’t likely to cause major health problems, but it can lead to nausea, vomiting, and coughing.

In people with weakened immune systems, inhaling smoke or vapors from weed containing bacteria or fungi could cause serious illness or even death.

If it looks or smells off, then you’re better off tossing it, even if you just bought it.

Light, humidity, temperature, and oxygen can all mess with cannabis and affect its aroma, taste, and potency potential.

Here’s what to consider when storing weed to help keep it fresh and maintain its quality for as long as possible.

Choose the right container

Ditch plastic baggies and containers. Plastic holds static that can affect delicate trichomes — the tiny, crystal-like hairs on flowers that produce cannabinoids and terpenes — and mess with potency.

And forget those funny little tins, too, because they let in too much oxygen.

Glass jars with an airtight seal, like mason jars, are the way to go. They don’t have any static charge and limit oxygen exposure. Plus, they’re inexpensive and easy to find.

Most dispensaries also sell containers designed to keep weed fresh for as long as possible.

If you have kids or pets in your household, invest in a child- and pet-proof container.

Watch the humidity

Weed is best kept at a relative humidity of 59 to 63 percent. Any higher and you run the risk of trapping moisture, which can lead to the growth of mold. Anything lower can cause your weed to dry out.

To help you preserve your stash, you can add humidity packs to your containers if you really want to get fancy. You can also go the extra mile and store your weed in a humidor made specifically for cannabis.

Keep it cool, dark, and dry

Keeping weed in a cool and dry spot away from sunlight is as important as the container you use, if not more so.

Direct sunlight can cause cannabis to break down, and too much heat can hold moisture and lead to mold.

Keeping it somewhere too chilly, on the other hand, could dry it out and lose those precious trichomes, which is why the fridge and freezer aren’t recommended.

Aim to store cannabis in a dark place, like a closet or cabinet, with a temperature below 77°F (25°C).

Weed doesn't go bad in the way perishable food does, but it can definitely degrade over time. Here's what to look for.

The Shelf Life of Cannabis

Can cannabis go bad?

There’s a fine balance in preserving bud — you don’t want it to dry out and become brittle and you also don’t want to expose it to too much moisture, making it vulnerable to mildew or mold. With that in mind, cannabis does have a shelf life, but if you store it properly, it can be enjoyed for a long time down the road!

Explore the shelf life of cannabis and get our favorite tried and true storage techniques from Emerald Leaves in Tacoma.

How Long Can Cannabis Last?

When cannabis is properly stored, it can have an amazingly long shelf life. It’s important that you’re buying cannabis from a trusted vendor where it has been harvested and dried properly. If your cannabis is up to par in its processing methods, you can store it upwards of a year (sometimes more).

Optimizing Your Cannabis Storage

Temperature, humidity, and light all affect how your cannabis will degrade over time, so it’s important to learn how to optimally store it. If you’re simply leaving it in the pouch it comes in, it’s very likely the shelf life will be dramatically reduced.

To extend the shelf life of your bud you don’t have to get fancy — a mason jar, Tupperware, or a ceramic jar will do just fine. If humidity or moisture is an issue, you can always invest in small moisture packs you can place within the container, but typically an air-tight lid should be enough.

It’s important to store your chosen container in a dark, cool environment such as the pantry or a drawer. If you do want to get fancy, there are plenty of products on the market to choose from — a curation of cannabis humidors and specially made pouches that were designed to keep scents at bay while blocking light, humidity, and extreme temperatures.

What Happens to Cannabis as it Ages?

Like most plants, cannabis too degrades with age, and while we know that it can last for quite a while, over time it breaks down and slowly loses its potency.

As cannabis ages, the sticky bud that we all enjoy loses its flavor and scent, thus an old, potentially expired bud is tasteless and without its sharp, earthy scent. Over an extended amount of time, cannabis will also lose its potency as a result of THC degradation. Research conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has determined the following:

  • Cannabis loses approximately 16% of its THC potency after one year.
  • Cannabis stored for two years will forfeit 26% of its THC potency.
  • Upwards of four years in storage, 41% of THC’s potency will be lost.

Good Vs. Bad Cannabis

There is a distinct difference in quality between properly stored cannabis and the cannabis baggie you found in the corner of your closet!

Fresh, good cannabis features:

  • A beautiful, lively color
  • Sticky buds
  • Fragrant
  • Spongy
  • A high concentration of trichomes

Bad cannabis may include:

  • Dried out and crumbly pieces
  • Lack of aroma
  • Mold and bugs
  • Discoloration

Does Cannabis Go Bad?

Yes, cannabis can go bad. There are a variety of factors that contribute to this, including how long it has been left out for and how much light, temperature extremes, or open air it’s exposed to.

The more you care for your cannabis and store it in optimal conditions, the longer it will last.

Nothing lasts forever, even cannabis — buy what you need, and if you have a variety of strains for different needs, be sure to store them in a cool, dark place in an air-tight container.

Explore the shelf life of cannabis and get our favorite tried and true storage techniques from Emerald Leaves in Tacoma. Read more…