A Closer Look At Cannabis Shelf Life
As cannabis legalization spreads across the globe, more medical and recreational cannabis retail outlets are opening than ever before.
When new marijuana markets open up, the biggest problem tends to be trying to find enough supply to keep up with high demands.
Yet, as those markets evolve and settle into their regulatory structure, the tables turn at some point, and as we are seeing happen in Oregon right now, supply far outweighs demand and they literally have a million pounds of unsold pot in their system that no one is quite sure how to handle.
This got me thinking about shelf life, and just how long our cannabis stays good if left unused.
Have you ever put on an old jacket and found a $10 dollar bill in the pocket? I did that once and found a small plastic jar with a full 1g cannabis nug of Snowcap inside that I had forgotten about since the previous winter.
In the name of science, I broke it up, rolled it up, and smoked it up… and then took a long, deep nap.
You see, even though that nug was stored in a relatively cool and dark place, time took its toll on the THC, eventually converting a significant portion of it to CBN, a useful but hardly recreational cannabinoid that often leads to drowsiness as I experienced.
So how long can we trust our precious herbs to stay true to their original strain profiles?
Well, there are a lot of variables and factors that determine that.
Aside from edibles, your buds are probably the hardest item in your stash to keep fresh. They are, after all, organic plant matter and just like us, they can’t last forever.
Aside from the inevitable cannabinoid conversion described above, the buds and trichomes themselves will just continue to dry out and become brittle and hard to handle after just a couple of months.
Strength, aroma, flavor, and effects also begin to degrade over time.
There are many products on the market these days to slow that process down and preserve your cannabis for longer periods of time, but there is a reason why remnants of last year’s crop are always priced at rock bottom.
Cannabis is being baked and infused into so many types of edible treats these days that it is impossible to put an expiration window on the entire category.
Instead, you just treat each item as you would regular food. You wouldn’t eat that Lil’ Debbies brownie that’s been sitting in a Ziploc bag in your glovebox since last month, so the fact that there is weed in it shouldn’t change that fact.
Unlike your cannabis buds, refrigerated storage is almost always beneficial, and often required, for cannabis edibles, and can extend their shelf life.
As packaging and regulatory requirements play catch-up with the cannabis industry, you may not always find an expiration date on your edibles. The choice is yours at that point but I know how I would handle such a product at the grocery store.
Perhaps the best way to store and preserve the terpene and cannabinoid profile of your favorite strains for long periods of time is in their extracted and concentrated forms.
Well harvested, prepared, cured, and stored hash can retain its proper profile for years, allowing connoisseurs to build vast stashes of flavors and effects like the Library of Alexandria for terpene-seekers.
Whether created by use of solvents or ice and water, cannabis wax, shatter, budder, sauce, full melt, oils, and tinctures enjoy the longest shelf life of all forms of the plant.
We are seeing this play out in the rising popularity of concentrates among cannabis users, particularly when it comes to pre-filled vape pen cartridges whose long shelf life dispensaries and consumers alike seem to love.
For most consumers, shelf life isn’t an issue – they just smoke, vape, gobble, chug, rub on whatever new items they just added to their stash. But here are a few helpful hints on how to extend the life of your favorites, in case you’d like to save some for a rainy day:
- Always stash your buds and concentrates in a cool, dry, dark place
- Do not keep your nugs in a fridge or freezer
- The same goes for most forms of your wax and extracts - you don’t want the added moisture from that environment seeping in
- Store your product in airtight, sealed glass containers instead of plastic bags or jars
- Use masking tape and a marker to date stamp any jars intended for long-term storage
- Treat yourself – don’t wait so long that the items degrade to an unenjoyable level… enjoy it while you can!
By: Jack Riordan