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what is the shelf life of marijuana

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…

Reality check: Does pot have an expiry date?

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The Canadian government proposed last month that legal pot be sold in plain packaging that displays a slew of warnings and other information, including an expiry date. But does weed actually expire?

It depends on the cannabis you buy and how you store it.

As cannabis expert and Quebec brand manager of marijuana giant Canopy Growth, Adam Greenblatt, explains, dried pot flowers have more of a “best before” date, ensuring freshness and quality.

“Dried flower generally has quite a long shelf life, but after about a year, it starts to lose its smell,” Greenblatt said. “The THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) doesn’t degrade as quickly, but the subjective quality of it starts to degrade, so we use about a year as a rule of thumb.”

Terpenes are the compounds in cannabis that give the plant its “skunky” smell. Greenblatt notes that a lack of smell of the dried flower can be a good indicator of whether the marijuana has degraded, something that happens over time if not stored properly.

WATCH: Across the Canada, it’s looking like each province is taking quite a different approach to pot legalization.

“After a certain amount of time, the terpenes will degrade, you will notice a change in the smell over time,” Greenblatt said. “After a very long time, like five years for dried flower it starts to turn brown because the chlorophyll evaporates.”

University of British Columbia psychology professor and cannabis researcher Zach Walsh argues that the government is not wrong to say dried pot expires, because the medicinal components of marijuana change over time as the flower degrades, making the product different from the day it was purchased.

“It’s certainly appropriate for it to have an expiry date,” Walsh said. “The chemical components do degrade and change…One of the big benefits of legalization is that people are going to be able to have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting in their cannabis in terms of what the potency is, what are the constituents and if those change then it’s no longer what it says on the package, I would call that expired,” Walsh said.

“Not that it becomes dangerous, but it’s just no longer what it says,” Walsh said.

So what is it that changes in dried cannabis flower?

Canopy Growth explained that the THC, a cannabinoid that provides some of the health benefits of marijuana as well as the “buzz,” can degrade over time if the flower is not stored properly.

“Cannabis is best stored in an air-tight container and left in the dark, because light degrades the THC, so it’s generally best to store it in the dark,” Greenblatt said.

Walsh said that even with proper storage of the dried cannabis, the chemicals in the flower, called cannabinoids, break down and change over time.

“There’s a bunch of different cannabinoids, chemicals, inside herbal cannabis. Some have a somewhat similar structure and over time they’ll degrade and turn into one another,” Walsh said. “Something called CBN, cannabinol, THC and other cannabinoids can degrade into cannabinol which has a different psychoactive profile than THC, so it does change.”

The professor noted that the length of time before the change in the cannabis properties “has yet to be characterized, but it’s a matter of months.”

“You would certainly expect to see some substantial changes in cannabis over a year,” Walsh said.

As for storage, some people like to keep their dried marijuana in the fridge or freezer to help contain the natural smell of the pot, something that should be considered a no-no.

“I don’t recommend it … the trichomes on cannabis are very delicate. When you freeze cannabis, they can fall off when frozen,” Greenblatt explained.

Trichomes are the crystal-like hairs on the flower and leaves that produce the cannabinoids and terpenes.

“You can unwittingly reduce the quality of your cannabis if you’re keeping it in a freezer because the part that contains the cannabinoids can break off more easily,” Greenblatt said.

According to Health Canada, dried marijuana should be kept in a cool, dry place and out of the reach of children and pets.

Cannabis oils on the other hand can actually expire over time and should not be consumed past the expiry date.

“For oils, however, oils are a food product, cannabis resin diluted into like a sunflower oil or some kind of food oil,” Greenblatt said. “Oils can eventually go rancid, so we put a best before date for about a year for cannabis oils as well.”

The government said the proposed plain packaging would include a packaging date of the product and “an expiry date, if one has been set.”

It depends on the cannabis you buy and how you store it. ]]>