While some herb lovers smoke their buds all in one go, many of us like to keep our stash around for a while. Nobody wants to run out of weed.
Maybe you found a hot deal and want to buy buds in bulk or aspire to keep a collection of carefully curated strains and products. If so, you’re probably asking yourself, “How long will my cannabis last?”
Or perhaps, you found an old baggie or pill container full of forgotten weed, and you’re wondering if it’s still good. Unfortunately, the answer is that weed does degrade with age, and in some cases, you’ll be better off throwing those old buds away.
Why Does Weed Go Bad?
The process of oxidation eventually breaks down everything in nature. When we eat foods that combat free radicals, we’re trying to slow down the oxidation process to preserve the integrity of our cells and extend our lives.
Lamentably, oxidation will also eventually affect the flavor and potency of your weed. When it comes to cannabis, oxidation can be slowed by limiting exposure to light, heat, humidity, and air. Ultraviolet light is the biggest enemy of cured cannabis. Too much UV light will quickly turn the THC in your buds into CBN and other metabolites, leaving you with weed with less psychoactive properties and a pronounced sleepy quality.
Can You Age Cannabis Like Wine?
For the most part, no. If you’ve uncovered an old stash that you had forgotten, it’s unlikely that it will taste as delicious as when you first brought it home. And if you’re really unlucky, that old stash may have grown mold.
Smoking or vaping moldy weed can cause respiratory problems or provoke nausea. Storing cannabis in an overly damp environment or in the refrigerator is a common cause of mold formation.
The only possible instance of aging cannabis products that we know of is the case of Nepalese Temple Balls. Generations of cannabis growers in the Kush region of Nepal devised a way to preserve and age hash by forming it into airtight balls. After up to a decade of storage, the inner portion of the ball takes on subtle flavor characteristics seldom found elsewhere in the cannabis world. The late hash master Frenchy Cannoli explored this practice for nearly his entire life and developed his own brand of temple balls.
How Long Will My Cannabis Last?
How long your weed lasts depends on how well-cured and stored the cannabis was before it got to you and how well you store the buds afterward. Properly harvested, cured, and stored weed should retain full flavor and potency for six months to one year.
However, even when stored correctly, cannabis loses an average of around 16.6% of its THC content after the first year. When you get around the 5-year mark, your buds could be only half as potent as they were when you bought them. They may still be usable, but they’ll lack potency and will impart slightly different effects.
Has Your Stash Expired?
Before you can spot expired weed, you’ll need to learn how to evaluate its initial quality.
There are several factors you’ll need to examine for determining the freshness of your cannabis.
Fresh cannabis buds will have a mixture of green hues with yellow, purple, or blue accents, depending upon the strain. The chlorophyll in cannabis flowers evaporates over time, making older buds take on a brownish color.
Additionally, high-quality, fresh cannabis shouldn’t be too moist or too dry. Wet buds may have been harvested too early, poorly cured, or may even contain mold. Dry, brittle buds may result from either an improper cure or oxidation. Extremely dehydrated buds will taste like hay when inhaled, but you can usually still use them to make edibles. If the cannabis is only slightly dry, you may rehydrate the buds to enhance the flavor.
Just like with food, white spots on cannabis could mean mold. But you’ll have to make sure that you’re not confusing the cannabinoid and terpene-rich trichomes with mold, as they will also look like a white layer covering the buds. The best way to tell the difference is to smell them.
Cannabis will either change the character of its aroma or lose its fragrance altogether as it ages. This is because the aromatic terpenes also start breaking down with time. Terpenes have different boiling points, and some will disappear from your buds quicker than others, altering the flavor.
Fresh, top-shelf cannabis should be sticky and slightly springy when you give the buds a light squeeze. Weed that’s past its prime can crumble easily. If it feels too wet, you may be dealing with a mold problem. Smell the buds again and make sure there’s no musty smell.
Weed that’s been stored for over a year or two will exhibit a significant drop in potency. Depending on the strain and its terpene profile, you may notice a change in the type of effects. Mold-contaminated buds can give you a headache or make you feel nauseous. Throw them away immediately.
How Long Do Cannabis Concentrates and Edibles Last?
Cannabis concentrates and extracts will usually stay potent much longer than cured flowers. How much longer depends upon the type of concentrate. For example, alcohol tinctures can remain relatively potent for years if stored in a cool, dark area. On the other hand, hash won’t stay fresh quite as long because it still contains a substantial amount of plant matter.
Cannabinoid concentrates like shatter or isolates can last almost indefinitely when stored with care. But if your concentrates start to develop a texture like granulated sugar, they may be getting too old to dab. Unlike whole buds, you can keep most cannabis concentrates in the refrigerator or freezer. However, we don’t recommend storing hash in the fridge because it has just enough plant matter to be susceptible to mold.
Their most perishable ingredient determines the lifespan of cannabis edibles. Edibles with butter infusions will last around two weeks in the refrigerator or around six months in the freezer. Hard candies and gummies can stay fresh much longer as they don’t contain many perishable ingredients.
How to Properly Store Weed
The best way to store weed is in glass, ceramic, or stainless steel jars with airtight lids. Storing cannabis in plastic containers or baggies can change the flavor as trace amounts of chemicals can leech into the buds.
Vacuum-sealing is excellent for reducing oxygen exposure. However, it’s best to seal your weed in a rigid container. Storing weed in plastic bags can also damage the buds, knocking off trichomes. Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t store your buds in the freezer. Freezing cannabis causes the trichomes to become brittle and break off, leaving you with weak, tasteless weed.
The ideal relative humidity (Rh) levels for storing cannabis are between 59-63%. You can help keep humidity levels in check by inserting a Boveda pack and mini hygrometer in your storage containers. Maintaining proper humidity levels will help keep your buds from drying out or developing mildew.
For maximum freshness, fill each of your containers around ⅔ full to leave room for gasses to escape. Then, place them in a cool, dry, and dark place away from any source of heat. Dry dresser drawers, cabinets, and closets make ideal stash areas. For added insurance, hang a thermometer in your storage area and make sure the temperature stays below 77°F.
This article was updated on October 31st, 2021.