The quality of your ganja is important, especially if you’re using medical marijuana as a treatment for a health condition. However, for weed to be of high quality, the nugs need to be dried and cured after harvesting. After these processes are finished, cannabis should be stored in airtight containers for further use.
While we do know that food has an exact shelf life and expiration date, is the same true for weed? And can your dispensary-bought baggie full of Indica be used in your bong after you’ve found it in the pocket of your old jeans a few years too late? Can you toke old cannabis, or do you need to throw it out? Read on to find out.
Can Your Cannabis Go Bad?
After growers have harvested, dried, and cured weed, it’s ready to be stored for further use. In fact, weed can be stored indefinitely without going bad because if it’s dried and cured adequately, it will contain a low percentage of moisture, meaning it won’t be a proper breeding ground for microorganisms. But, does that mean that weed retains its quality over the years? Not quite.
Long-term storage results in loss of potency, mainly terpene and cannabinoid (THC and CBD) loss. As you probably know, the carboxylic acids THCA and CBDA need to decarboxylate in order to turn into their cannabinoid counterparts THC and CBD. However, these cannabinoids also convert to other substances. As time goes by, THC degrades into cannabinol (CBN) which is similar to CBD because it doesn’t provide as many psychoactive effects as THC, rather it gives users sedative effects. Exposure to UV lights is to blame for this, but even keeping weed in the dark can’t prevent this.
Older weed also loses the aroma because the terpene oils aren’t as potent as back when it was harvested, dried, and cured. Therefore, old weed won’t go bad, but rather lose its psychoactive potency over time.
How to Figure Out Whether You Have Old Weed on Your Hands?
When cannabis is kept in an airtight container away from moisture and direct heat, it can remain in perfect condition for a few years. Alternatively, marijuana loses its qualities and doesn’t provide the same effects to users. This is a good thing to remember, especially if you’re buying weed from somewhere new since you’ll be able to spot old weed. To find out if the weed you found in the back of your cupboard is older, you can use some of the following methods.
The first thing you need to take a look at when purchasing weed is the color and overall appearance of the cannabis bud. Older weed will be more crumbly, signaling that it’s probably dried up, and will look a bit dull and brownish. Old weed can also be moldy, and you can find out whether you have moldy weed on your hands by taking a look at our previous article on weed mold. Mold and mildew often accumulate over the trichomes, and once they spread the nugs get either white or gray powdery spots, which means you’ll need to throw away your stash.
Another way to find out whether you have purchased old weed is by smelling the nugs. Since terpenes get less potent over time, weed that doesn’t actually smell like weed is often older weed. Moreover, mold and mildew also have specific smells, so it’s best to throw them away.
This method will also tell you how old your weed is, and to do it you’ll only need to snap your flower in half.
The ultimate test will be how your marijuana tastes to you. If you’re a seasoned user, you’ll definitely notice something’s wrong with the weed.
Cannabis Flower Shelf Life and Storage Suggestions
As we’ve mentioned above, heat and light can degrade the cannabinoids and terpenes present in cannabis. If cannabis isn’t exposed to harsh environmental conditions, it will ultimately dry up and start losing its cannabinoids (THC will start converting to CBN). According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, weed loses its potency in just a few years. Therefore, storing it for:
- One year means a 16% loss of THC;
- Two years means a 26% loss of THC;
- Three years means a 34% loss of THC;
- Four years means a 41% loss of THC.
To keep weed fresher for longer, it should be kept in a sealed container away from direct heat and light. In order to keep it away from light, store it in an airtight container, like a glass jar or a mason jar, and place it in a dark, cool place like a cupboard. Don’t use plastic containers as they may let air in. The room temperature should be kept between 60 and 68°F (15.5 to 20°C) with relative humidity levels between 60% and 65% to prevent mold and mildew growth.
Shelf Life of Other Cannabis Products
Similar to fresh weed, other cannabis products should be stored under the same conditions, though some do have a longer shelf life compared to weed, while others have a shorter shelf life.
For example, cannabis edibles have a shorter shelf life compared to raw flowers simply because the food ingredients will eventually spoil. Store-bought edibles’ expiration date is printed on the label, however, homemade edibles will have a shelf life of about 4-5 days when kept at room temperature, up to a month if kept in the fridge, and up to 6 months if kept in the freezer.
Cannabis concentrates also have an expiration date on the label, though the cannabinoids and terpenes will degrade even faster as a result of light and air exposure. Apart from their potency, they will also lose their aroma, but if you don’t mind having tinctures that aren’t as potent (or as fragrant), you can keep using these products past their expiration date.
Final Thoughts on Smoking Old Weed
Even though weed doesn’t really have an expiration date, since after a while the cannabinoids just degrade, smoking nugs that are really old won’t provide you with a pleasant smoking experience. Adding that weed to your joint will make it harsher to smoke, but if you don’t mind go ahead and use it up, except if it’s moldy (in which case it can be harmful to your health). Remember that weed should always be kept in airtight containers in a cool, dark place away from heat sources for optimal cannabinoid and terpene preservation.