Every now and then a seasoned weed user stumbles upon an old bag of weed when they’re looking for something else. It may have been forgotten months ago or even years ago, so it makes you wonder if you can light it up. Other times, you buy a baggie from your dealer or your nearest dispensary, but it kind of looks odd. How do you know if it’s past the expiration date and whether you can consume it or not? Well, we might be able to help.
In this article, we’ll talk about the shelf life of weed and how you can tell if the weed you just found (or bought) is still good to consume.
Does Weed Go Bad?
Cannabis doesn’t go bad in the same way that food does. When we talk about something going bad, we usually mean that there was a natural decomposition caused by an overgrowth of microorganisms making it unsuitable for consumption because it will make you sick. Well, weed works differently, because it is a plant, after all.
That being said, after weed is harvested, growers usually dry it and cure it to prepare it for consumption and for long-term storage. This process involves slow evaporation of excess moisture which improves the flavor and increases the potency of the nugs. Properly dried and cured weed has minimal moisture within and it doesn’t leave any breeding ground for microorganisms.
What does happen to weed over time, though, is loss of potency. The terpenes and cannabinoids (THC and CBD) are very volatile compounds that get degraded naturally with time, or very quickly if they’re exposed to UV rays. In this case, THC will turn into a different cannabinoid called CBN (cannabinol) which is less psychoactive and more sedative. Users report that it’s good for sleeping, but not for getting high.
The Shelf Life of Cannabis Mostly Depends On How You Store It
The worst thing you can do for a bag of beautiful and fragrant cannabis buds is to carelessly place them somewhere warm and sunny. The cannabinoids and terpenes will get easily degraded by UV light (or any type of direct light, for that matter), and the heat will raise the humidity levels which will breed the perfect conditions for mold and mildew formation. All of this is a no-no.
On the other end of the spectrum, old marijuana that wasn’t exposed to detrimental environmental conditions will just dry up just like a flower would. This means two things: one, it will lose its moisture content and it will become brittle, and two, the cannabinoids will naturally degrade over time, meaning THC will turn into CBN.
None of this is bad, per se, it’s just a natural process of aging. It won’t be pleasant to smoke, of course (though you can try vaping it), but other than that, there’s nothing particularly wrong with it.
How to Tell If Your Cannabis Nugs Are Past Their Prime
If you’ve found a baggie somewhere among your belongings or you just bought one but it looks a little suspicious, here’s how you can tell whether you have old marijuana nugs in your possession.
How Do They Look?
Really old weed will look really dry and the color will be dull and on the brown side. Old nugs will be crumbly to the touch and they will easily break apart when you handle them. Weed makes a snapping sound when you try to break apart the nugs, but dry weed will make a crumbling sound, which should tell you that it’s dried up and there’s no moisture content.
On the other hand, moldy nugs may not be so easy to spot, so using a magnifying glass could be helpful. Mold usually forms on the trichomes and looks like whitish or grayish powdery spots. You can also detect mold spots when you break apart the nugs.
How Do They Smell?
Unlike cured weed which smells divine, dry weed has a weak and not nearly as appealing smell because the terpenes are volatile and break down easily. However, as long as the smell is not off-putting and even pleasant, you can still consume the weed.
In contrast, moldy weed does give off a specific musty smell, similar to hay or an old basement. Needless to say, if you notice a weird smell, you should just throw the nugs away (and get yourself a fresh baggie).
Finally, bad weed will taste bad, no exceptions. And if you happened to light it and the taste feels really off, it’s definitely not consumable.
Proper Storage Is Key to Keeping Weed Fresh for Longer
The best way to prevent your weed from overdrying, or the opposite, being exposed to too much moisture and developing mold and mildew as a result, is to store it properly. Properly stored weed that has also been dried and cured properly can be safely stored for up to two years before it starts losing potency. And even then, it won’t be unsmokable but will have a higher CBN content.
That said, direct light and exposure to air and excess moisture are the enemies to the shelf life of weed. The best thing you can do is to store weed in an airtight container, preferably made of glass because it’s less porous. Plastic is not recommended because it may let in air and it holds a static charge which can damage the terpenes.
Most experienced weed users use airtight glass jars, such as mason jars. You can also use an opaque or tinted container for extra safety. Store the container in a dark and dry place away from sources of heat. Also, don’t store the nugs in the fridge because they will get moldy pretty quickly.
What About the Shelf Life of Other Cannabis Products?
Other cannabis products behave similarly to fresh weed, but this will also depend on the type of product. Some are made to have a longer shelf life, while others will inevitably last for a few weeks at best.
Cannabis concentrates, like dabs, rarely have an expiration date printed on the label, but they experience the same changes. The cannabinoids and terpenes are prone to rapid degradation over time if they’re exposed to direct light and air. Old dabs won’t be nearly as fragrant and potent as new ones, but if you don’t mind smoking some CBN, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t vape an old concentrate (unless it looks and/or tastes bad!).
Edibles are a little different, depending on the type of edible. Gummies and hard candies, for example, are made to last longer and they typically have an expiration date printed on the label, but this date refers to the food ingredients rather than the cannabinoids.
On the other hand, edibles that were made with sensitive ingredients such as dairy or eggs (space brownies, cannabutter, cannaoil) will go bad within days or weeks. The only way to prolong their shelf life is to freeze them like you would freeze any other food.
Final Thoughts – Proper Storage Will Make Your Weed Last for a Long Time
While it’s true that weed technically doesn’t have an expiration date, it doesn’t mean that it’s indestructible. It’s still a plant that needs to be stored properly if you want it to remain potent and safe to consume. The best thing that you can do for your stash is to store it in an airtight container and put it in a dry and dark place (away from light and heat).