As a lover of fresh cannabis, you may be into artisanal pipes and handmade bongs, or even the latest cutting-edge vaporizers (all of which we sell, by the way). But the fact remains: Over your lifetime, you’ll end up spending way more on top-shelf cannabis flower than you will on the gear with which to enjoy it. That’s why—when you’re serious about high-quality bud—the issue of cannabis shelf life becomes a critical one.
The cannabis we smoke is cured, meaning that it won’t “go bad” like, say, fresh fruits or vegetables would. But over time, cannabis can fade, losing precious potency and harboring unwanted microbial guests like mold. Here’s a quick checklist on assessing cannabis shelf life, and some tips to help you store your weed as long as possible.
Cannabis Shelf Life: Trust Your Senses
The consensus among cannabis connoisseurs is that carefully grown and handled weed has a surprisingly long shelf life. How do you extend it to the maximum? Start at the beginning, by only purchasing top-shelf cannabis from trusted vendors who are transparent and forthright about their quality control (yes, we have a suggestion).
Now it’s time to trust your senses. A visual inspection of the weed will expose the greatest threat to cannabis quality: Mold. Though the pale blotches of a mold infestation are sometimes confused with the pale dusting of trichomes that signify flavorful and terpene-rich buds, there’s an important distinction. Mold will penetrate between the nugs—or naturally occurring clusters—in flower, whereas trichomes tend to occur only on the exterior. Gently breaking apart and inspecting a bud should reveal the truth.
Next comes your nose. Fresh and still-viable cannabis should emit a complex and flavorful bouquet of characteristic terpenes. If there’s no aroma, the weed is past its shelf life. And not all odors are good ones: While some terpenes give cannabis a “dank” or “earthy” aroma, an obviously musty odor is a warning that it’s time to ditch your weed. This is a skill that may take a few tries to get right; we advise you check in with one of our friendly budtenders for pro tips.
Finally, it’s time to try your fingers. As you gently pull apart your weed to check for mold, feel for tactile cues. If the flower is dry, desiccated and brittle, it’s probably past its due date. Conversely, if it’s overly moist, there’s a chance it was either improperly cured or picked up moisture from its environment (more on that in a moment). Unless you want to smoke mold—which we strongly advise against—it may be time for the compost pile.
How to Care for Your Buds
Generally speaking, cannabis flower likes a cool, dark environment. Here’s why.
The ultraviolet content in sunlight breaks down important cannabinoids such as THCA; in fact, one study suggests that light exposure is the single greatest threat to cannabis stability. Keeping your dank in the dark will help prolong its shelf life.
Heat is another threat to freshness. In general, molds thrive in the temperature zone between 77° and 86° F, but that doesn’t mean you should consign it to the deep freeze! Resist the temptation to store your buds in the fridge or freezer. Doing either will shorten their shelf life dramatically.
The final consideration for today is humidity. While it’s arguably the most challenging to control, cannabis likes to be stored in an environment around 60% relative humidity. If you’re serious about your weed, consider investing in a humidor or other humidity-controlled container, or try a simpler strategy with disposable products such as Boveda, which help maintain an ideal environment.
Now that you know more about your buds, why not stock up? Find your closest Have a Heart location below!