Cannabis pricing structures tend to incentivize bulk purchases. Customers willing to buy more significant quantities are typically rewarded with a lower (sometimes significantly lower) price per gram.
And, now that legalization has allowed many people to grow their own cannabis at home so there are more reasons than ever to have large quantities of everyone’s favorite plant on hand.
This abundance is a good thing, but it also invites an important question, “Does marijuana go bad?”
In this article, we take an in-depth look, not just at the likelihood of cannabis spoiling, but also the wide range of circumstances that can have an overall impact on the quality of your bud and ways to store it properly for long-term use.
Does Marijuana Go Bad?
To begin, it’s important to mention that cannabis does not spoil in the same sense that food does. Properly harvested, dried, and cured bud will remain safe to smoke ostensibly forever assuming that you don’t introduce circumstances that might lead to mold or mildew (mostly, humidity).
However, over time, cannabis will lose its potency and develop a stale, unpleasant taste.
How long does weed stay good?
The general rule of thumb tends to be that high-quality cannabis of any variety will last for about six months if it has been stored in a dry, air-tight container.
That number can easily reach up to a year depending on the conditions of your environment, as well as the characteristics of the cannabis itself.
After that six months to a year has elapsed, there is a pretty significant range of things that may happen to your cannabis. In terms of taste, you may not notice much of a difference even after a year has passed.
Does weed lose potency?
Potency is probably the biggest casualty of aging cannabis. It will begin to decline pretty steeply. Cannabis loses THC at a rate of about 16% after one year, 26% after two years, and up to 41% by four years. Below is an infographic we created to show how much potency is left after five years for cannabis that tested in at 20% THC. You can see that after five years, your once 20% THC potent bud now only has a potency of 10.2%. Almost a 50% decrease in potency, but hey, it still can get you high.
While it’s true that the passage of five years will cut your cannabis potency in half, it’s also true that cannabis rarely has the chance to age to that extent. Most enthusiasts will be able to avoid the risk of diminished potency simply by avoiding the accumulation of more than a year’s supply at a time.
Does weed expire?
There really is not a set expiration date where cannabis is concerned. While the diminished THC capacity does put cannabis lovers on a time frame, the user’s health is not really in jeopardy when they allow their flower to age.
How Can You Tell If Your Marijuana Is Old?
There are a few different ways to tell if your cannabis is on the older side. You can examine its appearance, smell, feel, taste and overall effects when smoking it.
The appearance of cannabis may or may not change as it ages. In general, a dry, brittle appearance will likely signify that your cannabis has aged out of freshness. However, depending on the characteristics of your cannabis, it may be difficult to determine the age of bud simply by looking at it. Wilted buds and a brownish tint or color will indicate that it has aged.
Smell is a much better indicator of the age of cannabis. While a sniff test probably won’t allow you to guess the exact age of bud, it can help you determine the overall freshness. “Good” cannabis will usually have a potent, spicy, smell.
While the actual scent will vary based on the strain, it’s usually not difficult to tell that you are in the presence of high-quality marijuana.
However, the smell of cannabis diminishes significantly as it ages. Stale cannabis may have little to no smell at all or it might just smell like dried dusty grass.
The physical sensation of touching cannabis will also change as the bud ages. Fresher bud tends to have a spongy, buoyant feel to it, while cannabis that has aged beyond its prime tends to be dry and brittle.
If the cannabis crumbles in your fingers, you can safely assume that it’s gone stale.
Taste will differ significantly between fresh and stale bud. While fresh cannabis may have a fruity or spicy flavor (depending, of course, on the qualities of the plant that it came from) stale cannabis will have a much more muted flavor. You can assume that it will probably be very harsh on the lungs and throat, but it’ll still get you high.
As previously mentioned, THC declines sharply with each year that your cannabis sits on the shelf. Naturally, this means that the psychoactive properties of the bud will not be nearly as prominent as it ages.
However, that’s not to say that older cannabis is unable to produce euphoric effects. It’s worth noting that cannabis has grown significantly more potent in the years following the proliferation of legal states. While the average THC level at most dispensaries tends to hover at around 18% it’s not uncommon for premium strains to be anywhere from 25%-30% THC. In other words, most modern cannabis has THC to spare.
While staler bud will only be a shadow of its former self, you can still expect to experience many of desired effects from older flower.
FAQs About Old Dry Cannabis
Can you smoke dry marijuana?
Answer: Yes! Dry weed will usually be harsh, but it is still smokeable.
Can old marijuana make you sick?
Answer: Older cannabis usually will pose no risk to your health. The only exception is if mold or mildew has had the chance to develop. You can detect mold through a visual examination, as well as through a sniff test. Generally, compromised cannabis will have a musty, almost hay-like smell.
Does old marijuana still get you high?
Answer: Yes. The overall effects will depend on a wide range of factors: the age of the cannabis, its original potency levels, your tolerance, etc. However, in general, you can expect to get high even from old cannabis.
How to Store Marijuana Properly and Keep it Fresh
Store at Proper Temperature
Generally speaking, 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit is considered the ideal temperature for cannabis storage. At this level, cannabis will retain the optimal moisture level that allows it to remain spongy and fresh, without creating the conditions that enable mold to fester.
While there may be some wiggle room, it’s important to note that too much heat will lead to the cannabis’s rapid deterioration (mold tends to grow very well at around 80 degrees. Sub 70 temperatures, on the other hand, may dry out your cannabis.
Keep at Right Humidity
The ideal humidity level for cannabis storage is considered to be between 59-63%. This, combined with an optimal temperature will allow cannabis to retain its freshness without risking mold and mildew exposure.
Less Air Exposure the Better
Oxygen is no friend to cannabis. The more exposure to air your bud experiences, the faster it will lose its THC levels. In fact, oxygen exposure turns THC in CBN which has its own medicinal benefits but it’s a non-psychoactive chemical.
Reduce Light Exposure
Your cannabis will also benefit from a low-light environment. Studies have suggested that exposure to UV light in particular (the type of light generated by the sun, among other sources) leads to the very rapid degeneration of THC in cannabis.
Light also just breaks down all forms of organic matter over time making it a natural enemy to the longevity of your cannabis. Cupboards, closets, and drawers are all safe, low-light environments for your cannabis.
Top Containers to Store Marijuana for Long-Term
When it comes to storage, finding the right container is critical. While cannabis lovers of the past were often forced to improvise their storage techniques, legalization has brought forth many commercial options that are optimized for efficiency.
Airtight Marijuana Containers
Most of the time when you purchase cannabis from a dispensary, they’ll be in a glass airtight container, but occasionally you’ll get some bud in a hard version of a ziplock bag. Bags are no good. It’s better to keep some of the glass containers from past purchases or buy some yourself. Look for containers with a rudder seal to get excess moisture from getting in or out.
Glass Jars or Mason Jars
Glass jars are a good, affordable way to store your cannabis in an airtight container. In addition to being affordable, they also provide the aesthetic benefit of allowing you to put your stash on display the way some people might showcase a nice bottle of wine in a decanter. That said, you should note that the glass of a mason jar likely will not provide the same protection against the light that other, more specifically optimized containers will. If you go this route, there is an even bigger premium on finding a low-light spot for your cannabis.
Stash canisters are usually relatively small containers that may have the capacity to store an ounce or so of bud at a time. The nice thing about finding a storage canister that has been specifically optimized for cannabis is that it will likely be well suited to maintain the ideal light, humidity, and temperature conditions.
The Stash Box
Cannabis stash boxes are a long-time fixture of headshops and hobby magazines. They are often discreet in their design, assuming the shape of an everyday household item (soda cans, chip canisters, etc.).
Others, opt for more volume, allowing for the storage of pipes and other paraphernalia along with the rest of your stash. While stash boxes are a good way to maintain privacy for a small amount of cannabis, they often fall short of some of the more sophisticated options that are now on the market. If you are interested in trying this route, there are many brand options available, including Herbguard, StashLogix, and others.
Humidors are a great way to store cannabis using the same conditions that dispensaries apply as they store and cure their bud. Humidors are specifically optimized to maintain the right humidity levels, keeping your cannabis fresh for longer periods of time.
It is, however, important to note that you should not use a tobacco humidor for your cannabis storage. While the equipment is ostensibly the same, cedar tobacco humidors are treated with chemicals that might corrupt the quality and taste of your cannabis.
Do’s & Don’ts of Cannabis Storage
Do: Keep your cannabis at around 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature prevents your marijuana from drying out, while also reducing the probability of mold or mildew infiltration.
Do: Keep your cannabis in an environment of about 60% humidity. This level will prevent the bud from drying without making it too moist.
Do: Store your cannabis in an airtight container that is optimized to avoid infiltration of oxygen and light. Remember, the better your container, the longer your bud will stay good.
Do: Separate your strains. While mixing and matching won’t accelerate degradation, it will take the nuance out of your stash. To preserve flavors, keep each strain in its own airtight container.
Do: Enjoy your cannabis regularly! The very best way to keep cannabis from going bad on you is to enjoy it continuously. Keep in mind that when you follow best practices you have at least a year to enjoy your bud at maximum freshness. That should be more than enough time to enjoy a high-quality strain!
Don’t: Keep marijuana in the freezer. While many people think this is a dependable way to ensure freshness, the opposite is, in fact, true. While cannabis can be successfully frozen in a professional environment, at home you risk moisture infiltration and other forms of degradation.
Don’t: Keep your cannabis in light. UV light not only reduces THC levels but also accelerates the overall degeneration of your stash.
Don’t: Use plastic bags. While plastic baggies are a long-time favorite method of storing cannabis on a budget, they also lack all of the protections your bud requires to maintain peak freshness.
Don’t: Keep your cannabis around electronics. While you don’t have to be a Luddite to promote the best cannabis storage practices, you should be aware that electronics emit heat and other wavelengths that might not be best for your bud.
Don’t: Use a tobacco humidor. While humidors themselves are great, those of the tobacco variety will likely have undergone treatments that are not ideal for cannabis.