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So, you found an old weed stash in the back of your nightstand but you have no idea how long it’s been there. Tickled with your discovery, you open the bag only to catch a whiff of a musky hay scent that fills the air. Wrinkling your nose from the pungent aroma, you reach in to grab a small bud, only to find it crumbles between your fingers.

While contemplating whether to fill a bowl and take a hit, you wonder, “Does weed go bad”? And if so, can old weed be harmful to consume?

Is the Stash of Weed Any Good?

It’s fairly easy to determine if the newly found prize is worth lighting up. The smell, of course, is a dead giveaway. Anyone who has opened a package of fresh flower and breathed in the irresistible fragrance of weed knows the difference. The pungent aroma of dirty socks or wet grass emitted from a questionable baggie is the first clue that the stash is no good.

Secondly, if the buds have turned into small sticks and loose leaves that line the bottom of the bag, the plant material has dried to the point where most of the cannabinoids and terpenes have been lost. On the other hand, if the buds are still intact but squishy, be sure to do a thorough mold check to make sure there aren’t any spores harboring in the flower.

Can Old Weed Be Harmful to Consume?

Generally, the only thing that could be toxic in the weed stash would be the presence of a white, fuzzy powdery residue on the leaves or inside the buds. This visual sign indicates mold spores or other microbial pathogens are present. Molds tend to grow in humid conditions and as the plant material decays. Smoking weed that is moldy is damaging to the lungs and can cause serious injury. Throw that stash away!

How Does Weed Degrade?

As with many plant species, there is always a point where the growth cycle takes a turn when it reaches its peak maturity and begins losing momentum as it dies off. Weed is no different.

When weed plants are at the height of the bloom stage, mushroom-shaped trichomes lining thick colas showcase terpenoid and cannabinoid synthesis through varying colors. For example, the glandular trichomes are crystal clear as plants begin flowering. Then, as THCa cannabinoids ramp up production to prime development, trichomes start turning milky white.

After that, there is a short window before the bulbous protrusions start transforming to a reddish amber color. At this point, the THCa cannabinoids begin to degrade. Better known as THC degradation, this is when the potent acidic Tetrahydrocannabinol (THCa) phytocannabinoids destabilize and turn into acidic Cannabinol (CBNa). While CBN is gaining popularity as a cannabinoid that exhibits couch-lock effects and beneficial sleep properties, the delightful psychoactive effects of THC quickly diminish with degradation.

Does Weed Have an Expiration Date?

Unlike most consumable products like foods and beverages, weed doesn’t necessarily have precise expiration dates. For the most part, weed that is processed correctly during harvest and post-harvest is typically good for six months to one year. However, the key to a longer shelf life depends on how the bud is stored. Environmental factors, in addition to container choices, heavily influence the longevity of the freshness of flower in storage.

How to Extend the Shelf Life of Weed

While it’s inevitable that degradation will eventually occur, here are a few tricks to keep your weed fresher in storage.

Temperature & Humidity

These two environmental controls play a vital role in every aspect of cannabis plant growth, including the final phase during storage. Temperature fluctuations in areas where weed is stored can wreak havoc on volatile terpenes as they quickly evaporate and combust in elevated temps. Similarly, trichomes will simply fall off the buds when it’s too cold, leaving little to no smell, flavor, or effect in the stored weed.

Likewise, humidity control is paramount to ensure the buds stay fresh in storage. If the air is too dry in the container, the flowers will crumble away when touched, leaving a layer of flavorless powdery dust. On the other hand, too much humidity in the jar will encourage mold spores and pathogens to grow. Humidity control packets placed inside weed storage containers keep levels at optimal ranges for good storage practices.

It’s best to keep temperatures between 60⁰F – 68⁰F and relative humidity between 59% – 63%.

Light

A weed jar sitting on the kitchen table exposed to an overhead light will probably be okay for a day or two. But if the jar is exposed to the light every day, it won’t be long before the THC begins to degrade. Any light, but especially ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, stimulates the degradation process in weed plants over time. Keep weed storage containers in a cool, dark closet or cupboard to prolong the effectiveness of the buds and prevent rapid degradation.

Oxygen

Oxygen is another damaging stimulator when storing weed. Too much of the invisible gas will advance degradation rapidly. Even leaving too much air space in the containers creates excessive oxygen levels that promote the breakdown of cannabinoids and terpenoids. On the other hand, insufficient O₂ can increase relative humidity, bringing out microbial issues. While you will definitely get in the container from time to time, keep the lid on as much as possible to limit oxygen intake and move buds to a smaller container to reduce air space as the stash depletes.
Containers

Plastic baggies were the go-to for years when storing buds, and plastic pill bottles remain a popular vessel for short-term storage containers. However, the static charge in plastics tends to strip trichomes from the flowers, leaving the best part of the bud stuck to the side of the container.

Glass jars, such as mason jars for canning, are efficient containers for several reasons. First, they are airtight when sealed, keeping the contents fresh for a long time. They also come in a wide assortment of sizes, are very economical, and are usually easy to find at big box stores.

The drawback to glass jars is the light issue. When storing weed in clear glass jars, be sure to put them in a dark, cool location away from any light source. Ceramic jars are another alternative as they are opaque; just make sure they have a good airtight seal.

As cannabis connoisseurs are honing in on the importance of properly storing their delectable buds, creative companies are developing new product designs for weed storage. These include cannabis humidors, which are temperature and humidity controlled, enclosed in a fancy wooden box to eliminate light and oxygen penetration. Another option includes airtight food-grade aluminum pods, which hold a humidity pack to ensure freshness.