We can all agree that keeping cannabis fresh for as long as possible is crucial. After spending our valuable dollars on high-quality weed, it would be a shame for any of it to go to waste. Discover just how important it is to store your cannabis correctly and how you can quickly get it done.
The World of Cannabis Storage
The cannabis plant contains more than 500 different compounds. Out of these, the most valuable to us are the phytocannabinoids (or just cannabinoids) and terpenes. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD, and terpenes are therapeutically active compounds preserved inside the dried flower. Together, these compounds act synergistically via the entourage effect to produce the outcomes we all seek (Milay et al., 2020).
To get to dried flower, producers follow several steps. They take freshly harvested buds (cannabis flowers or inflorescences) and start by drying them out. The buds may be trimmed either before or after this drying process. From there, the buds enter a more extended curing phase. The environment maintained during the curing stage is carefully controlled to reach ideal temperatures, humidity, and light conditions.
Once the curing is complete, producers package up the dried flower and send it off to the Provinces and Territories to be purchased by consumers. While the buds are safely stored when we buy them, once you open the package, everything changes. Once opened, it becomes your responsibility to store the cannabis optimally.
But, you may be asking why?
Why should you care about storage?
Storage is critical because of those cannabinoids and terpenes mentioned earlier. These compounds are volatile, which means that they are not stable. Even in ideal conditions, there is a small percentage of loss over time. As consumers, our goal should be to keep degradation, or the loss of these valuable compounds, to the lowest level possible. In other words, the compounds that you paid for may be lost before you get to enjoy them (if you don’t store your bud correctly).
You may be surprised at how little research there is on this subject. That said, we know plenty about the inevitability of losing cannabinoids and terpenes. Natural causes of cannabis degradation include (Milay et al., 2020):
- Photochemical reactions
- And more
The specifics behind these terms are not essential for this conversation today. What you should focus on is what environmental conditions enhance this natural decay. Based on consumers’ experiences and limited studies, we know which factors are the most important.
These include light, air, temperature, and humidity. Find out what to avoid and the ideal conditions for each below.
Research has shown that light is the most significant single factor impacting cannabinoid loss (Fairbairn, Liebmann, & Rowan, 2011). If you leave bud out in the sun, it will rapidly lose terpenes and cannabinoids. The same goes for artificial light. Keep your bud in a dark container and in a dark place to avoid this dramatic loss of valuable compounds. There is no better way to improve your storage conditions than by removing any light.
Reaching a temperature of 25°C was seen to produce a very significant loss of cannabinoids over time. Terpenes are even more volatile and can be lost at just about any temperature. Overall, the authors of this study concluded that storing whole buds at 4°C was the optimal postharvest condition (Milay et al., 2020). Others have found that temperatures up to 20°C did not produce a substantial loss of cannabinoids (Fairbairn et al., 2011). And so, keep your buds somewhere between 4-20°C at all times.
Air oxidation causes substantial loss of cannabinoids and terpenes, no matter the temperature. You must use an air-tight container and keep it closed except when needed (Fairbairn et al., 2011). You can use the glass jars you probably already have at home for storage. If you do not use an airtight container, your bud will degrade rapidly. For those who accidentally leave some open bud containers, close them and put some effort into restoring the humidity content. Humidity is the final environmental factor we explore here today.
Based on research by those who sell humidity-control products, the ideal relative humidity (RH) range is RH 59% – RH 63%. This humidity content is considered to be the best humidity range for maintaining cannabinoids and terpenes. For those wondering, cigars and tobacco storage is generally more in the RH 69% range, higher than with cannabis. This is important if you plan on storing the two products together. Generally speaking, it is better to keep cannabis alone so that you can optimize the environment.
Ideal Storage Lifespan
If stored under ideal circumstances, you can expect dried flower to be relatively stable for 1-2 years. This means keeping your bud in an airtight container, away from light, and relatively stable temperature and relative humidity. Some studies have used freezers or refrigerators for their storage, but this is not advised for consumers. The freezers and refrigerators we use at home are not nearly as well-regulated as in the expensive varieties used in laboratories.
And so, you should always plan to consume the buds you buy within 1-2 years at most (Fairbairn et al., 2011). While the loss of THC under ideal storage conditions should be minimal after 12 months, it will still occur. Where possible, consuming your dried flower within 6-months is likely to result in far fewer lost THC compounds.
No Expiry Date Determined
There is still much to learn about the ideal cannabis storage environments. This fact is no more evident than when you read cannabis labels. Cannabis products in Canada must come with an expiry date once we figure it out. That is how uncertain much of this topic is currently. You’ll see “No expiry date determined” printed on the majority of your cannabis products. This is another reason why it is all up to you once you open a cannabis package.
10. Cannabis Seeds
While we have focused on dried flower, all of the tips discussed today also apply to cannabis seeds. Keeping these seeds cool, dark, and dry is critical for keeping them stable until you are ready to use them. The ideal humidity for seeds is at least 6% or less (Smal, 2012). Poor storage may destroy the seed or degrade the quality of the plant it will ultimately produce.
There you have it! You now know why proper storage is so vital for cannabis. Along the way, you discovered the ideal conditions regarding light, air, temperature, and humidity. We learned how important it is to keep bud in an airtight container and away from any light. Beyond that, efforts to optimize temperature and humidity will take your storage to the next level. On the other hand, avoid storing your bud in a fridge or freezer at home.
In summary, ideal cannabis storage can keep your bud or cannabis seeds fresh for many months. On the other hand, improper storage will lead to the loss of cannabinoids and terpenes that you paid for and want to consume. If you plan on storing buds for more than a few days, you must pay attention to storage conditions.
Fairbairn, J., Liebmann, J. & Rowan, M. (2011). The stability of cannabis and its preparations on storage. J of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 28(1). https://academic.oup.com/jpp/article-abstract/28/1/1/6196321.
Milay, L., Berman, P., Shapira, A., Guberman, O. & Meiri, D. (2020). Metabolic profiling of cannabis secondary metabolites for evaluation of optimal postharvest storage conditions. Front. Plant Sci.. Retrieved from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2020.583605/full?fbclid=IwAR2yM22ODJygs_lEjjgU2DVy5glDeBIGYmQPfKrKGqIw5fO0ne2HYqXCGyI.
Small, E. (2017). Classification of Cannabis sativa L. in Relation to Agricultural, Biotechnological, Medical and Recreational Utilization. Cannabis sativa L. – Botany and Biotechnology, pages 1-62. Retrieved from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15440478.2012.737179.