An explainer on how long weed will stay good. Or, what to do when you rediscover some premium herb in your sock drawer.
Here’s a true story. Lately, I’ve had a lingering desire to make some cannabutter (my mom’s recipe—coconut oil infused with cannabis by way of a long, slow simmer). But not wanting to spend premium cash on premium herb for some butter I could very well botch, I found myself at a loss. Then, while cleaning out the clustercuss that is my pantry, I found a generously sized bag of the kind of scraggle weed that’s perfect for home-brewed butter.
“When treated right, well-cured weed can stay good for six months to a year.”
The only problem? The bud was as crisp as a mummified box of saltine crackers, a relic of my freeloading college days. Which led me to ask myself a bunch of questions. If I try to grind this ancient herb, will it turn to dust? Will it work? Will I die? Is this even weed? Look, I’m no expert, but I do know how to use the Google and figured out how to change a tire once, so I felt I was up to the task of digging deep into the science behind keeping cannabis fresh. Because whether it’s affordable herb or the best flower money can buy, you’ll want it to be fresh when you light up.
Here’s what I learned: As is the case with most organic elements on earth, nothing lasts forever. Everything is temporary. My apologies if you’re first hearing about mortality via a cannabis website, but hey, there are worse ways to learn about death. Generally, when treated right, well-cured weed can last for a good six months to a year. Now, after that date, it’s not as if smoking some dusty weed will kill you. In fact, it might not do much of anything. In the same way other drugs and even spices in your pantry lose potency over time, your old herb won’t give you the same lift as that hot, young herb. It’s an ageist, terrible reality, but it is what it is.
But exactly how shitty will your weed be if you forget about it all year, you ask? The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has a solid answer. Basically, the gradual loss of THC in stored cannabis is proportional to the amount of time your weed sits in storage. Overall, the study’s authors found that after one year of being kept at room temperature, your flower’s THC content will decrease by about 17%. After two years, you’re seeing a 27% loss in potency; three years brings you a 35% drop; and by four years, your weed is almost half as potent as it once was. So, say you start off with a nice, potent Purple Punch that was lab-tested at 22% THC. Store those flavorful nugs in your bedroom for four years, and that flower will probably just put you to sleep if it does anything at all.
It’s not bad to smoke geriatric weed, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s good either. Cannabis is different from a fine wine in that it won’t always get better the longer it is aged. However, like fine wine, you want to store your nugs in a cool, dark place to help it last longer. Your mom’s basement will do just fine. One of those nifty cannabis humidors would be perfect. And Buffalo Bill’s lotion pit works, too, if being a creeper is more your style. Point being, keep your weed out of the sun and rain if you want it to get you high.
And if you want to make that weed last—whether you’re a slow burner or prepping for the apocalypse—there are a couple key tricks to keeping it tight. For instance, avoid too-large containers, paper anything, and plastic baggies that get punctured easily and aren’t particularly airtight anyway. So much for my hidden pantry weed. Sigh.
On the flipside, glass and ceramic jars are great for weed storage for a variety of reasons. You can get a good seal with jars and they generally maintain proper humidity levels. (Jam jars make a lot more sense now, don’t they?) Should you want to get super fancy, grab your mom’s vacuum sealer and zip those puppies up like a Space Bag infomercial.
Fancy tools aside, the single best thing you can do to keep your weed good is to keep it out of the sun. Sunlight degrades THC, converting it to the non-intoxicating cannabinoid, cannabinol or CBN because #science. That said, CBN contains beneficial properties of its own and is believed to help some patients with sleep, pain, inflammation, and reduced appetite. Some dispensaries have started offering concentrated forms of CBN for those looking beyond CBD to manage their pain. At the end of the day, it seems weed is the wonder drug we all think it is—even when treated with more neglect than your old Tamagotchi.
Be sure to check out all of our top-rated (and super fresh) flower here.
Illustrations by Andrew Janik