Like anything harvested, cannabis degrades over time. But if weed “expires”, will it make you sick? The answer to this question depends on the reason the cannabis is no longer in prime condition. Here is everything you need to know about when it’s time to throw your bud away.
Mold Can Ruin Your Bud
The quickest way for weed to go bad is for it to become infected with mold. While cannabis is most susceptible to mold during pre-harvest, it can become a victim to the fungus at any point in the right conditions. Mold loves moisture and little air circulation. If you store wet cannabis in an airtight jar, you may open it up later on to find that a colorful assortment of mold has taken hold of your precious flower. Mold can look brown, white, grey, yellow, or black and appear to be fuzzy or web-like. It can also smell like urine or a towel that has been left wet for too long. In the right conditions, mold can grow quickly. If your cannabis is not stored properly, it might go “bad” because of mold in just a few days. And there is no salvaging it. If you suspect that your weed is moldy because of how it looks or smells, throw it all away. Consuming spore-laden cannabis is dangerous, especially for those who are already immunocompromised (such as the many patients who consume cannabis to treat chronic debilitating medical conditions). Luckily, storing cannabis properly can mitigate the risk of mold and extend the expiration of your cannabis for many months
Terpenes Eventually Lose Potency
Terpenes are volatile chemical compounds that give plants their unique flavors and aromas. Some of the most volatile terpenes begin to evaporate at just 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Terpenes are contained in the plants fragile glandular trichomes, tiny hairs coating the cannabis flower and stem. Anyone who has handled cannabis knows that bud can leave a lingering scent behind. This is due to the trichomes being crushed and releasing the fragrant terpenes. Properly cured cannabis flower contains a lot of terpenes, but overtime and when exposed to heat and agitation, terpenes will continue to evaporate and release. Eventually, the bud’s fragrance will become less powerful. This is a sure sign that the terpene content has significantly decreased. Consuming cannabis that has lost its skunk won’t hurt you the way eating expired meat would. However, terpenes give cannabis its flavor. Without a high concentration of terpenes, the consumption experience will be much less enjoyable and potent since terpenes work synergistically with cannabinoids to produce their medicinal effects.
THC Degrades Overtime
Light, oxygen, and heat are no friends of THC. Exposure to light is the quickest way to degrade THC. Oxygen triggers the synthesis of THC to cannabinol (CBN), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is only created in the plant through oxidation. The longer cannabis is exposed to air and light, the more THC will either degrade or synthesize into CBN. There is a silver lining here. Though not psychoactive, CBN has medicinal properties and is known for promoting sleep. If you find an old stash of cannabis that has been exposed to air, it is likely that most of the THC content has converted to CBN. If you consume it, you shouldn’t expect a potent high, but you very well may enjoy deeper sleep. Prolonged exposure to heat will also cause THC levels to decrease. Of course, heat activates THC. When cannabis is harvested, it actually does not contain any THC—just THCA, the acidic precursor to THC. THCA is not psychoactive, but when it is decarboxylated (or exposed to heat for a set period of time), it becomes THC. However, decarboxylation is a time restrained process. Once the ideal maximum heating time is surpassed, THC levels begin to decline. Consuming cannabis depleted of THC won’t make you sick, but it won’t make you better either. If you believe that your bud hasn’t been stored properly for a long period of time, it may be more worth your while to replenish your stash with fresh bud than to consume weak flower.
What About Expired Edibles?
Besides when it is infested with mold, the only other way weed can go dangerously “bad” is if it is housed in an expired edible. Edibles are made with perishable ingredients. If the cannabis infused treat you want to enjoy has not been stored properly given the foods it contains, you should throw it out to avoid food poisoning or contracting a food-borne disease. This is true for all edibles, but particularly edibles made with eggs, meats, or dairy products. If you purchase an edible, be sure to read the label carefully and store it appropriately. Discard the edible once it has reached its expiration date.
How to Properly Store Weed
The enemies to long-term weed storage are moisture, light, air, and heat. Carefully storing cannabis can keep your weed tasty and potent for many months. Before storing your weed, make sure that it is properly dried and cured. If you are purchasing your cannabis from a reputable dispensary, this should not be a problem. Most dispensaries will take the necessary precautions to ensure that the bud on their shelves is top notch. If you grow your own weed, make sure to completely cure your cannabis before storing it. Store your cannabis in a tinted, airtight container at the right relative humidity (RH) level. You don’t want your RH to be so low that the trichomes dry out because that will negatively affect the flavor of your bud. The ideal RH is between 59% and 63%. Choose one of these containers designed to store cannabis in a way that shields it both from light and air. Keep your cannabis-filled, airtight container in a cool, dark place. High temperatures can degrade THC but keeping your stash in the refrigerator or freezer pose threats as well. The humidity in the refrigerator fluctuates drastically and freezing your bud can cause the frozen trichomes to break off. A closet in a room at around 68 degrees F will keep your weed out of the light and in a controlled temperature. Make sure to secure your cannabis stash to prevent its exposure to children, pets, and nosy guests.