Cannabis has certainly come a long way since its ongoing legalization, and that has ultimately skyrocketed the market demand for these powerful (and often delicious) agents. With new people joining the fun, this particular cannabis shelf life question keeps popping up in conversational passing: does weed go bad?
Cannabis does not “go bad” in the sense that it becomes unsafe to smoke if it goes beyond its listed shelf life, which is typically 6 months all the way to 2 years if harvested, dried, and cured properly. That is assuming it was adequately stored to avoid mildew or mold growth. However, cannabis freshness and potency can significantly diminish (aka go stale) if left untouched for too long. And to help dissect that reality a bit more, below is a breakdown of the cannabis shelf life intricacies so you can set your expectations accurately and avoid those lackluster experiences.
Defining Shelf Life of Products
The sell-by, best-by and use-by dates on the labels of foods, medications and other products provide consumers with a sense of how long a product is likely to stay fresh and deliver its promised content. But it’s not always clear what happens if someone uses a product after these dates.
Products may use sell-by or use-by dates to signal:
- Products may lose freshness, texture or taste
- Products may lose potency
- Some products may become harmful if bacteria develops or certain ingredients degrade and turn into other substances.
"Sell by" dates typically let a store know how long to display an item on their shelves. "Best by" and "Use by" dates let consumers know when to consume the product by. Best by dates typically correlate to products that will lose freshness, texture or shape in a shorter period of time. Use by dates are common amongst products that may become harmful or lose potency.
Weed Shelf Life
Does weed go stale?
As weed (dried cannabis flower) ages, its chemical components will start to break down, which includes the psychoactive component THC. When cannabis starts losing its THC, its potency, aroma, texture, and impact all start to diminish as well. Weed certainly can go stale if not used or stored well, and that is something no smoker or edible user would enjoy.
For some more insight, cannabis loses:
about ~16% of its THC after one year
about ~26% of its THC after two years
about ~34% of its THC after three years
about ~41% of its THC after four years.
What Factors Affect Weed Shelf Life?
Now, there are several factors that can dictate how long your weed shelf life will be and how well it will hang onto its THC value - with the first and most important one being how you store it. In general, if you want to have your cannabis last as long as possible, store it in a controlled environment where humidity is between 59-63% to keep the buds fresh and the aroma strong for longer periods. Keep in mind that 65% humidity is when mold and mildew will begin to grow. Other things to consider include:
Light: To preserve your cannabis shelf life, be sure that there is limited light exposure as the UV rays can reduce the potency and degrade the quality over time. In fact, the University of London found that light is one of the leading reasons for premature cannabis degeneration. In short, storing with limited light/UV exposure as possible to help your cannabis reach closer to the 2-year mark.
Temperature: Temperature plays a large role in keeping your cannabis potent longer. Most of the time, you will want to store your cannabis in a sealed jar within cool, dry environments to extend its shelf life. As a reminder here, 'cooler' does not refer to 'cold,' so do not put your cannabis in the fridge or store it in freezing temps.
Do Edibles Go Bad?
Let's say you have a package of edibles that you long forgot about until now. Does weed go bad when it is in this form instead? The simple answer is that yes, edibles can still lose their potency regardless of forms. There are a few things that determine the shelf life of an edible:
- The extraction type and final form of cannabis used in the product
- The food items that were used to create this product
- The packaging and storage of the product
Because there are other (perishable food) ingredients involved, edibles can go bad just like any other brownie, gummy, or chocolate from the grocery store can-- and shelf life is always a concern for natural food products.
Many gummies and chocolate edibles will have long shelf lives of about 1-2 years, while other items like baked goods may expire sooner (as they would even without the cannabis infusion).
At Pantry, we create our natural edibles free of preservatives and additives (such as our cacao keto bites), but they still possess shelf-stable ingredients that can maintain quality for about 2+ years before starting to dry out. This means you can gain the desired cannabis shelf life you are aiming for without having to risk your health or sacrifice natural-only goals to make that happen.
Tip: Be mindful of the temps you store your chocolates in, as they can melt if they is not stored at the correct temperature (between 60 and 75 F degrees).
How Long Before Edibles Lose Its Potency?
We have chosen distillate and isolate forms of cannabis (THC, CBD) to infused our foods intentionally. Distillate is a refinement of cannabis oil that separates the cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids from the stuff we don’t want such as pesticides, plant matter, or other impurities. Having a pure, precise distillate oil allows us to create edibles with consistent dosing and equally consistent, reliable effect.
While lab testing is needed for each individual product, the consensus is that the average shelf life of THC distillate and CBD isolate oil is between 12 and 24 months, depending on how well you store it. The potency of our edibles may start to degrade after this time. If you still have your product after two years, you should replace it, as the active ingredients may become less effective.
How to tell if your edibles have gone bad
There are a few things you may notice when a product has 'gone bad' or lost its potency. Signs its time to toss your old products include:
- Its weak or ineffective
- It has changed color or has an abnormal discoloration
- It smells off or has changed smell
- There are visible signs of mold or mildew
In summary, weed may not go bad per se, but it certainly does have a shelf life in terms of quality and potency that you should be mindful of as a smoker or edible user. Under the right conditions and storage precautions, both flower cannabis and natural Pantry edibles can last for up to 2 years or even longer. With that being said, the best advice we can give you on cannabis shelf life is to be mindful of any expiration dates and take the right storage steps to preserve your supply as long as you can if you don’t plan on using it right away. And above all, if you have any questions or doubt on if your cannabis is still good or not, never hesitate to reach out for some professional insight, guidance, and support