6 Ways to Increase Cannabis Shelf Life
Like anything organic, shelf life is fleeting. Follow Rich Hamilton’s tips on storing cannabis, and you’ll be able to keep more of your favorite strain fresh and flavorful for longer.
Anybody who appreciates quality cannabis should take the time to learn how to keep their stash fresh and in tip-top consumable condition. If you think that keeping your cannabis in a little baggie, pouch, or tin is the answer, think again. If stored correctly, your cannabis’s potency can maintain its stability for up to two years when kept in the perfect environment.
Let’s look at the different factors you need to know to help you understand how to care for your stash properly.
First, if you are growing your own, drying and curing is the fundamental step in setting the wheels in motion for the production of a cannabis product with a longer life. You might have grown the best plants ever, but this means nothing if you do not dry and cure effectively to secure the potency of your crop. Drying and curing done correctly is essential to minimize the risk of mold spores and maximize the potency, as well as the shelf life of your cannabis.
Whether you have grown your own or you have bought from a reputable dispensary, the cannabis that you have should be perfectly dried and cured. So, the question now is, how do you maintain it in this premium condition for as long as possible?
Well, from this point onward you need to think of light as being your nemesis. It is the kryptonite to the lifespan of your cannabis and poses the biggest risk to its potency and quality.
Let There Be No Light
If you are wondering why light is such a threat, it’s because light is a form of radiation. The majority of the visible light spectrum all living things are exposed to (in the form of sunlight) is non-ionizing, meaning it is generally harmless to all living organisms. At the very outer edge of the visible light spectrum, however, sits ultraviolet (UV) light.
Ultraviolet rays are ionizing and unlike non-ionizing radiation they have the ability to degrade organic material. Common examples of exposure to UV rays include sunburned skin, or grass that has turned brown under the summer sun. Cannabis, being an organic product, is no different in its susceptibility with UV rays being the main culprit in the breakdown of THC and other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes.
No surprise, then, that you should aim to keep your stash out of any direct light (natural or artificial) whenever possible. To do this, you should choose an opaque storage container that does not allow any light in and/or store your cannabis in a dark place.
While keeping things in the dark will go a good way to preserving your THC levels, there are other factors that, when controlled correctly, will offer the perfect long-term storage conditions for your cannabis. The next most vital being oxygen levels.
The Right Amount of Oxygen
Like all living things, plants need oxygen to grow and develop but once your cannabis is dried and cured, oxygen levels need to be seriously reconsidered as they can pose a threat to the condition of your stash. If oxygen levels are too high, cannabinoids can break down at an accelerated rate. In contrast, however, exposure to too little air can be just as damaging and will affect the relative humidity in your storage container. This is most likely to happen if the buds are not completely dried before storage, which takes me back to the first point about the importance of drying and curing correctly.
In an ideal world, we should all be vacuum sealing our stashes as a foolproof solution. However, this is not the most accessible or practical solution for most people, so the next best thing is to use a container with an airtight seal. It’s advisable to do a bit of research when you are purchasing a storage container and to check that your desired item really is truly airtight. This is because it’s commonly thought that some household storage items such as snap-shut containers are airtight, when in fact they are not.
It only seems a natural progression, following on from light and oxygen, that the next threat that we should look at is humidity, as the three things are intrinsically linked. It is usually the case (annoyingly so) where if you knock one of these three elements out of sync, then it will knock the rest out too.
Control the Humidity
Maintaining humidity levels in long-term cannabis storage is the third key to keeping your stash fresh. It will allow you to avoid the onset of mold or mildew that thrive in a moisture-rich environment. Get the humidity too low, however, and you risk trichomes becoming brittle, which can then dry out any essential oils in your buds. As a rule, the relative humidity (RH) in your storage container should be between 59 and 63 per cent if you wish to maintain and enhance color, consistency, aroma, and flavor.
Read also: Boveda: Global Leaders In Humidity Control
With humidity control, use your common sense and do not store your cannabis anywhere that would expose it to extremes of humidity, such as the bathroom or on top of a radiator. Additionally, you can buy humidity control packets that are small and relatively inexpensive. These work by keeping the contents of your storage jar within the ideal range of humidity. The packets will notify you by a color change when it is time to replace with a new one.
Moisture really is a serious problem and can be exacerbated by an array of environmental conditions, the most prevalent being temperature extremes.
Keep it Cool
High temperatures dry buds out and diminish terpenes. Warm air holds more moisture than cold air and can cause mold and mildew if temperatures are too high (between 78-86°F). The ideal storage temperature for cannabis should be below this and is ideally between 60-70°F. Low temperatures can be just as damaging as high ones, however, and can slow down the process of decarboxylation of THC-A into psychoactive THC, which you definitely do not want.
Keep your cannabis somewhere cool and stable where there are few temperature fluctuations or sources of heat and cold such as electronic equipment, heaters, pipes, freezers, etc.
Proper Storage Material
Now that we have looked at the conditions you need to consider to keep your cannabis in a premium condition for longer, we have to look at the practical question of how we should physically store it. What are the best options to complement and encourage the environmental requirements we have just covered?
This is a very important decision as the storage container you eventually choose will totally dictate how well you can manage the variables of light, oxygen levels, and humidity. Choose poorly and you will have little to no control over the environment your cannabis is residing in.
First, consider the material of the container. It is best to stay away from plastic containers or bags as they can encourage sweating that increases humidity. Plastic also contains a static charge that can attract trichomes away from your cannabis.
Although it’s common, and we are all probably guilty of it at some point, plastic bags should only ever be used for short-term transport/storage of small quantities of cannabis.
When it comes to thinking about how you store other related items such as tobacco, it may seem to make sense in theory, but you should never store cannabis in a tobacco humidor. Tobacco humidors are usually made out of cedar wood and the oil from the wood can absorb into the bud and affect its flavor by destroying the delicate terpene profile. Think how whisky stored in an oak barrel can take on the flavor of the barrel over time. This may be a desirable trait when it comes to liquor but trust me, it doesn’t translate well with cannabis. Additionally, humidors also use propylene glycol to regulate humidity, which can also saturate into your cannabis and affect taste.
Glass or ceramic containers with a true airtight seal are the ideal choice to keep your product dry and cool. Glass should be opaque, if possible, in order to keep the light out.
The size of your container is just as important as what it is made of. You want to find a container that comfortably holds all of your stash snuggly and leaves little room to spare. Don’t squash it in, though, it should just look comfortably full. This stops any pockets of humidity from forming in your stash pot, which could then lead to mold or mildew problems.
Finally, once you have found the perfect storage for your stash, do not ruin things by causing any accidental contamination. Any lighters, pipes, or other paraphernalia should be stored in a separate container since any odor from them will be absorbed by your cannabis, affecting your end-flavor experience. Always keep storage to one strain per jar to avoid any flavor contamination.
Whether you are a social user who likes to keep a large stash to share with friends, a connoisseur who keeps a collection of multiple strains, or a medical user who finds that a little cannabis lasts you a long time, everyone can benefit from learning how to care for their stash properly. If you have purchased a strain for its mellow relaxing high, then that’s exactly what you want to experience from it, and for as long as possible. By following these few simple rules, you should be able to do just that for months (if not years) to come.