Materials & Use

Does Cannabis go Bad? Here’s What You Need to Know

Gabi Antunes

Sep 12, 2019

The fragrant smell of cannabis is, for some people, a defining part of the cannabis experience. But what if that smell doesn’t rush out at you when you open your cannabis container? This might be a sign that your cannabis has gone bad.

There are far more signs of bad cannabis than just a lack of that classic cannabis smell. Here’s what you need to know about cannabis going bad.

Does Cannabis go Bad?

Cannabis can go bad, but it takes some time to spoil completely. Most cannabis that has been properly dried, cured, and harvested should last for a few months, and when stored properly, it can last up to a whole year.

It’s important to note that your cannabis is aging even when it appears unspoiled. The cannabinoids and terpenes in the dry herb material inevitably break down, and as they do so, your cannabis will lose potency. Since this breakdown can’t be seen, your cannabis may appear good even when it isn’t.

How can you tell if your Cannabis has Gone Bad?

Some signs of bad cannabis will be so obvious that you can see them right away. For starters, if you store your cannabis in an environment that’s too humid or moist, mold spores can reach it. Discoloration and white fuzzy spots are the most obvious signs of mold spores. Sometimes, these spores can hide inside your cannabis flowers, so it’s important to inspect your cannabis after breaking it apart and before grinding.

The moisture content of your cannabis plays a role in its freshness. If your cannabis is dry, dusty, and cracked, it has gone bad. Using visibly dry cannabis won’t be as potent or as enjoyable as it would be with a fresher product.

Sometimes, merely looking at cannabis isn’t quite enough to determine whether it’s gone bad. Pulling your cannabis apart can help. If your cannabis feels spongy and does not make a small crackling sound when broken apart, then it’s gone bad due to excessive moisture content. On the other hand, if your cannabis crumbles into dry dust when you split it, it’s gone bad from too little moisture content.

In addition to sight and touch, smell is the final indicator of cannabis that’s gone bad. If your cannabis no longer packs the potent odors long associated with cannabis, it has soured. Odors other than the usual cannabis smells can similarly indicate bad cannabis. If these odors are musty and reminiscent of mildew, your cannabis has likely grown mold spores and should be discarded.

What causes Cannabis to Expire Faster?

Cannabis, like all things that go bad, reacts to its environment. Cannabis will age differently in dry environments than in moist spaces, for example. Arid settings will accelerate your cannabis’ slow crawl toward being too dry to be thoroughly potent. Overly humid environments, on the other hand, lead to those pesky mold spores. Ideally, cannabis should be stored in an environment with between 59 and 63 percent relative humidity.

High temperatures can also accelerate cannabis degradation. Light exposure has a similar effect, as shining light directly onto an object is a surefire way to quickly raise its temperature.

Does Cannabis’ Age Affect its Quality?

You’ll know your cannabis is old if its quality has plummeted. When the cannabinoids and terpenes in your cannabis break down, your cannabis will lose not just its classic odor, but its signature flavor. Sometimes, old cannabis can even taste bad.

How to Store Cannabis Correctly

Although there are some basic rules for properly storing cannabis, more advanced storage techniques and materials can ensure that your cannabis stays good for a long time. At the very least, you should be storing cannabis in a cool, dark space. If you don’t leave your cannabis out in direct sunlight or keep it in the hottest room in your house, you’re already on your way to extending its shelf life.

Outside these basics, to maximize your cannabis’ shelf life, you’ll want to vacuum seal its container, which should be glass or ceramic since these substances have a neutral charge. A proper vacuum seal can minimize oxygen exposure, and a glass or ceramic container with a neutral charge can prevent your cannabis from static exposure, which can accelerate its degradation.

A standard mason jar is a great start for proper cannabis storage. The airtight lids on mason jars can minimize oxygen exposure, and the glass comprising the jars are charge-neutral. To fully ensure an airtight seal, you may also want to consider purchasing a hand or electric vacuum pump attachment.

Even the strongest vacuum seal, however, can’t control humidity levels. To ensure ideal moisture content, you’ll want to purchase two-way humidity control packs. Inserting a two-way humidity control pack into your mason jar with even a small amount of cannabis will keep excessive moisture at bay. When you first insert this pack, it should be soft and pliable, and as it absorbs more moisture, it will become firm and rigid. Once it’s almost entirely rigid, with just a few soft spots remaining, remove it and replace it with a new pack.

No matter how you go about addressing moisture content and vacuum seal concerns, you should never store your cannabis in the same container as pipes, papers, grinders, and other devices. Additionally, the original containers holding your cannabis in the dispensary are not ideal for long-term storage, especially after opening. Even if the zipper on your bag is easy to seal, you should transfer your cannabis to a proper, air-tight container.

With thorough attention to managing moisture content and forming a strong vacuum seal, you can extend your cannabis’ shelf life. If you’re striving to get the most out of your cannabis, investing in proper storage containers and technologies can make all the difference.