Does Weed Go Bad?

Written by

Mell Green

Mell is a cannabis connoisseur who has been published in nearly 50 online publications surrounding cannabis, including Cannabis Industry Association, Analytical Cannabis, Terpenes and Testing Magazine, Plant People, Byrdie, and...

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Expired cannabis flower
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Happening upon old weed is like finding money on the sidewalk: it’s your lucky day. But… just exactly how long has that weed been there, and is it even good anymore?

Though it’s exciting to stumble upon an old stash you may have forgotten about, it begs the question: does weed expire?

First glance:

  • Your cannabis does not have an indefinite shelf-life; rather, it can last between 6 months to a year before issues arise.
  • Over time, your weed will experience ‘cannabis degradation,’ or the process of your cannabis’ phytochemicals deteriorating once harvested.
  • To tell if your flower is still fresh, check the smell, texture, and appearance. 
  • For best weed preservation, keep your flower away from fluctuating and high temperatures, harsh lighting, and too much humidity.

Can Weed ‘Expire’?

Let’s start by answering the age-old question pertaining to cannabis and its ‘expiration.’ Like most things on this earth, cannabis, as well as its cannabinoids, do go bad eventually.

As much as we’d all love to think that this precious green plant is ageless, it simply isn’t, and you have to be cognizant about the choices you make in order to keep your flower as fresh and pungent as possible. 

Over time, especially when exposed to too many atmospheric changes, your cannabis will undergo both molecular and physical changes that can seriously impact your smoking experience.

From reducing potency to even growing a bit of mold, your weed can ‘expire,’ so understanding how long you should hold on to your buds is key.

What is the Shelf Life of Cannabis?

Marijuana flower stored in glass jar

The shelf life of cannabis is a tricky one, as it truly depends on the actions you take. If you’re careful, there’s a chance you can keep your bud fresh for up to a year, possibly two; though, it definitely won’t be the same fluffy bud as it once was.

Most people can easily keep their flower smokable for six months before it starts to really undergo noticeable change. 

Researchers have begun to discover that cannabinoids break down as they age. As this happens, your flower will lose its potency, as well as its distinct smells and tastes.

Science says that after one year of storing your cannabis, it will lose up to 16% of its THC.

For most strains, this can mean that almost all THC has broken down, and you’ll be left without the same euphoric high that you’re used to.

This process of cannabinoids breaking down and losing potency over time is something we’ve coined ‘cannabis degradation.’

What is Cannabis Degradation?

Cannabis degradation, as a whole, refers to the idea that from the moment the buds have been picked and trimmed, your cannabis begins to deteriorate.

The cannabis plant’s phytochemicals begin to transform once degraded, eventually mutating into either different variations or entirely new compounds.

This type of transformation can change your cannabinoids’ properties tenfold; in fact, some compounds can go from psychoactive to completely non-psychoactive over time.

Change such as this can drastically affect your cannabis experience, as your flower isn’t going to act the same way that it would have months prior, as the cannabinoids themselves have likely synthesized.  

While this degradation often starts slow and is something you’ll likely never notice, some factors can speed up this process.

Temperature, moisture, and light are all huge factors that can contribute to cannabis degradation and, thus, the spoiling of your bud. But, we’ll get more in-depth into those mistakes later.

How to Tell if Your Weed is Fresh or Not

There are a few tell-tale signs that you can look out for to help you determine whether or not your flower is still good. One of the easiest is smell. 

Does your weed smell vibrant or funky?

Smelling cannabis flower for signs of expiration

You know your cannabis better than anyone. Your bud will contain unique, distinct scents and flavors that help it stand out from other strains. If you aren’t sure that your weed is still good, put it up to your nose and inhale. Does it still smell vibrant? Or, is it starting to smell a bit musty? If your flower’s scents are funky (in a negative way), err on the side of caution and throw it out.

Can you see signs of mold on your flower (white, fuzzy spots)?

Marijuana flower with molds

Some cannabis will show that it’s going bad through its physical appearance. Your weed, unfortunately, has the potential to grow mold if you’re not careful, and this is easily seen through white, fuzzy spots hidden within your cannabis, growing directly over your favorite sparkly trichomes. Moldy weed must be tossed. 

Does your flower feel too dry (lost its moisture)?

If you don’t want to smoke your weed to test its efficacy, try just putting it in your hands. Bad bud may begin to fall apart or disintegrate by touch, as it has lost most of its moisture. Always feel your flower to see how much, if any, moisture is left; if it just crumbles, you should probably avoid it. 

Storing Weed: Preservation and Common Mistakes

When it comes to storing your weed, there are various steps you should take to ensure that it’s staying fresh and potent throughout its time on the shelf.

As we mentioned briefly, factors like temperature, moisture, and light all play a huge role in the preservation of your cannabis, and, often, it’s mismanaging factors such as these that result in enhanced cannabis degradation. 

1. Store your weed in cool temperatures (60-70℉)

  • Cannabis flower requires cool temperatures in order for it to thrive. We’re not talking as cool as your freezer or even your fridge, but a comfortable 60-70℉ should do the trick.
  • Often, it’s heat that destroys cannabis, causing certain cannabinoids to decarboxylate and degrade. With this, THC can turn to CBN, THCA can become THC, CBDA to CBD, and so forth.
  • To avoid this confusing transformation, always keep your bud in places where the temperature is easily controlled and does not fluctuate. Consistent, cool temperatures are crucial in your cannabis’ life cycle. 

2. Store your flower in airtight containers to avoid molds

  • Too much moisture in the air is the easiest way to cause mold within your cannabis, so storing your flower in airtight containers is key.
  • Any containers that let in excess air can let in excess moisture, so always keep your flower in vacuum-sealed jars or containers if possible. 

3. Store your weed in dark places (opaque jars)

  • Finally, light is one of your weed’s worst enemies (after it’s grown, at least).
  • Too much light exposure can break down cannabinoids at rapid rates, significantly speeding up the degradation process.
  • Harsh lighting will affect your bud on both molecular and physical levels, transforming cannabinoids, subduing color, and diminishing scent.
  • To avoid this, keep your cannabis away from light exposure and store it in dark places exclusively.
  • Try keeping your bud in opaque jars so they stay dark at all times of the day. 

Final Thoughts

Though your cannabis cannot last forever, it can definitely last long enough for you to enjoy it in moderation. As long as you ensure that it’s safe from fluctuating temperatures, moisture, and harsh lighting, your cannabis will stay looking great and smoking even better. 

However, always keep in mind that your flower has a shelf life that shouldn’t be pushed. If your bud isn’t looking too good, don’t risk it. Get some fresh green and keep in cool, consistent places. With this, you’ll have no issue holding on to a few grams.

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