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How to Store Cannabis Long-Term and Preserve the Freshness

If you have a weed stash you haven’t touched for a bit, you may notice the buds getting dryer with time, and smoking them won’t get you as high as it did at first. While ageing is inevitable, it can be slowed down with proper preservation. We’ll teach you what can harm your buds with age, and how you can preserve them from time and the elements.

Keeping cannabis fresh is simple when you’re armed with the right knowledge.

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If you’re the type to buy bud in bulk, or just don’t smoke too often, we can imagine you’ve ended up with old weed on your hands.

You can tell something’s off when you pinch the dried-up, lightweight nugs. You may need something to smoke, but would that old stuff even get you high at all? Even if it did, what would the flavour be like? No matter the answers, you’re most likely wondering how you can stop your weed from getting like that again.

Well, you can’t stop the ageing process, but you can definitely slow it down! Above all, you’ll need to make sure your weed is expertly cured, placed in optimal containers, and stored in a cool room at the proper temperature and humidity.

What Happens When Cannabis Gets Old?

Before we go deeper into that discussion, though, we want to offer you a deeper understanding of what happens when your weed starts to age.

Lost THC

As weed is exposed to heat, oxygen, and UV light, the cannabinoids within, including THC, will begin to break down. It doesn’t happen too quickly, but the change can become noticeable after a few weeks. It won’t leave you sober, but a joint won’t get you as high as the one you rolled when you first got it.

Conversion to CBN

As that THC breaks down, it doesn’t just disappear. In fact, it’s converted into another cannabinoid, known as CBN. This cannabinoid has some mild psychoactive properties, but it doesn’t get you high on its own. This conversion mainly occurs when weed is exposed to oxygen and heat, although the process takes time.

Lost Flavour

Lost THC won’t be the only consequence of keeping your weed in a warm spot. As it gets weaker, it’ll also taste and feel harsher upon smoking. This, of course, is a result of the terpenes drying out over time. Excessive light and moisture will bring about their downfall as well.

Does This Also Happen to CBD-Rich Bud?

If you’re more inclined to smoke CBD-rich strains, you may wonder whether any of this applies to you. Well, since CBD is also a cannabinoid, and since the buds also have terpenes, it too can degrade with age. The high isn’t a factor, but you’ll miss out on the other potential benefits of CBD.

What Causes Weed to Age?

We’ve alluded to certain causes of weed ageing, but let’s go ahead and break the issues down into clear terms.

Humidity

You have to maintain a very precise balance when it comes to humidity and cannabis. If your storage method introduces too much moisture, you run the risk of mould infestation. If it isn’t humid enough, though, the terpenes and cannabinoids will end up withering away. While they’re quite different outcomes, the unpleasantness is equal between them.

Temperature

Often going hand-in-hand with excess humidity, high temperatures can hasten the degradation of cannabinoids and terpenes. Generally, you should make sure your weed storage area doesn’t get hotter than 25.5ºC (78ºF). Simply enough, this is because any environment between 25.5–30ºC (78–86ºF) is prime for mildew and mould growth.

Light

In short, persistent UV light will land a heavy blow on the impact on terpenes, THC, and other cannabinoids. This is especially problematic in tropical areas, where it joins forces with humidity and heat to harm your stash.

Container Materials

Lastly, while many aren’t even aware of this, your container’s base material can have a direct impact on your weed’s ageing process. See, while many place their weed in plastic containers, the material can cause your stash to “sweat”. This means, as with actual sweating, your plant will release its inner moisture. It’ll end up dry and harsh as a result.

Curing Pocket Box

How to Store Your Weed and Keep It Fresh

So, now that you know the enemies, you need to learn how to defend yourself and keep your weed fresh. Thankfully, it’s a fairly simple process, and you may already have everything you need to start storing your weed for a long period of time.

Proper Curing

Really, the journey to proper cannabis storage begins with the post-harvest curing process. And, funnily enough, it involves maintaining the same sort of optimised environment for your flower. You’ll want to find a cool, dark, and moderately dry spot. Separate the buds, trim off the sugar leaves, and sort your stash into mason jars. Also, note that each jar should only be ¾ full.

With a few weeks of patience, you’ll be rewarded with fresh, smokable flowers. If you really want to ensure freshness, though, you’ll want to make sure no excess moisture gets trapped in your curing jars.

To accomplish that, we recommend utilising our specialised RQS Moisture Fighters. These plant-based sachets are designed to rest right in your stash jars, absorbing or releasing moisture according to the conditions. They’ll last up to four months, and just one 8g sachet will keep your personal stash fresh. If your jar’s a little heftier, there are sachets in sizes up to 67g available as well. Either way, you’ll want to select the ones that maintain 58% or 62% humidity. Get the former if you’re in a more humid environment, and the latter if you’re living in a dry climate.

“But how will I know if the sachet is still working? Do I need to open up the jar to check?”. Thankfully, no! They each feature a dot that changes colour depending on their condition, so you’ll know exactly when you need to replace them.

Humidity Control Pack

Use Air-Tight Glass/Ceramic Containers or Vacuum Bags

Once your buds have been sufficiently cured, we’d recommend you keep them in their mason jars. Considering how much damage oxygen can do, air-tight containers are the best choice you can make for your weed.

It can’t just be any container, though. As we mentioned before, plastic can actually hasten the ageing process, so Tupperware would be unwise. A glass or ceramic container, however, will keep it safe and fresh.

That being said, vacuum bags are also incredibly effective, as they’re naturally devoid of air.

Keep It Dark

Along with your container of choice being air-tight and glass/ceramic, it should also be opaque. Light can wreak havoc on your cannabis, and blacking out your jars can ensure total safety. Before that, however, you should make sure your curing room is completely dark (with the lights off) to begin with. With blacked-out jars, though, you can turn on the lights to check in without worrying too much.

As it turns out, our specialised RQS Re:stash Jars fulfill every one of the requirements you need your containers to meet. They’re layered with a jet-black silicone sleeve, boast air-tight lids made from hemp, and come in sizes of 4, 8, 12, and 16 ounces.

Maintain Cool Temperatures

Once you’ve got your buds in their containers, you’ll need to make sure the room stays consistently cool: below 25.5ºC (78ºF) to prevent mould from thriving. Turning it down to 21ºC (70ºF) would be optimal.

Ensure Clean Storage

Now, with almost everything in order, you just need to make sure things stay clean. Make sure you dust the shelves and jars, along with vacuuming or mopping the floor when needed. In turn, make sure you don’t spend too much time in there, as any dirt you track in will have to be cleaned up later.

Will Weed Stay Fresh When Frozen?

Through all of this, some of you may have been thinking, “I can keep food in the freezer for months, so why don’t I just freeze my cannabis?”. Others amongst you may hear someone suggest that and gag at the thought, thinking it ruins the flowers.

Those in the latter camp, however, may be surprised to learn that you can effectively store your bud in the freezer for 1–2 years. If you go for it, just make sure you’re very careful to avoid touching the buds, as the trichomes (which contain almost all of the resin) will quickly fall off.

Let them naturally thaw outside the freezer, and note the top layer of the buds may be sub-optimal. The rest of it, however, will be nearly as good as it was one or two years before.

Aged Buds: A New Trend?

To cap off our discussion, we thought we’d take a look at those people fighting against the notion of age being a detriment to cannabis. See, for some people, the curing process is an art form. For lovers of aged weed [1] , the prime flavour of a strain emerges with time, and some consider it necessary to wait at least five months after curing before smoking their stash.

This is still a very new school of thought, though. In general, we wouldn’t recommend trying it unless you have lengthy experience with cannabis. Yet, your journey with weed is your own, and we don’t want to stop you from experimenting!

While wine and cheese benefit from age, weed buds get dry and lose their potency. Here, we'll teach you how to preserve cannabis long-term and keep it fresh.

How to Properly Store Cannabis

Cannabis quality and potency change over time. In the living plant, the precursors of THC and CBD are found in their acid forms, THCa and CBDa. These are not psychotropic. Only when they lose a portion of their molecules do they become active as THC and CBD. This occurs naturally over time and is accelerated in the presence of heat and light, especially ultraviolet light.

Once buds are dried and cured, potency is at its peak. Over time THC gradually degrades to CBN, a far less psychotropic cannabinoid than THC.

Research conducted at the University of Mississippi on low-quality cannabis stored for four years at room temperature (68-72° [20-22° C]) found that the percentage loss of THC was proportional to time in storage, with the greatest loss in the first year. As the THC level declines, the concentration of CBN increases.

This research is consistent with the experiences of marijuana users. Marijuana loses potency over time as the psychoactive THC converts to CBN, which induces sleep but not highness. Storing buds in the freezer or refrigerator slows deterioration. Freezing keeps buds fresh longest.

However, even in deep freeze THC deteriorates, at nearly 4% a year. In deep freeze (below 0°F) deterioration slows further. At refrigerator temperatures THC deteriorates at the rate of about 5.4% a year. A freezer is best for long-term storage; a refrigerator is good for protecting terpenes in the short term.

There are several problems with storing cannabis in a freezer, especially when supercooled to 0° F (-18° C)

Storage Moisture: Dried buds should be stored in a space or container that maintains a humidity level, ideally, around 60%, or within a range of 58-65%. Image – deep freezer at Harmony Extracts

Even under higher temperatures in the freezer, glands become very brittle and are easily and inadvertently shaken off buds. For that reason, once placed in the freezer the container should be handled very gently and when removed the buds should be given time to warm up so they become more pliable.

The moisture in the container freezes and can form ice crystals, especially during long storage. This may also occur when buds have not been dried sufficiently.

If moisture is a problem, vacuum sealing mostly eliminates it

True Liberty Bags are resistant to cold, heat, grease, oil and water The bags have an excellent aroma barrier that makes for a versatile container.

In several experiments, properly dried marijuana in a plastic container developed no ice crystals when placed in a freezer for several months. The trichomes remained intact. If moisture is a problem, vacuum sealing mostly eliminates it, although the process may result in crushed buds.

Another solution is to remove the air with moisture-free gas such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen. These can be injected into the container as the ambient air exits through another hole. Then both holes are sealed.

When freezing marijuana in glass containers choose shoulder-less containers as shouldered containers are more likely to develop cracks. Metal and wood containers can also be used for freezing.

One way to store frozen marijuana is in small containers. Pack just enough for a week’s use in each container. The rest of the stored material is not disturbed so the glands are not at risk, as they can be removed from the freezer individually.

According to the University of Mississippi study, refrigerator temperatures slow deterioration to a little less than 0.5% a month, which isn’t noticeable when storing for just a few months. Here, too, it is best if the bulk of the stored material is disturbed infrequently.

Heat and light – especially UV light – evaporate terpenes and erode quality

Sweet Tarts – Photo by Devils Lettuce

Only an opaque container will completely protect the terpenes and therefore the quality of the buds stored inside. An opaque container with a white exterior reflects heat, keeping the contents cool. Using a desiccant packet that maintains a set humidity of about 60-65% ensures the proper level of moisture is retained without causing mold.

Terpene molecules vary in size, and the smallest ones evaporate at lower temperatures, starting in the high 60s. Buds kept at room temperature in an open container will experience some loss of terpenes. Storing buds in a refrigerator or freezer keeps terpenes in a liquid state, rather than gassing off.

Materials to use for storing cannabis

Cannabis can be properly stored in a number of different materials, each with pros and cons that make them more or less suitable depending on the grower’s needs.

Glass

Glass makes great, inert, hard, non-biodegradable storage containers. The downside is that most glass jars are clear, and light degrades trichomes— which doesn’t matter if buds are stored in the dark. For storing buds exposed to light, an opaque glass is best.

Different types of glass are used to store food. The color of the glass deter- mines the type of light and heat that can penetrate the barrier.

Top shelf bud stored in glass jars at Harborside Health Center.

Violet Glass

MyPharmJar is a violet glass storage system designed to keep dried herbs and buds fresh and prevent decay for years. The jars include a built-in humidity and temperature sensor to prevent mold and over-drying. The Miron glass prevents most light from penetrating the bottle, protecting quality and potency.

Violet glass blocks visible light with the exception of the color violet. It also is semi-permeable to UV-A, an infrared light, allowing about 40-60% to pene- trate, depending on glass formula and thickness.

Miron Glass, a manufacturer in Germany, claims that this combination of light preserves biological material such as herbs as well as fresh vegetation. They base their claims loosely on bio-photons, which is very weak light emit- ted by all living things. Their literature claims that even when material is dry, the light that penetrates the glass preserves this energy while forming a barrier to other visible spectrums that can cause deterioration of cannabinoids and terpenes.

Placing a glass or stainless steel container in a dark space such as a refrigerator closet or dark room will also keep harmful light out. It is highly unlikely that there is much UVA light indoors, so none is passing through. However, visible light is filtered out.

In a controlled experiment, fresh garden tomatoes were placed in a Miron container, a stainless steel container and a clear glass container. All were sealed and the clear glass container was kept entirely in the dark.

When the jars were opened a month later, the tomatoes were still fresh, if a little dehydrated. The containers were closed again and reopened a month later. All three tomatoes had begun molding at similar rates.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel CVaults are the choice of many connoisseur growers, retailers and consumers. They’re airtight, lightweight, nonporous, durable and impenetrable to light—the ultimate for storing buds. The bottoms are dishwasher safe, making them easy to clean. Sizes range from the X-Small Personal CVault Curing Storage Container to the 4.4-gallon (17 l) Mega CVault, which holds up to 2 pounds (1 kg) of dried buds.

Stainless steel tubs with plastic seals and flip-top locking mechanisms are popular because they’re strong and can be stacked. The metal does not inter- act with the buds and is impervious to outside air. Stainless steel containers are an excellent choice for storage.

Plastic

For buds destined to be consumed soon, one space-saving solution is to use vacuum-sealed, food-grade Mylar pouches. To keep buds fresh longer, use nitrogen-flushed, sealed medical-grade pouches. Photo by David Downs at Bolder Cannabis.

Cannabis is slightly acidic and lipophilic so it degrades some plastics. Plastics are stickier than glass or stainless steel. Odorless turkey bags are popular because they contain odors and are inexpensive. However, they are easily pierced by stems and offer no protection from shaking and movement, which leads to more damage and shake. Five-gallon buckets sealed with toothed, locking, airtight lids will protect buds from getting crushed and can be stacked.

Desiccants

A desiccant is a substance that removes moisture from the surrounding air. Desiccants are often found in certain food packages, like dried seaweed, and in electronics. Silicon packets, newspaper or anything extra-dry acts as a desiccant and absorbs moisture in a storage container.

Vacuum packaging

Vacuum packaging is popular because it decreases the amount of oxygen present in a storage container. Oxygen is corrosive and degrades the buds’ color. Decreased presence of oxygen also discourages the growth of spoilage bacteria, but not anaerobic bacteria. Anaerobic bacteria thrive in low and no-oxygen environments that are damp and have food—the buds! Never seal and store wet or damp buds.

Gas-based storing

Gas-flushed, sealed Mylar bags are excellent packaging for long-term storage. The process flushes the bag with nitrogen and seals it. Unlike oxygen, nitrogen is inert and doesn’t burn. Purging packages of oxygen extends the life of the buds and prevents growth of mold and discoloration, similar to vacuum sealing.. Gaspurged bags are a cornerstone of consumer food product packaging and are common in snacks like chips and jerky. Some testing labs offer nitrogen bagging services using tamper-proof packaging.

Storing fresh-frozen cannabis

Scrape of sugary wax extract. Photo by David Downs.

Instead of being prepped and dried, marijuana can be made directly into concentrates or stored undried and “wet” frozen to be used later. This saves of energy and labor. With storage, converting the material can be postponed to a more convenient time. Either fresh or frozen buds can be used for bubble, or BHO. First, the chopped buds are brought to near freezing temperature. Then agitation from a paint mixer or other tool makes the glands brittle; they break off and are collected in a series of filters that catch different sized glands. When collected, the glands make hash, which can be used in a vaporizer or pipe or as an intermediate for making butane or CO2 concentrate. BHO extractors use butane as a solvent to decannabinize and deterpenize the leaf. The result is a very pure dabbable concentrate.

Discover how heat and light, especially UV light, evaporate terpenes and erode quality and learn about the proper materials to use for storing your cannabis.