Cannabis goes through a very long and complex process before ending up as the dry herb we all buy; however, storage needs to be handled a specific way as well. Cannabis – like any other plant matter – can go bad. If not properly stored, it could accelerate potential damage (or at the very least, quickly lose its potency).
Properly storing marijuana ensures increased longevity and maintains quality. That being said, let’s take a look at how to properly store your weed.
At a Glance
- Airtight glass jars are the best storage method, avoid any long term use of plastic or tin.
- Container sizes should be just big enough to hold your stash. Keep strains in seperate jars.
- Keep containers in a cool, dry place. Away from any heat, light, or humidity.
- For long term storage consider using a humidity pack (like Boveda).
- Cannabis can spoil, expire, or go bad if not stored properly.
Best Container Practices
Glass Vs. Plastic
Plastic Tupperware containers and bags are a dime a dozen these days. Chances are everyone has them at home, since they’re cheap and can be bought in bulk. Unfortunately, these aren’t what you want to use when storing cannabis.
It’s critical that marijuana be kept away from plastic at all costs, as storing it in this material could reduce its potency. Static electricity in the plastic attracts plant matter called trichomes, which are hair-like extensions or growths on the skin of some vegetation. In cannabis, these tiny appendages produce the cannabinoids and terpenes responsible for its effects. By ripping them away, plastic dramatically reduces your herb’s strength.
Glass containers, on the other hand, don’t generate this kind of static, so the trichomes are safe. Specifically, mason jars are the best option, due to their glass lids and rubber seals. Alternately, most head shops sell their own line of jars specifically designed for cannabis storage.
Container Size Matters
Keeping marijuana away from plastic is a good first step, but there’s still more to consider when storing it. Specifically, the size of the container needs to be appropriate.
Another major objective is to keep as much air out as possible. Since we can’t use an airtight plastic bag, the most effective way to reduce air volume is to fit as much as possible in each container. Marijuana can vary in humidity and volume, so it may be necessary to eyeball it at times, but there is a general guideline.
Ideal Jar Sizes for Stash
- 2oz jar – 3.5g (eighth)
- 4oz jar – 7g (quarter)
- 8oz jar – 0.5oz (half ounce)
- 16oz jar - 1oz (full ounce)
Keep Your Strains Separate
Another mistake is mixing all your strains into the same container. While this isn’t necessarily catastrophic, it could alter the flavor (if that’s an important variable) but also make organization more difficult with multiple strains.
There are some best practices when it comes to cannabis storage locations. The main objective to protect your weed from humidity, drying out, or losing its trichomes.
Where To Store
Cannabis is best stored in a cool, dry place with no light exposure (or at least in a dark jar that can keep light away if need be). In this case, the best choice is a a glass jar – placed in a closet, drawer, cabinet or cupboard. All of these are usually closed, remaining dark and dry.
Where NOT To Store
Near Heat Sources
Your storage efforts could be useless if the location of the closet, drawer or other dark space could be affected by something external. For instance, never place the cannabis in a cabinet near a heat source, such as above the stove or a radiator. Doing so will dry out the herb. Darkness is also important because light (especially sun light) will damage the trichomes.
Fridge or Freezer
Some people like to wrap their marijuana in aluminum foil and leave it in the freezer to preserve freshness. Unfortunately, cannabis isn’t a bag of fresh strawberries. A freezer’s temperature doesn’t remain constant. Instead, it fluctuates with the motor kicking in once the area reaches a set maximum temperature. Consequently, this opens up the possibility of bacterial growth, resulting in spoilage.
Another problem with freezers is that, once again, they affect the marijuana’s trichomes. In this case, these extensions solidify like icicles, easily breaking away from the plant matter and reducing its potency.
Humidors or Cigar Boxes
There’s also a reason why cannabis needs to be stored in a dry place. Humidity tends to be a breeding ground for some very nasty things. Too much moisture is an open invitation for the plant matter to attract mold and bacteria, resulting in decay.
In some cases, people have humidors for storing cigars and other tobacco products. It’s essential to understand that cannabis and tobacco are two very different plants. Conditions that favor the former aren’t necessarily going work for the latter. The temperature and humidity in these devices isn’t appropriate for storing dry herb.
Battling Humidity and Dryness
We’ve already established that moisture is marijuana’s enemy. But the same can be said for dryness. For instance, leaving herb exposed in an arid area will cause the plant matter to dry out. Unfortunately, it’s hard to control these factors with pinpoint accuracy, as the cannabis has to settle for the best environment available; however, there are steps you can take to actively adjust humidity.
If you're storing your weed short term (a few weeks), then don't sweat it. Keep your stash in an air tight mason jar and you'll be all set.
Best Method of Controlling Humidity
If you live in a humid or dry climate it can be a lot of work maintaining the quality of your weed. Controlling your house humidity with appliances is one solution. But if you really want to take control then humidity packs are a life saver.
Boveda packs are now available, which automatically adjust and balance humidity in any surrounding material. These are small packages that contain a water-salt solution, allowing them to regulate humidity. Using a process called “reverse osmosis,” the devices contain a membrane which (thanks to reverse osmosis) allows only water vapor to be exchanged back and forth between the pack and its environment.
The relative humidity (RH) levels are pre-set, so it’s important to read the percentage on the package before purchasing. Cannabis is in good shape as long as the RH is 55–62%.
The Orange Peel Tactic: Does It Work?
Home remedies always generate a buzz, which is why the “orange peel tactic” for controlling humidity really took off. The theory behind it is that dropping a few orange peels into a container of weed will re-humidify it. This actually does work, but it’s a double-edged sword.
The premise is pretty straightforward. Place the buds in an airtight container (preferably glass, of course), add some orange peels and seal them in. The dry cannabis regains a great deal of moisture within three to four hours.
Sadly, there’s a downside. While orange peels do help reinvigorate dry weed, they can also carry mold. We already know that mold provides its own set of problems. People intending to use this method should keep an eye on their marijuana and watch for signs of decay or infection, among other things. Moldy cannabis has the potential to be quite dangerous.
The Dangers of Mold
Speaking of mold, let’s see exactly why this is something nobody wants to see on their marijuana.
Mold thrives in moist environments, so any locked-in moisture provides the perfect spot for mold to flourish. In short: if you suspect your stash has grown mold, throw it out. Don't risk it. Smoking moldy weed can be very, very bad news.
But there’s something much more sinister out there as well. Some sketchy dispensaries actually add moisture to their herb in hopes of increasing its weight. Water is quite heavy, so this can really make a difference. If someone purchases cannabis from a place like this, not only could their investment be ruined by mold, but they were essentially scammed in the process.
Of course, people who don’t notice moldy cannabis have much bigger things to worry about, depending on the specific species.
Types of Mold
Aspergillus makes its home in virtually any moist environment. Odds are, people have come across this one at some point or another. It’s known to cause things like lung disease, food spoilage and even smelly shoes.
Also known as “bud rot,” Botrytis is often found in grapes, but also damaging to cannabis. In fact, it can even kill an entire plant.
Penicillium is an interesting type of mold. As the name suggests, it’s used in the creation of the revolutionary antibiotic, penicillin. Certain versions are also used to make cheese; however, there are other sub-categories that do the complete opposite. Some Penicillium strains are highly destructive, not only to cannabis, but humans and animals as well.
What Should I Do With Moldy Weed?
Throw it out.
Mold spores can effectively survive the extreme heat of being smoked, and can lead to some serious illness. If you live in a legal area, and purchased from a dispensary or licensed provider you must report it immediately so that no one else gets sick. It's no different from buying contaminated food from the grocery store, obviously you'll want a reimbursement but it helps keep their facilities under health check, and warns other potential consumers.
Does Marijuana Expire?
Mold is one thing, but what about long term storage... will your stash eventually just go bad?
All organic matter eventually expires or goes bad to some degree, and cannabis is no exception. The exact amount of time it takes varies depending on a lot of things. Commercially produced derivatives (oils, shatters, etc.) will be good for one or two years. Cannabis buds usually begin to degrade within a few months.
Longevity is also dependent on the strain itself and, of course, how it’s stored.
The interesting thing about marijuana spoilage is that it can either become drier or moister as it ages. Again, this is entirely dependent on the storage method and surrounding environment.
Dry marijuana isn’t a huge concern. While the potency will be reduced and smoking will be much harsher, there’s no risk to personal safety or health.
Moist cannabis, on the other hand, could pose a risk. Once more, this brings us back to the issue of mold and its ill effects. If the old dry herb seems to have gained moisture, it’s imperative to check for signs of mold. Moldy cannabis should never be smoked.
Signs of Spoilage
Change in smell is a classic sign that the weed has gone bad. There will be a less potent odor, while the aroma itself will seem strange. It’s difficult to describe in text, so this is a matter of judgment. If the herb smelled a certain way when it was fresh and now smells different after some time, then it’s likely that the cannabis is spoiled.
Change in texture is another classic sign. Fresh buds are slightly damp and spongy – almost bouncy – to the touch. An easy way to check for spoilage is to handle the herb and see if it crumbles. If it does, then the weed is past its prime.
Color changes aren’t just a sign of spoilage, they also indicate danger. Color changes indicate that mold could be present on the leaves. Look very closely, as mold can sometimes look like trichomes. Moldy cannabis could also darken in color or show discoloration (white or black) in specific spots.
Cannabis Storage Without Smell
Discretion is something a lot of marijuana users – medical or recreational – often value. There’s still a great deal of stigma attached to cannabis, while some medical recipients don’t want to advertise this confidential information to people who enter their home. This is perfectly fair and understandable. Fortunately, odor can be controlled.
Airtight mason jars are a good start, but they’re not foolproof; you may still find a bit of scent escaping. These jars will naturally breathe, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it might be if you're trying to mask the smell.
If you need to mask the smell in a hurry – here’s a few quick temporary solutions:
- Place your buds in a mason jar, and duct tape the outside of the jar.
- Empty prescription bottles – keep in mind plastic is not a good long term storage option for cannabis buds. Then place the bottles in a zip-sealed plastic bag.
- Vacuum sealed containers work, but are also usually plastic.
Longer term smell proof solutions:
- Check out some "skunk proof" bags from StashLogix or from your local headshop.
- Use multiple layers of storage - keep your airtight mason jars in a tightly closed drawer or cabinet.
- Use charcoal smell absorbent packs and keep them in the drawer.