Although many European countries are slowly emerging from lockdown, many citizens may still be hesitant to leave their homes. This is especially true for non-essential activities that extend beyond going to the grocery store or going for a walk in the park. These days, much of daily life has been reduced to the bare minimum. It is for this reason that cannabis users may be asking themselves, how long will my cannabis last?
With even fewer opportunities for at-risk medical patients to pick up their cannabis prescriptions, this is an important question.
Understanding the nuanced answers behind this question can limit undue stress, and it can also help users buy in bulk and rest easy that their cannabis is safe.
How long does cannabis last?
The short answer is that cannabis lasts approximately six months to a year.
But this timeline is a rough estimate and hinges on several interconnected components. The most notable include the container in which you store your cannabis, external elements (i.e. light, temperature, moisture, etc.), and the quality of the cannabis.
Let’s first identify the best container for storing cannabis.
These recommendations assume that you’re interested in storing your cannabis for the long-term. They are based on the combined factors mentioned above and offer great ways to extend the life of your marijuana.
The first recommendation is a simple Mason jar. These basic glass jars offer an inexpensive, airtight alternative to simply keeping your bud in a plastic bag. The glass does, however, let a substantial amount of light in. This can be mitigated by wrapping the jar in duct tape to prevent light from entering. Naturally, this is just one end of the budget spectrum.
On the other end of this spectrum are storage units like those offered by Cannador. Though they are made of high-quality walnut or cherry wood, these units are airtight and include a humidifier to keep your cannabis from drying out. As you’ll read below, maintaining the right level of humidity is critical for storing cannabis for the long-term. The only caveat is, of course, the price.
Deciding between these two options comes down to how long you plan on storing your bud. If this isn’t the primary objective, a simple weed box or small container works just fine.
A weed box can be convenient for organisation and presentation purposes (and are highly-recommended for connaisseurs). You can store marijuana, papers, scrapers and other essentials, all in one organised space. They are often made out of wood or bamboo.
That being said, keeping cannabis in storage units like this is not recommended if you’re interested in keeping your herb fresh for a long time.
This is an example of one of RAW’s most popular cannabis boxes. As you can see, they are aesthetically pleasing, but, as we’ll discuss, they are not ideal for long-term storage. (Source: RAW)
The reason certain wooden storage units won’t preserve your cannabis for a long time has to do with the fact that these units are rarely airtight. There are simply too many variables in the air that could damage your cannabis and limit how long your marijuana can last. By blocking air, you can ensure that your cannabis will last between six months to a year.
There are three primary elements that cannabis enthusiasts need to be aware of when storing their cannabis for the long-term.
The first, mentioned above, revolves around preventing too much airflow through your cannabis storage container. The second is keeping a close eye on humidity and temperature. The third is that of light.
Let’s dig into this second point.
If you keep your bud in a warm, damp place, it’s likely that it will grow mouldy. It is, after all, a plant.
The ideal humidity (measured in RH, or ‘relative humidity’) and temperature for cannabis is between 55 percent and 62 percent RH, and below 24 celsius. Depending on your budget and the amount of cannabis you are looking to store, it may be wise to invest in a hygrometer in order to keep a close eye on a room’s RH.
Not only will poor humidity management ruin your cannabis, but it can also make users very sick. This is because bud that is too humid can grow mould. Avoiding such outcomes is especially important for medical patients.
Mould, regardless of the substrate, is made up of two primary compounds: Toxins and endotoxins.
Inhaling these won’t kill you on the spot, but over the long-term, they can aggravate pre-existing symptoms such as asthma and autoimmune diseases. What’s more, these moulds can begin growing long before harvest.
Each of the moulds looks markedly different too. If you see any signs of these moulds growing on your cannabis, consider the bud ruined.
For growers, it’s critical to find a healthful balance between airflow, humidity and temperature. As plants grow and take up more space, oftentimes airflow can be disrupted creating the perfect conditions for moulds to grow. (Source: Weed Republic)
Keeping all of this in mind is far more important for growers than for individual users. Losing an entire harvest is obviously a much bigger problem than losing a few grams. Thus, users can skate by with fewer instruments than the pros.
The primary instrument is the airtight container, but users must also keep these containers (especially if they are glass) in a cool and dark place. Following these basics will keep your pot fresher for longer.
Besides mould growth, users should also avoid consuming dry crumbly cannabis. Bud that is this dried out may have lost nearly all of its potency and flavour. In fact, as pointed out by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is directly proportional to the time it has been kept in storage.
After one year in storage, cannabis loses 20 percent of its THC levels. After two years, ~28 percent. After three years, ~34 percent. And after four years, more than 40 percent. (Source: UNODC)
For recreational users, smoking old pot isn’t a serious issue. For medical patients that have been prescribed cannabis to help soothe relevant ailments, it’s a much different story.
How cultivators can help cannabis last longer
Keeping cannabis fresh for a long time is as much the responsibility of the user as it is that of the cultivator. Like anything, higher quality products generally last much longer than cheaper counterparts.
But how can you separate a quality cultivator from the mass of growers? The answer lies in understanding the curing process.
Before cannabis is distributed, it goes through a critical process that ensures the bud maintains its freshness. Correctly curing freshly harvested marijuana is the task of cultivators rather than their customers. Still, enthusiasts can use this information to make better judgments about how long their cannabis will last.
Once the cannabis plant is ready to be harvested, growers should trim the stocks, hang them in a dark room and allow even airflow throughout the plant. Though airflow can limit cannabis’ freshness, it plays an important role in determining the quality of the new buds at this phase.
Related: The Top 6 Strongest Cannabis Strains
A correct balance of airflow, humidity and temperature at this critical stage helps ‘lock-in’ flavours and effects.
If the cannabis is left too long to dry, or there is an imbalance in humidity and temperature, this can instead lead to the degradation of terpenes and cannabinoids. This process is responsible for the flavour and even the strength of the cannabis. In the best conditions, non-psychoactive elements can even be converted into more THC.
If done correctly, buds should break easily between your fingers and the stems should gently snap. If they fold, the plant is still too fresh and needs to continue aeration. Likewise, if the flower or stem is brittle and dry, then the curation process has been far too long.
Finding the sweet spot between these two states is critical for producing quality marijuana buds. Users can maintain this quality and keep cannabis fresher for longer by following the best storage practices mentioned above.
And in times of lockdown, understanding this dynamic could keep you higher and safer for much, much longer.