Ask the Elegant Stoner: Does weed expire or go bad?
Welcome back to another edition of our column Ask the Elegant Stoner, in which we answer a question from our readers (or the Internet at large), and provide some insight for you about an aspect of cannabis. Remember, as always, that this is an answer provided by a cannabis expert, not a medical doctor, so definitely talk to a real physician before taking any medical advice. This column is for entertainment purposes only — definitely talk to a medical professional before doing anything that would affect your health, and obviously you should only buy, use, and consume cannabis where it’s legal to do so.
If you have a question you need answered, feel free to send it along to us, and you might get to read it here in a future column. Today, we’re answering a question from reader Erica H, who simply writes:
Does cannabis expire? How long does cannabis take to go bad? Does it?
Great question. The answer is: Sort of. It depends on what you want out of your cannabis.
Cannabis is, of course, a plant, and like any plant, it’s susceptible to a number of issues. But before we can get into what can go wrong, let’s talk about how to do things right.
To keep your cannabis as fresh as it can be, you should store it in a clean, dry, dark place in a solid, preferably airtight container. If you want some help with storing your stash, we’ve got you covered there already. As we say in the other post, you want to store it in a clean container to try and avoid contaminants, a dry place to avoid mold, and a dark place to keep it as potent as possible. The solid container will help you prevent your nugs from getting crushed (plastic baggies are for chumps), and keeping the container airtight will help keep it fresh as long as possible.
If you do all of that, you can easily store your cannabis for as long as 12-18 months without any major problems. That’s pretty good!
Now, if you don’t store it that carefully (or, if you just found a long lost container at the back of your drawer with some old nugs in it), it’ll still be “good,” in that it will probably still get you high. But you do have some things to worry about the older and less clean your weed gets.
First and foremost, cannabis, like any other plant, can straight up dry out. Even though most commercial cannabis is cured (which means the moisture has been slowly released, leaving the terpenes and other components intact) for about 4-8 weeks or more, leaving your cannabis in the open air can dry it out even more. The icky isn’t as sticky, and eventually the plant will become brown and brittle. It’ll still “work” (to get you high), but the potency and taste will probably suffer, a bit at first and then more as time goes on. And if a nug sits in open air or in bright light for too long (over a year), the terpenes will start to break down — the plant will lose its smell and eventually potency.
After five years, you’ll get a brown, dried up, flaky mess, which you can still technically smoke, but it won’t be any fun (and most of the work that the growers have put into it will have gone to waste at that point). Not only will it taste bad, but it won’t burn as smoothly, meaning the larger, dry particulates in it could make you cough more than usual, or even cause blockages or infections in your lungs, which is no good at all.
The other concern with storing weed is mold. If the place you store it in isn’t dry, there are all kinds of fungus and spores that would love to get in there and cause havoc. Moldy cannabis will just plain smell bad, it won’t burn easily, and it could also be dangerous — if you get the wrong mold inside your lungs, you could get very sick. If you pull out a nug and it’s moldy and smelly, then trash it and lament your fallen friend.
So for flower, if you store it correctly, you’re good for about 18 months at most. After that, you’re still fine for the most part, unless it’s moldy or too dry, but know that eventually, the taste and potency will start to drop.
For oils, most of them these days will have an expiration date on them. After about a year, oils can go rancid, which you’ll notice if you take a sniff of them (the color and clarity may change as well as time goes on). Edibles are the same deal — you can either watch the expiration date, or just store them as you would normal food (and they’ll expire at about the same time — cookies, for example, will usually last about 2 or 3 weeks at most, at which point they’ll dry up and/or start growing mold on them).
In short, store your stash with care, and it’ll be waiting for you when you come to put it to use. And if you do find a dry, brown nug in the back of your sock drawer and it flakes apart as you pick it up, then maybe it’s time to go hit up the dispensary again. Good luck!