Does Weed Go Bad?

A heated topic lately has been the shelf life of weed. Does weed go bad? Do edibles go bad? What about concentrates, do those spoil? These are common questions, but a little bit of research can show you the average shelf life of cannabis products. Here’s what I found out about cannabis flowers:

Does Weed Go Bad?

man holding out a jar of cannabis

It depends. The deciding factor on whether or not your marijuana goes bad is completely dependent on your method of storage. If you found some weed you stashed away months or even years ago, whether or not it’s fine to smoke can vary. If you stored it in an airtight jar for example, odds are the flowers are okay to smoke. If you found it in a cellophane wrapper, it’s probably dried out and not okay to smoke.

Good Weed Vs. Bad Weed

cannabis flower in plastic bag on yellow background

Good weed smells fragrant and tasty! The nugs will be sticky and slightly dense, but it should also be covered in crystals and green in color. Bad weed is a different story. Weed that’s passed its prime will smell like dusty hay or decaying grass, as well as really, really dry and crumbly. The color will usually be brownish as the marijuana decays. Improperly cured weed is easy to notice as it’s wet, looks off color, and smells like cat pee.

Improperly Dried Weed

hang dry weed method

Does weed go bad? If you messed up the curing process, it’s bad from the get go, and much like spoiled meat, you’ll know as soon as the smell hits your nose. Improperly dried cannabis with too much leftover water can rot the nugs, or worse, grow mold. Dried cannabis that is too wet, (over 15 percent water weight) can provide a breeding medium for storage molds like aspergillus. Some species of aspergillus produce mycotoxins that can cause liver cancer. The mold will either be visible or the nugs will smell like cat pee, which is a pretty surefire way to notice. Don’t smoke moldy bud. I know it’s tempting when it’s all you’ve got, but you’ll get a wicked headache and pray for death for a few hours which is not good.

Why Does Marijuana Go Bad?

Cannabis Dispensary Budtender
Photo by: Aleksandar Kamasi/Shutterstock
Much like any standard run of the mill herb, as cannabis ages after it’s original cure, the essential oils will evaporate or decay from the flowers as a whole. However, cannabinoids will hold up long after the terpenes start to die. As cannabis grows, it produces a substance called cannabigerolid acid (CBGA) which is then synthesized into one of three major cannabinoids: CBDA, CBCA or THCA. Through a process called decarboxylation (heating), these cannabinoids are transformed into CBD, CBC and, of course THC. The cannabinoid acids produced by the living plant, such as THCA, CBDA, etc., will decarboxylate to their neutral forms over time, then can begin to oxidize to breakdown products, such as CBN in the case of THC, which is why marijuana loses potency under the wrong conditions.

Properly stored weed will not spoil, but it will lose its smell and potency. Its psychoactive effects will be transformed as well.

Proper Storage Techniques

cartridge and bud

Keep it cool! Mildew likes warmer temperature; around 77 degrees to around 85, and terpenes like the dark. If it’s warmer than 85 degrees, mildew won’t grow, but your cannabinoids and terpenes will decay. A cool, dark place will go a long way. You’ll also want to store it in an area with a relative humidity between 60 percent and 63 percent. If you’re storing in jars you can pick humidity packs up at any garden shop. They will keep your stash the perfect humidity. Just be sure to burp the jar every once in a while, because too little air can greatly affect the relative humidity, especially if the buds are not completely dried before storage. Too much air will speed up the degradation process as the cannabinoids and other organic matter are exposed to oxygen. It’s also vital that you keep your flower out of direct light. UV rays act as a catalyst in the terpene and cannabinoid degradation process and it’s crucial to do your best to keep them away from the light if you want to store for the long term. If you store your stash properly, weed won’t go bad.

To Summarize

woman lighting a joint

So, does weed go bad? Yes, and no. Fresh dried cannabis will be sticky with a strong aroma. Old cannabis will have lost its smell and a bit of its potency. Wet cannabis should be rejected, along with any cannabis that doesn’t smell like…cannabis. Fishy, eggy, vinegary cannabis should be avoided.

You should be able to tell whether or not your marijuana is bad or just passed it’s prime by looking at it and smelling it. Like most things though, when in doubt throw it out. Happy toking!

by Nicole Flanigan