Updated on December 20, 2018.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
While strain preferences differ considerably from one patient to the next, there’s one thing that every medical marijuana patient seems to agree on. They want their cannabis to remain fresh, flavorful and potent – nobody likes old weed.
Nothing beats a freshly cured batch of tangy flowers, perfectly ripe and ready to smoke. The problem is that, over time, the same flowers can spoil. How you choose to store your stash will be the difference in whether you’ll still enjoy the same goodies months down the line or have to discard them.
A general rule of thumb is properly stored cannabis can last up to three years. Therefore, it’s up to you to protect your precious herb from natural enemies such as light, humidity and mold.
Let’s cast our lenses on the main factors that affect the potency of your herb and what you can do to keep your medicine in perfect condition.
Factors to Consider for Cannabis Storage
The ideal location to keep your marijuana is in a basement, cellar or a dark, chilly place. Heat, light, moisture and exposure to oxygen can dry out your pot or cause it to mold. Here are some hints for storing medical cannabis.
1. Keep It Out of Light
Light, specifically sunlight, can be a big problem for marijuana storage. The fact is UV rays break down organic matter over time, degrading the cannabinoids and reducing the potency of your flowers. The UV effect is one of the main reasons experts use colored glass containers.
They’re like sunglasses for cannabis, protecting the THC resin glands we’re looking to preserve. Although it may take a longer time for light to damage your medicine, storing it in a dark place like a drawer will eliminate light exposure. Choosing darker jars can be a good habit, but they aren’t necessary if you store your stash in a dark place.
2. Keep It Cool
Heat is the biggest enemy for cannabis storage. Temperatures higher than 70 degrees will promote the growth of mildew. As it gets hotter, your flowers will simply dry out, resulting in damaged terpenes and cannabinoids. You’re in good shape as long as you’re keeping the heat a little below room temperature.
3. But Not Too Cool
As an alternative to cupboards and drawers, many people believe wrapping their cannabis in foil and putting it in the fridge will keep it fresher for longer. This method doesn’t work for several reasons. First, fluctuating temperatures can degrade your herb and lead to bacterial growth.
Second, the cold temperatures of the fridge suck out moisture and damage resin glands, creating shake. The freezer is even worse, as temperatures can cause the trichomes to become icicles, which then break off. Nobody wants those. Unless you never open your fridge again, you can trust your medicine will be damaged.
4. Limit Oxygen Exposure
At the time of purchase, high-grade cannabis has already gone through a long curing process during which exposure to air is carefully controlled. This guarantees patients receive ready-to-use flowers that retain the full terpene and cannabinoid content in them.
Once bought, you’ll want to ensure your cannabis maintains its freshness by minimizing exposure to air. The best solution is an airtight container such as a glass jar that forms a firm seal around your medicine. Of course, a little bit of breathing room helps. Fill the container but don’t stuff it so there’s no room to move.
5. Don’t Sweat the Humidity
Conventional wisdom dictates cannabis should ideally be stored at a humidity range of 60% to 65%. Dry air will make the herb brittle, rendering it less potent and extremely harsh to smoke. Yes, this tends to happen. But, unless your house is in a dessert, it almost certainly won’t happen to you.
Humidity between 50% and 70% is said to be safe. On the contrary, extremely humid conditions can promote the growth of mold. Again, this won’t compromise a properly stored container, but it is a great cause for concern. Investing in a dehumidifier can solve this problem.
6. Not Too Much Touching
Touching your cannabis too much will break off the trichomes. As we all know, trichomes are sticky, and when you touch a dried flower a lot, trichomes tend to cling to your hands rather than to the flower. Excessive touching breaks down the integrity of the flower, meaning you’ll end up with shake. While it’s tempting to indulge in a whiff of your stash or show it off to your friends, be sure to open the jar only when you’re ready to get some full marijuana therapy.
7. Skip the Plastic Baggies
You’ve probably put medicine in plastic bags at one point in your life. Lots of marijuana patients do it, but this can hurt the freshness of your pot supply. Here are a few reasons you shouldn’t use plastic bags:
They allow moisture to build
They cause static, which can break the plant and shrink the THC supply
They let in heat and light
They lead to harsh inhales
8. Why You Should Use an Airtight Glass Jar
Glass jars are recommended by cannabis doctors. You need an airtight lid that will protect the stash against exposure to air and moisture, and it will also keep the distinctive aroma from seeping out.
While a glass jar is always preferred, you’ll want one dark enough to filter out light. Also, select one that’s sturdy enough to withstand an occasional drop. Finally, consider using several jars for different strains.
9. Keep it Away from Kids and Teens
Keeping medical marijuana out of the hands of kids involves following the same precautions parents utilize for keeping prescription drugs and other harmful chemicals away from children. Let them know these products are medicine.
If you have edibles such as cookies, make sure they’re well labeled and your kids understand anything with this mark shouldn’t be eaten. If you have teenagers in the house, put your cannabis in a locked box and be conscious of where you use it. They may not come across it by accident. They may be looking for it. Hide it out of sight.
Be Careful and Mindful When Storing Your Medical Marijuana
It’s advisable to be picky when storing your medicine. Something that’s lost its aroma and flavor is not appealing. Keep in mind, these tips focus on dried cannabis flowers. Edibles have different requirements, so you should follow standard food storage procedures.