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The best ways to store marijuana: Containers, ideal conditions and more

So, you’ve figured out how to get a medical cardВ for marijuana, or just walked into a legal recreational pot shop. You’ve settled on how and where to smoke (or vape) it. You’ve bought a good amount — at least an eighth, or maybe a quarter — meaning you’re not going to burn through it all in a night. You’ve had a joint’s worth or two, and that’s plenty for the moment. В В В

What do you do with the rest of it?

Weed storage was once bound up with secrecy: Successfully hiding it from your dorm’s RA or some other meddling authority figure often took precedence over the actual manner of containment. I myself used to keep it in a Ziploc bag stuffed into a hollowed-out part of an easy chair (my mom found it anyway). But given that marijuanaВ can deteriorate in certain conditions, and the increased openness of weed use as legalization marches on, it’s probably time to figure out some better solutions. Here’s what you need to know about storing your bud to give it the longest possible shelf life.

The ideal conditions for marijuanaВ storage В В

First off, you need to keep marijuanaВ in something. I’m sure nobody is just leaving it in a pile on their desk — right? — because that’ll dry it out, making the smoke incredibly harsh. Even in a plastic baggie, the preferred container for black market dealers, weed will be brittle in a month or so. The plastic jars you get from dispensaries aren’t much better, according to Thrillist, since their “static charge can fry succulent trichomes,” frosty little hairs that carry a great deal of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.В

Instead of treating your weed like any other medicine, start thinking of it as what it is: an herb. Much like the stuff you use to season your cooking, marijuanaВ does best in the dark (light is part of what makes your weed dry when you leave it out), relative coolness (heat will dry it out as well), and, perhaps counterintuitively, a dry atmosphere (moisture promotes mold, which nobody wants and is dangerous to consume), though, of course, not tooВ dry.В

You also want to limit oxygen exposure and your own physical contact with the buds, as both will accelerate the crumbling of those nice, firm buds into a fine powder — or “shake” — that some find unpleasant to smoke. В В

Best containers for storing marijuana

Now that we have a sense of what it takes to keep your weed fresh, flavorful and potent, the question remains: What exactly do you put it in?

The first answer is obvious to anyone who has stepped into a pot shop or medical dispensary — glass jars. Whenever you buy loose weed, it’s coming out of a sealable glass jar, which cuts down on oxygen exposure and helps maintain stable humidity. Bonus points if you can get one with an airtight lid, available for cheap at any number of homeware stores.В

High TimesВ also notes that you can go for a darker tint on the glass to protect your stash from the sun, and shouldn’t have too much extra spaceВ in the jar, lest the additional air dry the buds out. Overall, this is probably the simplest, safest bet for storage.

Of course, when it comes to marijuana, some people will always prefer to go high-end. That’s where a brand like Infinity Jars comes in. For a few extra bucks, you can keep your weed in a leakproof, smellproof glass jar specifically designed to block out all visible light, thereby extending freshness and potency for longer periods. If you want a true vacuum seal, plus some additional color options, check out the jars from Tightvac.

The jar itself doesn’t have to be placed anywhere in particular — a shelf where it won’t be subject to temperature fluctuations or direct sunlight works just fine.

OK, but what if I want to get really fancy?

You’re in luck. So far we’ve looked at jars that make great weed containers, but now we’ll consider some products that do more than keep out air and light.

One brand name that comes up often here is CVault. These stainless steel, food-grade storage containers come in a variety of sizes and feature several sturdy clamps for the utmost security. They also come with humidifier packets that some stoners claim will rejuvenate your bud even if it’s already dried out.В

Like all the containers discussed above, however, the CVault wasn’t developed with marijuanaВ in mind. For the true connoisseur with cash to burn, you can go for the ultimate in weed luxury: a cannabis humidor. For a couple hundred bucks, you can get set up with a Cannador — a sleek wooden box with all the right cups and drawers for customized storage as well as a humidity sensor that ensures the right moisture ratio. With another accessory, you can even sync the Cannador to your smartphone to monitor humidity and temperature. Nerd alert!

Is this overkill? Maybe. But it’s also pretty darn cool.

Where you definitely shouldn’t keep your weed

A lot of marijuanaВ storage is just common sense. Don’t leave it where kids or pets or mooching roommates can get into it, obviously. Probably don’t wrap it up in aluminum foil and tuck it under your mattress, either. Unless you’re desperate.

Yet there’s one storage strategy stoners have been using for years in the mistaken belief that it will keep their marijuanaВ fresher for longer: putting in the the refrigerator or the freezer. You’d think that, in the same way the fridge prolongs the edibility of fruit, veggies, meat and dairy, it might preserve marijuana’s integrity — when in fact it does the opposite.

Cold actually degradesВ THC and other cannabinoids, and the constant changes in temperature and humidity makes things even worse. The freezer can additionallyВ separate the trichomes (those THC-rich hairs) from the pot itself by crystallizing them into ice-like particles that break off the bud, which is bad news for anybody looking to get high with those nugs. Nevertheless, the myth that you should freeze your weed persists across the internet.

Good thing you know better — and your marijuana will last that much longer.

So, you’ve figured out how to get a medical cardВ for marijuana, or just walked into a legal recreational pot shop. You’ve settled on how and where to smoke (or vape) it. You’ve bought a good amount — at least an eighth, or maybe a quarter — meaning…

How to keep weed fresh

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Contents

  1. Moisture and mold in marijuana
  2. The best temperature to store your cannabis
  3. Light and oxygen change cannabis composition
  4. Extending the shelf life of weed
  5. Frequently asked questions

Over the years, cannabis packaging in legal or medical marijuana regions has become more sophisticated, with features designed to maintain freshness. The packaging on your marijuana products might have a harvest date on them, but flower doesn’t come with an expiration date. So even with producers improving their packaging, you might find yourself wondering: how long does weed stay fresh?

About the two worst ways you can store your bud are on a tray, exposed to oxygen and light, and in a plastic sandwich bag, just like a dealer’s bags that are common on the illicit market. A number of environmental factors affect how well the plant grows, but cannabis storage is also a key component of quality and freshness. Cannabis needs the right balance of conditions to remain fresh.

Cultivators go to great lengths to ensure your flower is packaged with optimal moisture content, usually in opaque packaging to keep light out. You’re probably wondering why you still see transparent and clear containers lining your dispensary’s shelves.

Well, old habits die hard and the practice of seeing and smelling the product on the shelf is still a key component for many people when it comes to deciding what to purchase. Some companies have even started replacing the oxygen in their packaged flowers with nitrogen to help maintain freshness.

For the best possible marijuana experience, you need to know how to keep weed fresh and how to store weed properly. This guide will give you everything you need to know.

Moisture and mold in marijuana

Moisture and water make a big difference when it comes to degrading the shelf life of cannabis.

While no two cultivators dry their flowers in the same way, all cultivators dry their flowers and then put them through a process called curing.

When cannabis is properly cured, it allows the moisture that is trapped inside the bud to slowly dissipate from the flower without changing any of the cannabinoids or losing terpenes. Once the flower has the perfect moisture content, usually between 6% and 9%, it is placed into packaging from which excess oxygen has been removed. When you take it home, it’s important to try to maintain that balance.

Once the flower has the perfect moisture content, it is placed into packaging from which excess oxygen has been removed. When you take it home, it’s important to try to maintain that balance. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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If you lose too much moisture, it can change the integrity of your flower. Your flower will become brittle and lose essential terpenes that affect potency and taste. On the other hand, with too much moisture or water, the consequences are more serious. So serious, in fact, that the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), which develops technical standards across many industries, published the “Standard Specification for Maintaining Acceptable Water Activity (aw) Range (0.55 to 0.65) for Dry Cannabis Flower” in May 2018.

The ATSM defines water activity as “the (quantitative) capability of the cannabis flower in a sealed container to affect the humidity of the container’s headspace air.” Headspace is the air that surrounds the flower. Water activity measures vapor pressure against pure water. If water activity is 0.55, it is 55 percent of water.

During storage, water activity cannabis should remain within a range of a minimum of 0.55 and a maximum of 0.65. Water activity increases with temperature, which is why light and temperature control go hand-in-hand as best practices for how to keep weed fresh.

The relationship between moisture content and water activity is complicated, and the cannabis industry is still striving to determine the optimal moisture content for packaged flower.

What we know now is that a relative humidity level anywhere above 65% can significantly increase the likelihood that your weed will end up growing mold. According to the American Herbal Products Association, the drying process will dehydrate cannabis until it has a moisture content of less than 15%, and the curing process is where the remaining moisture is slowly removed to retain the volatile oils.

The best temperature to store your cannabis

To extend the shelf life of marijuana, it should be kept in a cool, dark place at or slightly below room temperature. The ideal temperature to store your weed is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or 21 degrees Celsius.

High temperatures combined with high moisture activity and relative humidity can lead to mold and mildew. Mold thrives between 32 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 to 49 degrees Celsius, and growth is most active between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or 21 to 32 degrees Celsius.

High temperatures and arid environments dry out your flower and evaporate sensitive terpenes, which ultimately change the effects and taste of the flower. This is why some cultivators skip drying and make live resin extracts to preserve all the monoterpenes that are lost during the drying process.

Lower temperatures are not as problematic, but they can make it harder for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) to decarboxylate into tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Lower temperatures will reduce the potency of the flowers when they are smoked or could make the trichomes brittle on the plant, causing them to break off when they are removed from the cold environment.

Light and oxygen change cannabis composition

Exposure to light is the biggest culprit when it comes to aging weed. This has been known since at least 1976, when a study published in the journal Pharmacy and Pharmacology explored what happens to the stability of cannabis under various conditions. It concluded that light is the single largest contributor to loss and deterioration of cannabinoids and suggested that “carefully prepared herbal or resin cannabis or extracts are reasonably stable for 1 to 2 years if stored in the dark at room temperature.”

Ultraviolet (UV) light will always degrade your weed, even if you store it safely in glass jars. So, while the clear glass Mason jars you see in the marketplace look nice, they won’t protect your purchase the way an opaque container will. If you really like to look at your marijuana, a brown container will filter out visible ultraviolet light — that’s why brewers use them to bottle beer. Meanwhile, green containers will block out roughly 30 percent of UV rays.

As time goes by, prolonged exposure to light and air will gradually convert THCA into THC. At the same time this is occurring, existing THC is being converted into cannabinol (CBN), a cannabinoid that does not create the intoxicating properties that THC delivers.

Ultraviolet (UV) light will always degrade your weed, even if you store it safely in glass jars. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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And it’s not just THC that’s affected. Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) can transform into cannabidiol (CBD) with enough exposure, and THCV will degrade into CBV. During this time, your weed could potentially become less potent.

In addition to playing a role in the conversion of cannabinoids, oxygen can also oxidize essential terpenes and change the overall aroma of the flower into a grassy, haylike smell.

To reduce exposure to oxygen, make sure there aren’t many air pockets in your container. You should always store your weed in an airtight container. Don’t use very large containers to store small quantities of weed, as this leaves too much air inside the container with your herb.

Of course, it is inevitable that some amount of oxygen will get into your sealed package once it is open, but you can limit the amount of time that the jar is opened and the number of times it is opened.

If you store your weed in sealed bags, remove as much air as possible before sealing. Vacuum-sealing weed can be a reliable, long-term storage solution for your stash. If you go this route, be sure you follow these tips to avoid inadvertently damaging your weed:

  • Try to avoid vacuum sealing your marijuana in plastic that contains bisphenol A (BPA). This chemical is a key ingredient in many types of plastic, but it has proven to be harmful to humans. And unfortunately, if you store your weed in plastic containing BPA, some of those dangerous chemicals could leach into your marijuana.
  • Handle your weed delicately. Plastic easily builds up static charges that can pull trichomes off your buds. Trichomes are the cannabinoid- and terpene-rich hairlike glands all over cannabis flowers, so you’ll want to avoid damaging them.

If you plan on storing your vacuum-sealed weed in the freezer, know that freezing will also make your trichomes vulnerable to damage, as they will become brittle.

Extending the shelf life of weed

Knowing how to store weed properly will help you get the most out of your cannabis experience. Ultimately, the key to extending marijuana shelf life is all about limiting exposure to the elements. When it’s time to open your container, pull out your flower and immediately close your package. Don’t let it sit open, and avoid windy or highly ventilated areas.

To maintain the right level of moisture, use a salt-based control sachet to maintain the ideal relative humidity. According to the ASTM standards (D8197-18), “a salt-based control sachet designed to maintain a relative humidity of 0.55 to 0.65 in a sealed container can be used to maintain optimum storage conditions.”

Additionally, you can store your marijuana in a cannabis humidor box, which has been designed to maintain the ideal humidity for marijuana. There are currently several models available on the market.

Whatever you do, be sure you don’t use a cigar humidor to store your weed. Cigar humidors are typically lined with cedar wood. The oils in the wood help enhance the taste of cigars, but those same oils tend to harm cannabis. Similarly, humidors for cigars often use sponges or propylene glycol to create humidity that are ideal for tobacco, but are much too high for cannabis.

In the past, to remedy dry weed, people would add an orange peel to their bags to keep the moisture content, but this greatly increases the likelihood that mold would be introduced. In addition, the water activity of orange peels is unknown and the aroma of the peel could alter the flavor and aroma of your weed.

Nowadays, you can use the same humidity control packs, such as Boveda packs, to reintroduce moisture if it is too dehydrated. This will not reintroduce terpenes that were lost, but it will ensure that you don’t have a harsh smoking experience.

To keep your weed in tip-top shape as long as possible, take careful steps to avoid exposure to light, moisture, oxygen, and extreme temperatures. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Like almost everything else, weed doesn’t last forever. Over time, changes to the molecular structure occur with exposure to heat, light, and moisture.

When cannabinoids and terpenes experience very high or very low temperatures, dry up, are exposed to too much moisture, or are left in the presence of light, chemical changes that will degrade the potency of the flower and could alter the taste and mouthfeel may occur.

As terpenes are exposed to environmental changes, they can oxidize or evaporate, creating a change in aroma and effects. And even though all weed degrades over time, the process can be slowed down if you control the temperature, moisture, and the amount of oxygen your flower is exposed to. To keep your weed in tip-top shape as long as possible, keep an eye on the harvest date on the packaging and take careful steps to avoid exposure to light, moisture, oxygen, and extreme temperatures.

Frequently asked questions

What’s the best smell-proof container for weed?

The simplest way to keep your stash smell proof is to make sure it’s stored in a solid airtight container with a sealable top. Sealable glass jars, like a Mason jar, are typically sufficient for storing your stash and keeping in the smell. Some cannabis consumers also use large medicine bottles to keep their stash from stinking up their living space. Online retailers also offer a variety of odor-proof containers designed specifically for weed storage.

Is refrigerating or freezing weed bad?

Refrigerating or freezing weed is definitely preferable to storing it in an area that’s too hot or humid. And though some cannabis consumers report successful long term weed storage through freezing, it’s more than possible to lose freshness and potency to icy temperatures, as trichomes may become brittle and break off more easily. Storing your stash in an opaque, sealed container, in a relatively cool place with minimal sunlight is your best bet for long term storage with minimal degradation.

How to keep weed fresh Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Moisture and mold in marijuana The best temperature to store your cannabis Light