Like a fine wine or an expensive cigar, cannabis flower is a delicate consumable that benefits greatly from proper storage methods. No true cannabis connoisseur stores their flower in a simple plastic bag, but even more appropriate storage containers such as glass jars or child-proof plastic dispensary jars have limitations. Exposure to air tends to over dry buds, making them more fragile and leading to a harsher smoke – especially if you live in a drier climate. While the effect can be mitigated by storing in an airtight container, every time you open the container, you’ll lose some moisture. And common airtight containers like glass jars will still expose the flower to light, which can also degrade the quality over time.
Exposure to light, heat, and oxygen do more than dry buds out. Each of these factors will alter the percentages and ratios of bioactive compounds in the flower, changing the smell, flavor, and experience. Terpenes, the compounds mainly responsible for the aroma, flavor, and unique effects of different strains, are quite volatile. They can degrade at room temperature, especially when exposed to dry air and light. As terpenes degrade, the unique character of a strain will change, and you might find your Super Lemon Haze isn’t giving the same clear, energizing experience it did when you first bought it.
In addition to degrading terpenes, improper storage can alter the cannabinoid content of flower. Cannabinol (CBN) is a cannabinoid that is not created directly in the cannabis plant while it is growing, but rather is the result of THC degrading after the plant is harvested. As THC degrades into CBN, the experience of smoking the flower will change, because CBN gives a heavier, more sedating feeling. Some amount of CBN is always created during the drying and curing of flower, but improper storage can significantly increase the degradation of THC.
With all of these factors in mind, the question of how to properly store cannabis may be more complex than you thought. Following these tips will ensure the longest shelf life, best flavor, and greatest potency.
- No plastic bags! Plastic bags, even zip-lock style bags, are rarely air tight enough to properly protect cannabis from drying out. Plus, bags will generally have static electricity that can pull trichomes off the buds, and trichomes are where the cannabinoids are.
- Keep it in the dark. If you are using a transparent or translucent container such as a glass jar or plastic child-proof dispensary jar, make sure to store the container in a dark place such as a cabinet. While you may want to show off a glass jar of gorgeous buds, constant exposure to light is not good.
- Temperature matters. Average room temperature, around 70 degrees fahrenheit, is okay for buds unless you plan to store them for a very long time. But if you are keeping them in a room that goes significantly above 70 degrees often, you risk degrading terpenes. And the higher the temperature, the faster you’ll lose terpenes. Obviously, you should never leave a cannabis storage container in a car during the summer. Storing buds in the refrigerator can be a good option if your home is hot, but putting them in the freezer isn’t advisable because freezing trichomes makes them brittle and more likely to fall off the buds.
- Separate strains. Different strains contain different terpenes, and these volatile aromatic compounds can mix when strains are stored together. The flavor, aroma, and effects of each strain can be altered if buds of different strains are stored touching one another. It’s best to have a separate airtight container for each strain, and to clean a container before storing a new strain in it.
- Regulate humidity. The ideal relative humidity for storing cannabis is between 55% and 62%. Maintaining proper humidity will preserve cannabinoid and terpene content, and keep the buds soft and fresh. Too little humidity will degrade bioactive compounds and dry buds out, and too much humidity can encourage mold growth. There are many products on the market for controlling humidity in cannabis storage, from simple packets that can be put in a glass jar or other storage container, to dedicated humidor style boxes similar to those used for storing cigars.