For products that contain cannabis alongside many other ingredients, such as edibles or topical creams and ointments, follow standard storage instructions and any provided sell-by dates for the products you have.
These products are the result of various extraction and preparation processes. So, you may be thinking that cannabis flower would be the best way to consume marijuana without other ingredients that can make it go bad. But whether you’re consuming cannabis flower or an extract, improper storage methods can affect a product’s viability, too.
When the molecules in cannabis terpenes and cannabinoids degrade, the result can be a change in the effects of the product, or its potency. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient in cannabis that can get you high, can degrade into another cannabinoid, called cannabinol (CBN) when exposed to UV rays and oxygen. CBN, which has a different molecular structure than that of THC, typically causes drowsiness rather than an intense high.
Light, heat and moisture are the enemies of cannabis products of all kinds. It’s important to store products in cool (not cold), dark and dry places to keep them fresh for as long as possible.
Edibles often have an expiration date that’s clearly stated on the product label. This date reflects the product’s shelf life based on its overall ingredient list.
The shelf life of cannabis products depends partly on how they’re produced. Take extracts, for example. Cannabis extracts like wax and shatter, as well as those used in tinctures and infusions, are produced by extraction processes that aim to preserve as many terpenes and cannabinoids as possible. But depending on the extraction method, impurities like lipids, or fats, from the cannabis plant, and other substances can remain.
- Products may not taste as good as the fresh version.
- Other products may not be as potent if important ingredients degrade.
- Some products may actually be harmful if bacteria develops or key ingredients degrade into other substances.
Stored properly, many cannabis products can remain fresh, safe and potent for months, or even a year:
Cannabis extracts that contain high levels of lipids, or fats, can become harmful if they linger past their expiration date. Over time, these fats can oxidize, so that if someone smokes or dabs the product at higher temperatures, they can release toxins. Pure or nearly pure extracts, such as those used in tinctures and emulsions, can lose potency quickly as terpenes degrade.
Most food products and many medicines come with a sell-by or use-by date. These labels let consumers know when a product is out of date and may no longer be safe to use. Now that cannabis products are moving into the mainstream, many of these products are also required to include expiration dates on their packaging. Bu