Keep it fresh: The best ways to store cannabis

By Bernie Canter | March 31, 2017

Whether considering a gram or a pound, proper storage of cannabis is important to best preserve what is typically a significant investment in terms of money or time. Adequate storage of cannabis flowers prevents unnecessary degradation, which can result in lost potency, aroma, and flavor. Proper environmental conditions during storage preserve the nearly microscopic shimmery resinous trichomes that produce and contain cannabinoids and terpenes, the molecular source of all medicinal or psychoactive efficacy within the cannabis plant.

Although cannabis is typically sold in plastic baggies by black market dealers, this is no way in which to store the kind herb. Unfortunately, many pot consumers confuse the most economical method of transporting relatively small quantities of pot for commercial sale — sandwich baggies or the special odor-proof, child-resistant bags employed by some dispensaries — as a suitable means of storage or for access to daily stash. They’re not.

Maintaining low temperatures and minimal oxygen in a sample of cannabis flowers prevents a natural botanical process of decomposition called decarboxylation. This involves the conversion of THC-A, everyone’s favorite acidic precursor in cannabis, to THC, the molecule responsible for the herb’s psychoactive effect. If stored long enough under the wrong conditions (too much air and light), THC will further degrade into cannabinol (CBN), a cannabinoid that promotes sleep and produces grogginess and sometimes confusion; it is best considered to be stale THC.

When frozen, cannabis trichomes (kief) are brittle and easily snap off the buds and leaf matter of the plant, becoming lost. If stored in plastic, like gallon freezer bags or sandwich baggies, trichomes tend to stick to the walls of the bag due to static electricity. Regardless of how one receives their cannabis medicine, storing in plastic bags and dispensary retail containers is a bad habit.

Avoid Detection

Use of plastic baggies is not only a poor storage strategy — especially for the long term — but also risks allowing the odor of one’s pot to reach others. Because this could result in legal prosecution, and even imprisonment, in most parts of the United States and Canada, proper storage of cannabis is paramount to ensuring discretion, safety, and a lack of vertical bars for the majority of pot smokers in North America who reside in prohibitionist states or provinces.

Cannabis is sometimes difficult to obtain in black markets and expensive even in legal states that offer patients safe access via dispensaries, retail outlets, and smoking cafes. For patients who depend on daily cannabis therapy to treat chronic pain, nausea, anxiety, or depression, a failure to properly store the kind herb can result in medicine that loses its potency and flavor or becomes too dry.

how-to-store-cannabis

Do and Don’t

There are many urban legends and misperceptions when it comes to the storage of cannabis flowers. One of the best and least expensive ways of storing cannabis, for short or long term, is a simple canning jar (like a Mason or Bell) stored in a dark area, such as a drawer, dresser, or dedicated storage container.

  • DO separate different strains of cannabis for storage.
  • DON’T freeze cannabis (unless one is a lab tech creating live resin via cryogenics).
  • DO store cannabis in the dark; never expose to direct sunlight or artificial light for prolonged periods.
  • DON’T expose cannabis to air (unless it is being dried).
  • DO maintain a temperature range of 40-72 degrees F (4.4-22 C). Molds and mildews thrive in temps of 77-86 degrees F (25-30 C).
  • DON’T store herb in a freezer or fridge. Fridge storage increases the chance of mold and mildew due to fluctuations in temperature and humidity.
  • DO maintain a humidity level of below 65 percent. The optimal level to prevent mildew and mold is 59-63 percent. A level below 55 percent risks drying out the trichomes and a loss of resin. Those storing large quantities of cannabis should invest in a hygrometer.
  • DON’T excessively handle cannabis. Doing so will knock off trichomes and decrease potency.
  • DO store cannabis in air-tight glass, wood, metal, or plastic. Exposure to oxygen will decrease potency.
  • DON’t employ a tobacco humidor, which is typically made of cedar and contains oils that may change the flavor or aroma of cannabis flowers.
  • DO store cannabis in purpose-designed wood containers like those from Cedar & Finch, Cannador, and Bureau.
  • DON’T store fresh herb with dirty pipes, bongs, or half-smoked joints (roaches). The smell of the burned cannabis will taint the fresh flowers.
  • DO avoid heat and moisture. Heat will dry out herb, while moisture can cause dangerous bacteria to form. Overly dry herb produces a harsh smoke that causes coughing and irritation of the throat and lungs.
  • DO use colored glass if not storing in a dark area. Clear glass allows light to degrade cannabis trichomes.
  • DO maintain some air in a storage container. A complete lack of air will disrupt the humidity, which may degrade or contaminate the flowers.

Daily Stash vs. Long-term Storage

Many recommend separating one’s daily stash from their long-term storage. While this pertains to those who cultivate and acquire a large amount of cannabis at one time, it doesn’t necessarily apply to those in black market states who are lucky to find a small quantity. Especially if being consumed daily and by more than one person, less than a week’s supply isn’t worth storing for the long term or worrying about degradation; it simply will be consumed too fast to experience this problem.

Both short-term and long-term storage involve preventing two things from reaching one’s precious flowers: Air and light.

Depriving cannabis buds of excessive, circulating oxygen and light — especially the direct rays of the sun — helps preserve their potency and maintain the medicine’s cannabinoid and terpene profiles. However, the shorter the period over which one must maintain a sample of cannabis, the less important these issues become.

Goin’ Mobile

Those who are traveling out-of-state or simply trekking across town to a friend’s home should rely upon air-tight storage containers such as special odor-proof canisters or the common glass canning jar. Those who need a smell-proof or lockable container will obviously be ill served by a canning jar and should check out the Stash Logix line of products or head to their local head shop or dispensary to purchase a purpose-designed device to best serve their needs.

how-to-store-cannabis

When mobile, the goal isn’t really to preserve cannabis, but rather to prevent its odor from reaching the olfactory senses of authority figures and preferably anyone in the area. Odor is the most common method by which police, residential advisors, landlords, and neighbors detect the cannabis consumption of others. Preventing them from learning that one possesses or is transporting cannabis is obviously the biggest concern when going mobile.

Adding Some Class

Legal states like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado are spurring the emergence of cannabis companies and startups that cater to particular market niches. One popular target market is discerning adults of all ages, many of whom aren’t especially turned on by a crinkled baggie hidden in a sock drawer.

Several new companies have introduced top-shelf wood and metal cannabis storage products that eschew the traditional head shop-inspired “for tobacco use only” wink and nod to the legal loophole that allows much cannabis paraphernalia to be legally produced and sold in the United States. Such cannabis-specific companies include Cedar & Finch and Cannador, both of which sell luxury stash boxes priced between $140-300 that are intended to regulate humidity levels if stored at relatively low temperatures. Bureau is a vendor of a wide range of small storage containers that are reasonably priced from $8-20 and integrate a mix of metal, wood, and glass.

Whether one employs inexpensive canning jars (probably the most common method of cannabis storage) or a luxury birch and walnut stash box featuring special storage spaces and jars, what matters is that cannabis consumers properly store their valuable flowers and concentrates at temperatures below 75 degrees, under humidity levels between 60 and 65 percent, and deprived of air flow and any light. When going mobile, one should strive to ensure that others simply can’t smell their cannabis.

Bernie Canter

Bernie has more than 15 years experience in the cannabis industry. He's seen, heard, grown and smoked it all. Email tips to marie@massroots.com.

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