Whether you manage your own dispensary or you just want to find the best-quality herb as a shopper, it’s important to understand the shelf life of cannabis. Maintaining optimal product quality keeps dispensaries compliant and keeps customers coming back.
There are no universal guidelines to how long a dispensary can keep weed on the shelf because marijuana doesn’t expire the way that food does. While old milk and eggs can develop harmful bacteria and lead to foodborne illness, old cannabis will usually just become less psychoactive and therefore less enjoyable.
There are exceptions, of course, such as if a batch of cannabis develops mold over time. But mold can overtake new marijuana just as easily as old marijuana. It just needs the right moisture and temperature conditions.
While you’re not likely to find an expiration date on your favorite bud, most states do require companies to post a date of manufacture or a date of packaging. This ensures that customers and patients know how long the cannabis has been sitting around. For customers, this means you won’t mistakenly buy a 6-month-old gram of Jack Herer when you just as easily could have purchased a fresh gram for the same price.
These labeling requirements not only ensure transparency for the consumer; they also provide motivation for dispensary owners to constantly stock fresh product. Consumers are less inclined to purchase cannabis from a business with an outdated product selection.
For consumers browsing cannabis products, remember that fresher is always better. With proper storage, marijuana may stay fresh for up to a year or longer.
In general, though, cannabis should be consumed within 6 months of production to ensure that the maximum amount of cannabinoids and terpenes are preserved. The terpenes give your weed its signature flavor and scent, while the cannabinoids are responsible for the psychoactive and therapeutic effects.
Over time, heat and light break down these important compounds. When they’re no longer abundant, you’re left with flavorless plant matter that gives you little more than a quick buzz.
Even with proper storage and strict temperature controls, these compounds can start to degrade after 6 months. That’s why it’s so important for businesses to maintain a fresh supply and for consumers to keep an eye on the production dates.
In the same way that department stores will liquidate unsold hardware, dispensaries will sometimes offer older, unsold cannabis at a discount. This allows consumers to purchase a slightly less desirable product while enjoying an excellent value. It also allows dispensaries to turn a profit on something that might otherwise have been discarded.
If cannabis remains unsold, or if it develops mold or becomes otherwise unusable, it will have to be discarded by the dispensary and collected by a cannabis waste disposal company like GAIACA. Though this is usually a last resort, some reports suggest that North America generates up to 1 million tons of cannabis waste per year.
Even if a crop is past its prime and likely to be a disappointment, it’s usually still safe to enjoy. The important thing is to examine the buds carefully before selling or consuming the product. If it shows signs of mold growth, get rid of it. Ingesting moldy marijuana can have severe respiratory side effects, especially for people with mold allergies. Possible reactions include sinus pain, congestion, and wheezing.
Cannabis mold most often resembles a white, powdery, sometimes web-like growth on the leaves and buds. These shouldn’t be confused with the trichomes, which contain tiny mushroom heads and have a crystalline appearance. Mold is fuzzy and damp and has a musty smell.
As long as cannabis doesn’t exhibit these signs and hasn’t dried to the point of crumbling, it can be kept on the shelf indefinitely. But the kind of quality you can expect is another story. Remember that fresher is always better.