Marijuana Shelf Life

The legal and cultural status of marijuana (the cannabis plant) in the United States is changing at blinding speeds. With four states and Washington D.C. having already legalized marijuana, and a dozen more having decriminalized it, the conversation has moved on to a discussion on how to best introduce marijuana into our complex economy. As weed culture continues to permeate our lives, so does the need for a clear understanding of marijuana as a consumable. With due knowledge, we can respect marijuana and its appropriate use. A big part of getting the most out of any consumer product is understanding its rate of how fast its potency deteriorates. A proper understanding of marijuana shelf life will help the industry gain some traction and the consumers to more thoroughly enjoy their bud.

Marijuana Shelf Life

The shelf life of cannabis can vary greatly based on many factors. One missed step in the harvesting process, or as much as a couple of hours of storage in an improper environment, can take months off of marijuana’s shelf life. Once harvested, dried and cured properly, marijuana can be effectively stored without loss of potency for 12 to 18 months.

  • Marijuana is best stored in a dry, dark and cool environment.
  • Store the bud in an airtight or vacuum-sealed container.
  • Refrigeration can slow down the breakdown of marijuana cannabinoids, but freezing can have adverse effects.


One huge misconception about the consumption of marijuana revolves around the potency of the bud as it dries. It is often the case that those new to marijuana culture see the apparent freshness in somewhat moist bud as a sign of high potency. This is a terrible misconception, and it is sadly common that a grower of cannabis will rush through the drying and curing process in order to make a quick sale. With the legalization of marijuana, the consumer is no longer at the whim of unscrupulous and unlicensed suppliers. The popularity of marijuana has brought about the influx of dispensaries with production standards and an artisan’s approach to growing and harvesting cannabis. These techniques make for a better smoking or vaporizing experience, and they will greatly increasing marijuana shelf life.

  • Once harvested, marijuana should be trimmed of leaves, which can then be used to make bubble hash, and hung upside down in a dark cool room at 64 degrees Fahrenheit and with about 50 percent humidity.
  • Marijuana should be allowed to dry for two to three weeks.
  • After drying, the bud should be cured until its stem snaps easily when force is applied. If the stem bends without snapping, it still holds a significant amount of moisture.
  • Curing can be accomplished by storing the bud in a sealed paper bag. The marijuana bud will “sweat out” the moisture, which is absorbed by the bag.
  • Curing advances the decarboxylation of oxygen molecules from the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in the bud. THC is the chemical compound responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive properties.

Properly harvesting, drying and curing of marijuana are factors that will greatly affect the shelf life of your bud. If the marijuana should come from a disreputable source, there is no real way to tell how long it will keep, even if you follow the specific storage instructions. Luckily, professionally grown marijuana is becoming increasingly easier to procure, and getting the most out of your cannabis stash is becoming common practice.