The cannabis plant is filled with a lot of wonder and many health benefits that are yet to be discovered. It also has the medicated traits that are good for multiple ailments, which have been proven to treat many people. With recreational cannabis, so many people will usually forget about these benefits of the plant. Whether medical or recreational, though, cannabis storage is essential to keeping it good enough to stay for a long time. There are a few techniques that have been used to maintain freshness. However, is freezing cannabis one of these techniques?
In this article, we will take a look at what happens after harvesting. As it relates to cannabis storage so as to maximize the shelf life, there are some good options to choose from so that you can maintain the aroma and flavor profile. It is important to note that not every cannabis storage technique provides the appropriate temperature humidity and lighting for an extended period of time. Let’s now look at the basics of cannabis storage.
First, The Basics
When you store cannabis, you can begin with the use of basic and simple methods. One essential thing to always remember is that cannabis loves the cooler and darker temperatures once it goes through the curing process. If the cannabis plant goes over 77 degrees Fahrenheit, then mold and mildew sets in quite easily. Too much dry heat will also crumble the plant because of all the essential oils that it loses. That makes it more difficult to consume and its appearance is crumbly and dry.
On the other hand, if the temperature is too low, it can reduce the level of potency. To get the best out of your cannabis, it is best to have a temperature that is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It should still be in a dark location with humidity up to 60% because this will block the sun’s rays and maintain the cannabis’s flavor and potency. With all that being said, what is the most successful and effective method of cannabis storage.
So… Can You Freeze Cannabis?
Although you can freeze cannabis, it may not be the best way for cannabis storage. The short explanation is that this would not be the method to choose for the basic cannabis storage. Of course, this method would definitely slow down the cannabis’s aging process. Or, it could help the cannabis buds remain firmer. However, cannabis cannot survive without air while it is being cured. Most cannabis will usually age for a few days after they are harvested, dried out and the buds are cured. Therefore, by the time it goes on the shelves, it is cured already and ready to be used.
However, when cannabis sits on a shelf, it will continue its decarboxylation, transferring THC-A to THC, which most recreational users love. When the temperature is lowered as it would if you were to freeze it, the decarboxylation process will be slowed down considerably, resulting in reduced potency over time. In addition, the freezing method will make the THC crystals or trichomes fragile. The trichomes are what is needed to dictate the potency of the cannabis. If you were making cannabis concentrates, the freezing method would be useful.
Research from the University of Mississippi on low-grade weed studied the material for four years at room temperature (68º-72º F). Researchers found that over time THC loss was proportional to its time in storage. Surprisingly, the most THC loss occurred during the first year. THC slowly degrades to CBN, a less potent and more sedative cannabinoid. Here’s a breakdown of their findings:
- 1 year in storage – 16.6% THC loss
- 2 years in storage – 26.7% THC loss – 10.2% annual net loss
- 3 years in storage – 34.5% THC loss – 7.7% annual net loss
- 4 years in storage – 41.4% THC loss – 6.9% annual net loss
Storing your cannabis flower buds in the freezer can slow down the rate of degradation. Essentially, you can keep your buds relatively fresh for longer. In temperatures below 0º Fahrenheit, THC can degrade at nearly 4% loss a year. In refrigeration, THC can be lost at about 5.4% a year. Basically, a refrigerator can help in the short-term, but freezing cannabis is meant for long-term storage.
Freezing makes trichomes brittle and easy to break off the plant. If you’re not careful when freezing flower, many of the trichomes will break and stick to the bag, jar, or container you’re freezing it in. To keep from losing those trichomes, it helps to wrap frozen weed in parchment paper before you put it in a bag or jar. Then, when it thaws, any trichomes that broke off can be scraped off the parchment and preserved. The recommendation to freeze pot before a cold extraction process is for a similar reason; the trichomes break off and separate from the biomass much more easily when brittle and cold.
How to Freeze Cannabis
If you plan on freezing your buds, make sure you handle them with care to avoid breaking apart the trichomes. When you’re ready to use your buds, remove them from the freezer and give them some time to warm up. The thawing process allows you to work better with the material without ruining the preserved trichomes, cannabinoids, and terpenes. Also, consider the moisture content. Freezing can cause excess moisture to form ice crystals. Drying the weed appropriately can overcome this issue.
Vacuum sealing your weed can get rid of your moisture problems. Vacuum sealing your dried weed can keep it fresh (without ice formation) for several months. However, vacuum sealing can overly compress your buds if you’re not careful. Some growers choose to use carbon dioxide or nitrogen to remove the excess air through the injection of the container. The excess air exits through a separate hole and the holes are sealed afterward.
Don’t have vacuum sealing capabilities? Don’t worry. Glass containers can do the trick. If possible, opt for glass containers without shoulders. Shouldered containers are more vulnerable to cracking than non-shouldered containers. Don’t have glass containers? Wood or metal storage can work just as well.
Some growers choose to store weed in small containers (about a week’s worth) for personal use. When storing small quantities, choose small containers and store the rest in a separate larger container to leave it undisturbed. A small container can last you a few or several weeks while keeping the rest of your stored buds’ trichomes fresh.
Freezing or refrigeration isn’t always the best idea for some growers. However, when making live resin, for instance, it’s a must. Live resin, a type of high-terpene cannabis extract, is made with flash-frozen cannabis buds. Instead of going through the drying and curing process immediately after harvest, the flower is flash-frozen using liquid nitrogen at extremely low temperatures. Freezing the cannabis preserves the plant’s natural compounds for extraction.
Here’s An Alternative
Instead of freezing cannabis, consider cannabis storage in an airtight container such as a mason jar. It will maintain the aroma and flavor profiles over a longer period of time. The Mason jar is an airtight container that keeps the humidity constant and does not dry out the cannabis buds too fast. You should avoid cardboard boxes and plastic bags because it opens up the door for the reduction in potency, mildew and mold. Furthermore, choose an opaque container to protect your buds from heat and light. A white exterior can reflect heat better. Miron jars, for instance, can block out the harmful UVB rays that can degrade potency and flavor.
For best storage, consider using a humidity pack that can release or absorb humidity depending on the container’s levels. Humidity packs come in various relative humidity (RH) options, but the best for cannabis is between 60-65% humidity. Terpenes are especially vulnerable to evaporation due to their relatively low boiling points. Refrigeration and freezing can keep terpenes intact without evaporating as much.
Can You Freeze Cannabis Edibles?
Now, what about freezing other cannabis products apart from flower buds? Should you do it? If you plan on making a big batch of edibles or cannabutter, refrigeration is critical. Firstly, you don’t want your edibles to spoil if left without refrigeration. However, some edibles like gummies and candies can stay in an outside container without going bad.
Freezing your baked goods (brownies, cookies, etc.), cannabutter, or infused oil can keep them fresher for longer without losing too much potency. Freezing your edibles can extend their shelf life up to six months or more, in some cases. Before freezing them, though, allow them to properly cool to avoid the dreaded freezer burn.
Keeping them cool in the refrigerator before freezing can help the transition. Ideally, you want to wrap each portion with parchment paper since it won’t stick onto the wrap like it would with plastic wrap. Then, put it all in a plastic freezer bag. When you’re ready to use them, take them out and allow them to thaw to room temperature.
Best Cannabis Storage Practices
Whether you bought or grew your weed, preserving its potency, aroma, and flavor is top of mind. The best cannabis storage practices involve considering every aspect of the cannabis’ storage environment. Follow our industry blog for the best storage tips. Want to learn more about using, storing, and growing weed? Enroll in CTU’s weed education program. We cover every aspect of being a stellar user and grower.