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Have you ever thought about freezing marijuana to increase its shelf life? As any perishable item, the cannabis plant begins to degrade immediately after harvest. While they can certainly last for years, cannabis flowers gradually lose out on potency, flavor, and aroma over time.
Most users store cannabis in an airtight container at room temperature or a cold and dark place. But can freezing cannabis make it last longer? Ultimately, maintaining an optimal temperature, lighting, and humidity can preserve your bud's taste and smell for a long time.
Before we dive deep into the mechanics of freezing cannabis, let's discuss the basics of cannabis storage first. Ideally, cannabis buds and other products should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark space after they have been dried, cured, and processed. Cannabis shelf life is directly affected by four main factors: friction, humidity, light, temperature.
Storing cannabis buds in temperatures exceeding 77º F can increase the risk of mold and mildew formation. Consuming mold can be harmful, especially after prolonged use and for people with compromised immune systems or respiratory conditions.
High temperatures and too much humidity can do more than increase your mold risk. They can cause highly sensitive essential oils such as aromatic terpenes to evaporate more quickly, leading to dry and crumbly buds that are harsh to smoke or vape.
Extremely cold temperatures can also affect the potency of your bud. For best results, we recommend keeping your cannabis flowers in temperatures between 50 and 60º F in a dark space with a relative humidity between 59% and 63%.
Is Freezing Marijuana Good for Your Cannabis?
In short, freezing marijuana is usually not recommended unless you practice great care in its storage. Extremely cold temperatures won't slow down the natural degradation of cannabinoids and terpenes like you’d think. Freezing marijuana can actually speed up the degradation process.
After harvest, the cannabis flower is usually left to dry and cure to remove the additional moisture and refine its aroma and flavor. Throughout the process, the buds undergo a natural decarboxylation process that converts the acidic THCA and CBDA into the psychoactive THC and CBD. Freezing temperatures can slow down or stop this natural process, leading to diminished product potency with age.
When exposed to freezing temperatures for a long time, the plant's trichomes will freeze and become more brittle, and more vulnerable to damage, falling off with the slightest disturbance. The only instance freezing cannabis is recommended is when making ice water hash or live resin frozen cannabis plants.
Frozen weed is essential in the production of live resin, a concentrate known for its high terpene levels compared to other concentrates. Cannabis growers preserve the plant’s peak cannabinoid and terpene levels by immediately freezing the buds after harvest.
Usually, growers harvest the buds, put them inside sealed and moisture-resistant bags, and immediately store them in a freezer. Some growers will use dry ice or liquid nitrogen to freeze the flowers on site after the harvest. Keep in mind dry ice should not be poured directly over the buds. Ideally, you would pour it into a container of bagged buds.
When freezing marijuana for live resin, we recommend taking great care of the material. Avoid compressing the buds together in the bags, since this can risk destroying their trichomes. Instead, loosely pack the cannabis to avoid having frozen buds stuck together.
During transport to the extraction room, you have time, but not too much time. Don’t allow the cannabis to thaw before extraction. Cooler temperatures are better able to keep the weed’s compounds well preserved.
What Freezer to Choose for Cannabis Storage
For proper weed storage under freezing temperatures, you need a functioning freezer. While you don’t need an expensive one, it should be able to reach 0º F for best results. As freezer temperature capabilities increase, so does the price of the unit.
Freezing marijuana in a working freezer can keep them stored for years. One study analyzed the effects of maintaining cannabis in four controlled storage conditions: light and room temperature, darkness and room temperature, refrigeration, and freezing.
Researchers found that almost all THC degraded after four years when stored at room temperature. When refrigerated, THC degraded moderately. When frozen at -4º F, the THC remained near its original levels after four years.
We don't recommend keeping your flowers in a plastic baggie or a cardboard box such as an empty shoebox if you can avoid it. These storage methods can negatively affect the flower’s quality. Plastic has a static charge that can pull away trichomes, reducing the flower’s potency over time.
You may think that keeping your buds in a refrigerator may be the best option since they will not be at freezing temperatures, but fluctuations in temperature and humidity from opening the fridge throughout the day can increase the risk of mold and mildew.
What is the best way to store weed to preserve its aroma and flavor? We recommend keeping your cannabis in an airtight container such as a glass jar, preferably an opaque glass jar to protect it from UV rays and artificial light and reduce the risk of mold. If you don’t have dark glass containers, you can wrap dark material around them to block out the light.
Providing your cannabis with the right amount of oxygen can maintain optimal humidity to keep your buds from drying out. For best results, we recommend investing in a hygrometer or humidity packs to ensure your humidity levels are just right.
Keeping your buds in a vacuum-sealed container can help minimize exposure to oxygen. In addition, we recommend keeping your fresh cannabis flowers stored away from anything that may affect their smells, such as used pipes, grinders, and other cannabis accessories.
To freeze weed or not to freeze weed? That is the question. The freezing process can be a bad idea in most cases, but if you use best practices to store your cannabis in a freezer, it can actually extend its shelf life beyond storing them at room temperature.
If you want to know how to make the most of your marijuana, enroll in Cannabis Training University’s online Master of Cannabis Program to become a weed expert and earn your cannabis certification. Our curriculum teaches you everything you need to know, from growing weed from seed to using it as medicine.