Once harvested, the cannabis buds undergo drying and curing, which may last anywhere between days to months – depending on the method used. After all the time and effort you have invested in growing, collecting, and preparing the nuggets post-harvest, you will, of course, want to store them only in the best possible way. Doing so allows you to preserve their potency, aroma, flavor, and overall quality for more extended periods.
Does freezing marijuana help prolong the lifespan of the freshly harvested flowers? Or, will it do more harm than good?
Freezing Marijuana: Yes or No?
After harvesting and processing the nugs, you cannot just leave it lying around the house, or the grow room and expect it to stay potent as the days go by. To retain its effects and robust aroma and taste, the first thing you need to do is keep the stash somewhere.
For long-term storage, some growers place the buds in vacuum-sealed packs, then chuck them inside the freezer. The idea is that it would freeze the weed, preventing them from aging and, consequently, from degrading.
It is, unfortunately, an ineffective way of storing cannabis for many reasons.
Reasons Why You Should Not Freeze Marijuana
Exposing raw marijuana flowers to subzero temperatures does not preserve its potency – but significantly lowers it instead. Not to mention, it may also invite other issues that could reduce the quality of your stash.
If the freezer cannot maintain a consistent temperature or if the container is not airtight, the buds may become freezer-burned due to excessive oxygen. It could also rot from heat and humidity. Worse, you would not be able to defrost the freezer-burned nugs without sacrificing its quality. That is because the extreme temperature and humidity changes required in defrosting would only invite pathogens, molds, and mildew.
Loss of Trichomes
Trichomes are the tiny and sticky crystal-like outgrowths coating the surface of cannabis buds and leaves. It serves many purposes, including the production of cannabinoids and terpenes. An abundance of trichomes, in that regard, is an indicator of the quality and potency of the colas. It also shoots up the appeal and marketability of cannabis.
As the plant matter chills and freezes, so do the trichomes. In turn, the crystalline glands become extremely fragile and brittle, with the slightest mishandling causing it to break off and fall all over the place. The loss of trichomes translates to a reduction in potency.
Slows Down Decarboxylation Process
As mentioned, many growers keep the buds in the freezer to suppress their aging. Doing so, however, may also slow down the natural decarboxylation process. In other words, the acidic compounds found in raw cannabis flowers such as THCA (which will not produce psychoactive or therapeutic effects) may not break down into THC. As such, the weed may lose potency over time.
There Are Exceptions to the Rule
While freezing the stash is a bad idea, there are a few times when ice-cold temperatures would be useful for marijuana. That is when preparing live resin and ice hash.
Live resin is a type of weed concentrate made from “live” plants. These are flash frozen immediately after harvest to preserve its cannabinoids and terpenes, making it incredibly potent, fragrant, and flavorful.
After collection, the raw plant materials are chilled in large, state-of-the-art industrial freezers. A typical household freezer will not do as it is not spacious enough, making it difficult to stack and remove the buds without damaging the trichomes. Also, the procedure requires below-zero temperatures, which are way beyond the range of standard units. Afterward, the frozen plant matter is extracted using various solvents, then subjected to a closed-loop extraction system.
Since it involves advanced equipment and complex procedures, live resin could only be done by professionals in large-scale labs. Also, you cannot recreate the principle behind it by keeping freshly-harvested nugs in the conventional, at-home freezers, as it will only degrade its quality.
Ice hash – also called ice wax extracts – are a type of solventless cannabis concentrate. It is made by plunging the buds in ice water to draw out the trichomes, then mildly agitating it to break off the resin glands even further. Afterward, the mixture passes through a series of fine mesh to separate the trichome heads from unwanted plant components and other contaminants. The result is a potent, aromatic, and flavorful extract that even beginners can do safely at the comfort of the home.
The Best Way to Store the Stash
If freezing the buds is ill-advised, then how should you store your reserve weed without deteriorating its quality?
When it comes to canna-storage, the rule of thumb is to keep it in a cool, dark, dry, and sealed place. Put it another way, make sure to avoid extreme temperatures and humidity, sunlight, and oxygen. If done correctly, the stash may have a shelf life of two years – or maybe even more. Know, however, that THC will naturally start to break down after 6-12 months.
Here are some tips to prolong the potency and quality of cannabis.
- Use inert containers like glass or metal as these will not affect the aroma and flavor of the flowers. Stay away from plastic-based ones (such as Ziploc bags) as its static charge may attract the trichomes, causing it to stick to the material.
- Ensure that the chosen container is airtight (to lessen oxygen exposure) and opaque (to block off the light).
- The canister should be the right size for the amount of weed. If it is too large, it will invite oxygen. On the other hand, an excessively small container may pack the materials too tightly, breaking off the trichomes. It may also lead to mold formation.
- Keep the stash in a cool, dark, and dry place away from direct sunlight. That is because UV light exposure is the fastest way to degrade cannabis. That said, some ideal spots are the cupboard, shelf, or basement.
- Ideally, the temperature of the chosen location should be around 70°F (21°C). Any higher than this could trigger molds or bacterial invasion. If you have a digital room thermometer, use it to monitor the temperature.
- Do not put the stash in the fridge.
- Keep it away from electronics and other similar heat-emitting appliances.
- It is a good idea to keep an eye on the relative humidity (RH) as well. A hygrometer, for instance, would come in handy. Ensure that the RH sits between 60-65% to retain the freshness of the herb, as well as to fend off molds, mildews, and fungi.
- If you have extra cash to spare, consider investing in cannabis humidors. These are airtight, opaque boxes that regulate temperature and humidity, ensuring that the buds are well-guarded against harmful elements.
Should You Freeze Marijuana?
In a word – no.
Putting the buds in the coldest area of the freezer will not maintain its potency and quality – but only lower it. That is because it may damage the trichomes and/or result in mold, mildew, and pathogen formation.
Storing the dried stash in the fridge is not ideal either, as it is still prone to temperature and humidity fluctuations. Instead, placing the precious herbs inside an airtight and opaque glass jar, then keeping the container in a cool, dark, and dry place should extend the shelf life. Do this and you will not have to worry about the plant losing its potency, aroma, and flavor anytime soon.