The Shelf Life of Weed: Do Cannabis Edibles Expire?
We answer the questions likely to arise when you find an old edible in the back of your kitchen cabinet.
Whether purchased from a licensed dispensary or made in your own kitchen, cannabis edibles offer a tasty way to cop a good buzz without the health risks associated with smoking or vaping. But if you look at an edible product closely, you’ll probably notice an expiration or “best by” date printed on the packaging. What does this date mean? Is consuming an edible after its expiration date unsafe? Will it still get you high?
To find out, we talked to some of the top manufacturers of cannabis-infused foods to learn about the shelf life of homemade and packaged edibles.
Scott Van Rixel, a certified chef de cuisine, master chocolatier and the founder of the cannabis edibles Bhang Corporation, says that the shelf life of the food product that’s been infused is the most important factor behind an edible product’s expiration date.
“The shelf life of an edible has more to do with it being a food product than it being infused with cannabis,” says Van Rixel. “Just like any non-infused food product that you might consume, edibles that are made with perishable ingredients are only good for so long, depending on their surrounding conditions. It’s possible for edibles to get stale or go rancid just like other food products.”
Nancy Whiteman, the CEO of Wana Brands, agrees, adding that how a product is packaged and how THC is infused into it can also impact its shelf life, which should be reflected in the expiration date.
Are Expired Edibles Still Potent?
Once you’ve determined whether or not the food portion of an old edible has gone bad, it’s time to consider the THC infused in the edible. Experts say that the THC itself will not degrade, though an edible’s potency over time could be determined by the way the THC is infused in the product.
Whiteman says that in the research Wana Brands has conducted, her company’s edibles haven’t lost their potency over time.
“We have potency tested our products at six months, nine months and a year, and the potency does not change significantly,” explains Whiteman.
However, Ron Silver, the founder and chief creative officer at edibles company Azuca, notes that depending on how edibles are manufactured, the potency of some products can decline over time.
“The shelf instability mostly comes from the fact that cannabis edibles are infused with cannabis oil and it’s a very thick oil,” he explains. “And in order to get it to stay in the edibles on the shelf, it has to be properly emulsified.”
When the cannabis oil isn’t properly emulsified, it can separate from the food product, leaving an oily residue on the packaging. If you see that, you’re probably not getting all the THC you paid for when you ingest the product, Silver says. To solve the problem, Azuca says it has developed a process to encapsulate cannabinoid molecules in a way that makes them water soluble and easy to absorb. The result is edibles that are more stable, Silver says.
Are Expired Edibles Safe to Eat?
So if expired edibles are likely to still be potent, does that also mean that they’re safe? Not necessarily, says Van Rixel, again noting that the issue is more about what food has been infused rather than the fact that it has THC. Although an expired edible might not cause any lasting harm, the older it is, the less pleasurable the experience may be.
“There is a need for more research to understand the stability of cannabinoids in certain foods, how fast they break down or convert, but in general, there are many foods that once they expire could make you feel sick or taste bad,” he explains.
What’s the Best Way to Store Edibles?
Whether purchased or prepared at home, the freshness of edibles can be protected with proper storage. If your edible is made with perishable food like butter, eggs or dairy, the edible should be refrigerated.
Other products, such as cannabis gummies, are best stored when kept in an airtight container, protected from light and maintained at a temperature of 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
It also could help to avoid stocking up on too many edibles at once, and instead purchase smaller amounts more frequently.
“Buy them as you need them and consume them within a reasonable amount of time,” Silver advises.
Those making their own edibles should consider the stability of the final product if a long shelf life is desired.
“You’re not gonna make a batch of brownies and expect them to last for six months because brownies don’t last for six months,” Whiteman notes. “But if you were putting cannabis in some other kind of form, you could get a much longer shelf life out of it, even as a home cook.”
Whether homemade or store-bought, you’re probably best passing on anything that doesn’t seem quite right.
“Consumers should pay attention to any unfavorable physical attributes or tastes in their edibles and decide if they would eat it, despite it being an infused product,” says Van Rixel.
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