Can Cannabis Oil Go Bad?
Finding a long-lost cannabis concentrate is a bittersweet moment. Your discovered concentrate was left stranded in a pair of jeans that had been stuffed in the far reaches of your dresser, untouched since that last camping trip. For about a year, it’s been sitting in between some parchment paper, waiting for you to unearth it.
The good news: no mold. The bad news: it doesn’t look like the translucent and golden “shatter” you once had. What’s before you now looks like a collection of off-yellow sugar crystals. Has this hash oil gone past its shelf life? Can you still enjoy it?
How long a cannabis concentrate lasts depends on a number of factors ranging from the quality and classification of the starting material used to the packaging and storage of the final product. While some extracts and infusions can experience quality degradation in a very short time span, others may stay fresh and useable indefinitely.
The Impact of Extraction Method on Concentrates
Over time, some shatters will sometimes “sugar out” as their terpenes degrade away, leaving a substance with a higher concentration of THCA behind.
The golden standard in any extraction methodology is that the quality of the end product will always reflect the quality of the starting material. “Gold in, gold out; Garbage in, garbage out.” There’s a direct correlation between the quality of the starting material and what remains post-extraction. Inferior products containing compromised cannabinoid profiles will, in every case, result in an inferior extract.
Terpenes will almost always experience degradation of some kind during extraction. The loss will not only affect the flavor and medical efficacy of the final product, it could play a role in that product’s shelf life as well. Some products, such as those purposed for dabbing, utilize extraction methods intended for terpene preservation. Extractions meant for infusions such as for edibles, topicals, and tinctures however, may not necessarily need to utilize these terpene preservation methods.
Concentrates come in a variety of forms, ranging from extracts like saps, shatters, crumbles, butters, and distillates to sifted mechanical varieties like kief, ice water extract (IWE), and dry sift. Their attributes, such as consistency, viscosity, and clarity, are all byproducts of their extraction method.
The basic principle of an extraction is to remove the many impurities from the starting material, which include plant matter, fats and lipids, and other foreign contaminants. Many fats and lipids in solventless concentrates remain because they are more difficult to mechanically remove.
Solvent extractions, on the other hand, produce “oleoresins” that contain a combination of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes, as well as other impurities such as fats and lipids, in many cases. Through a secondary solvent filtration process called “winterization,” these fats and lipids may be removed from a product, leaving behind a more purified substance.
The process of winterization is known to cause some terpene degradation that could compromise both the flavor profile and the consistency of the final product. However, this process is necessary for the production of super stable hash oil products such as glass-like “shatters,” as well as high terpene-containing saps and sugars.
Terpenes, Cannabinoids, and Concentrate Shelf Life
The greatest perceived enemies of any concentrate, be it a wax, shatter, sap, or any cannabis oil-infused product, are all the same: light, heat, air, and time.
Concentrate varieties range in consistency from stable shatters and viscous saps to butters and sugary waxes. Each variety contains a different combination of molecules (e.g. cannabinoids, terpenes, lipids , impurities), but most carry a high concentration of the cannabinoid tetrahydracannabinolic acid (THCA).
The geometric structure of pure THCA is comprised of lattices stacked onto one another, forming a crystalline structure. However, THCA in a concentrate mixture will crystallize differently, depending on variables such as the ratio of other impurities present to agitation and temperature.
For instance, “shatters,” known for their super stable glass-like consistency, are typically monocrystalline in final form, meaning they exhibit many properties consistent with amorphous solids (they have softer melting point ranges and appear less rigid in molecular structure) when exposed to varying concentrations of terpenes, impurities, or even other cannabinoids like CBD.
In order for shatter to maintain a glass-like physical structure, it must go through further filtration to remove these impurities. If left in a product, these other components can do many things, one of which is to cause a “buttering” effect in a concentrate when agitated or brought to varying temperatures.
When terpenes or even other cannabinoids such as CBD are present in a concentrate, they can also act as emulsifiers (a mixing or solvating agent) to the crystalline THCA. A concentrate that is richly saturated in both THCA and in terpenes can take on different consistencies depending on how the product was agitated and at what temperatures that product was exposed to. These varying phases that concentrates exhibit (e.g. polycrystilline to amorphous) are largely influenced by the many impurities that prevent THCA from crystallizing.
Impurities can include anything from elevated levels of terpenes to fats, lipids, solvents, as well as the presence of other cannabinoids. For example, concentrates high in cannabidiol (CBD) will appear sappier due to the distinct structure of its molecule.
Over time, some shatters will sometimes “sugar out” as their terpenes degrade away, leaving a substance with a higher concentration of THCA behind. Although this process may compromise the experience a hash oil product may have once given, it’s not a final indicator that the product is unable to be used for vaporization (dabbing). Rather, it simply means that the molecular structure of the oil has changed as a result of the terpenes degrading out of the concentrate.
“Sugary”-like hash oils that were once “shatter”-like in consistency is our visual observation of what happens during terpene degradation, when THCA no longer has to worry about terpenes getting in the way of crystallization.
Cool, dark, dry, still environments (refrigerators, freezers, low cabinets, freeze driers) are best for promoting longevity of your cannabis concentrates.
The greatest perceived enemies of any concentrate, be it a wax, shatter, sap, or any cannabis oil-infused product, are all the same: light, heat, air, and time. All of these elements facilitate the degradation of terpenes and cannabinoids, and will hasten the process by which some of your concentrates and infusions change.
Cool, dark, dry, still environments are best for promoting longevity, and when exposed to as few environmental contaminants as possible, some of these products will last a very long time without changing or losing anything.
Optimal storage options include refrigerators or freezers, low cabinets, or a freeze drier. These will help to eliminate the variables that tend to break down extracts. Over time, the cannabinoids (and, in some cases, terpenes) will inevitably change in some ways, regardless of condition. THCA will eventually degrade to cannabinol (CBN), a process which creates an “amber-ing” or darkening effect. Shatters and other dabble oils with higher terpene profiles may also sugar up, just like the one you found in your dresser.
At the end of the day, that sugary shatter isn’t going to be a deal breaker. While your concentrate may not taste quite the same or give you that “full spectrum” feeling, a nice dab will still do the trick as those THCA crystals will still pack a punch.
Ever wonder about whether or not cannabis oil can go bad? Learn about the factors that influence how long cannabis oils and concentrates last from Leafly.
Does CBD Oil Expire? Learn What You Need to Know
- How long does CBD last?
- How to preserve and extend the life of CBD oil
Like most consumable products, CBD (or cannabidiol) has a shelf life. And as with most things we eat, drink, or use as medicine, it’s almost impossible to say exactly what that shelf life is. Think about milk. Sometimes it starts to turn sour before the expiration date on the bottle, but usually it tastes fine for days or even weeks after the date. Are there things we can control that make it last longer?
Some of the same factors that make it hard to predict how a bottle of milk will age also prevent us from pinning down the exact date a bottle of CBD oil will expire. Does CBD oil go bad? And if it does, how can we postpone that day and preserve our CBD as long as possible?
How long does CBD last?
How long CBD oil lasts shouldn’t be confused with how long CBD lasts in your body. What we want to know today is how long the strength and flavor of CBD products last in storage or during normal use. And guess what? It’s tricky.
Does CBD oil expire?
Almost every product that can lose potency, flavor or quality has some kind of date printed on the package to indicate when that might happen. Usually it is an expiration date (or expiry in Canada and the U.K.). Sometimes the label says “best by.” Some have a “sell by” date, and yet other brands state when the product was made and let you decide when to stop using it. Some have a combination, noting the date of manufacture and the expiration.
These expiration or “best by” dates are little more than cautious guesses. There haven’t been any published studies measuring the efficacy of CBD as it ages—although common sense indicates that it probably loses some potency as it gets older and is exposed to the elements. How much strength is lost over time? No one knows for sure, but the general consensus is that CBD products are at their best for one to two years.
Can CBD oil go bad?
Most CBD products are made by mixing the CBD itself with some carrier substance that gives it shape or texture. Many products use oils, like CBD gummies and edibles, most CBD oil tinctures, and CBD creams and topicals. A few tinctures use alcohol as a solvent and base, and nearly all CBD vape juice uses propylene glycol and glycerin (even if it’s mistakenly called oil). Generally speaking, the base liquid is probably more at risk of degrading than the CBD itself.
Although it’s rare in CBD products, oils can become rancid when the fatty acids oxidize. Coconut oil, for example, begins to break down in about 18 months. Tinctures made by alcohol infusion are likely to keep longer than those made with oil, but some people dislike them because they definitely taste like medicine. CBD vape juice, like all e-liquid, is not likely to “go bad” to the point that it’s unvapeable, but some flavorings in e-juice can get stale, and sweeteners (if used) can clog coils and wicks as they thicken and degrade with age.
How much organic material is left in any particular CBD product depends in large part on the method used to extract the CBD from the hemp or marijuana plant. Most current commercial CBD products have almost none of the original plant matter left (especially if they’re made with CBD isolate), so degradation caused by decaying bits of hemp is generally not an issue.
How can you tell if CBD is bad or expired?
The good news is that you’ll probably use your CBD long before it gets close to losing its potency or spoiling. You would have to be extremely careless handling CBD products for them to noticeably degrade in less than a year. Beyond that, there are a couple ways to tell if your CBD is still okay to use.
If you’re very cautious, you can simply trust the printed expiration date, and discard CBD before there’s any doubt. If you use CBD for relief from specific conditions, you’ll probably notice if it stops working properly. Finally, for products you eat, drink or inhale, the flavor will tell you when to toss the product. If it tastes musty or slightly rotten, it’s finished.
How to preserve and extend the life of CBD oil
For users who want to extend the life of their CBD products as long as possible, there are some simple strategies to help keep it fresh. Using good storage practices can prolong the life of your CBD, even if we can’t be sure exactly how long the CBD will retain its full therapeutic strength.
Avoid heat, light and air
First and foremost, keep your CBD away from the elements as much as possible. Heat, light and oxygen degrade both the carrier base and the cannabidiol in CBD products. You don’t have to be obsessive about your CBD. Just remember to:
- Keep CBD products in a cool, dark place, like a pantry or basement
- Avoid humidity and light—especially direct sunlight
- Keep caps or lids on tight when not in use
- If it tastes or smells bad, throw it out
Leaving any CBD product on a table in a sunny room, in a cabinet next to a stove, or in a car will speed the aging process. That’s the exact opposite of what you want to do, so avoid those situations!
If you buy a variety of CBD products because you want lots of choices, try to keep the oldest ones at the front of the shelf and be conscious of the dates.
How long can you make CBD last?
Most regular CBD users think that proper handling and storage practices will double the life of CBD from the manufacturer’s one-year recommendation to two years. Beyond that, it’s questionable.
Some people think that refrigerating CBD oil tinctures or e-juice will make them last longer. If you try that, remember that cold temperatures make the different components in the oil and e-liquid separate, which means you must bring the cold liquid back to room temperature slowly and shake it vigorously before using it. Do not heat the liquid to speed up the process! Heat is always the enemy of CBD and e-liquid products.
Avoid refrigeration also for CBD-rich hemp or marijuana flower. Cold makes the trichomes (the oil glands that contain the CBD) break off, which makes the bud less potent. Flowers of high-CBD hemp strains store well in a tight jar kept in a dark place. If you’re going to store it for more than a few weeks, consider using a humidity-control packet like Boveda. If you see anything like mold growing on your cannabis flower, discard it.
The bottom line is that most people use CBD long before it’s at risk of spoiling. If you take precautions to keep your CBD products away from heat, light and air—and stay aware of the dates on the bottles and packages—your CBD is likely to maintain its freshness and potency for about two years.
CBD oil and other CBD products like vape juice and edibles have expiration dates, but how long does CBD last under optimal storage conditions?