Marijuana packaging, and plastic sandwich baggies specifically, have long been a bane of existence for most serious stoners. I’ve certainly had trouble finding high quality, distinct, pot packaging for our organic, honest marijuana that satisfies consumer taste and legal demands. This post will present a few fun historical reefer packaging facts, break down the biochemical basis of tried and true traditional pro tips for keeping your pot as fresh as possible.
United States Marijuana Packaging History
Marijuana packaging has historically been a major priority for big pharmaceutical companies in the mid to late 1800s such as Park Davis and Co., and S.B. Penick & Co., (now subsidiaries of Pfizer and Siegfried Ltd. respectively), who used airtight tin containers to keep their cannabis from losing it’s potency to air and sunlight. Ceramic jars were a popular choice for apothecaries that sold and distributed cannabis throughout the United States in the early 1900s.
The Chemistry of Keeping Weed Fresh
It’s important to understand how air temperature, humidity and light conditions interact with the chemistry of your cannabis in order to understand how to keep your reefer really fresh.
It’s important to store your stash in a spot with cool but not cold air temperatures in order to preserve the psychoactive potency of your pot. Decarboxylation is the process by which raw, organic, cannabinoids in their plant form, such as THCA specifically, are activated through heat into THC for our endocannabinoid systems to synthesize into more health advantages than we could possibly ever list in this single run-on sentence. The THC in your weed will lose its euphoric kick and degrade into the cannabinoid CBN (which will still help you get to sleep but won’t get you high) if you leave it out in the heat. The aromas and medicinal properties of the terpenes in your weed will also dry out making your medicine harsher and less healthy to smoke. Mildew and other mold may be more likely to manifest on your marijuana from the moisture which accumulates in an air temperature of 77° Fahrenheit or hotter.
You do not want to freeze your reefer to preserve it in spite of what some sources will suggest. Super cold ice water, high proof alcohol and even dry CO2 ice is an excellent way to make the cannabinoid-laden trichome resin freeze up and fall off of freshly harvested sensimilla if you want to make cannabis concentrates for vaporization, edibles or tinctures. However you will break the trichomes off from your buds, ruining the short and long term potential of your weed for simple smoking purposes if you store it in your freezer.
The humidity levels of the spot where you stash your herb has a lot to do with how long it’s medicinal qualities will last. Too much moisture in the air around your herb will make it susceptible to mildew and mold like we mentioned and too little moisture will dry the trichome resin out, degrading cannabinoids and terpenes even if air temperature is optimal. Research suggests that a relative humidity (RH) level between 59% and 63% is ideal to keep your weed as consistently fresh in terms of potency, aroma, flavor, texture and color. An RH level of 62% is thought to be the sweet spot for storing weed for smoking, while people who prefer to vape their weed are leaving it at lower RH levels closer to 54%. Serious stoners who want to keep their stash as fresh as possible for as long as possible can use products such as the Cannador or use salt-based humidity monitoring and control packs from Boveda to help you ascertain, optimize and stabilize the sweet RH spot for storing preferred strains of cannabis.
Let There Be No Light!
Ultra violet rays from the sun can bleach your buds and harsh the mellow of your marijuana just as much as they can burn your skin. Light exposure was the single most salient factor in the long-term stability rate of cannabinoids from research in which nine samples of weed were left out in various conditions for over two years. The 1970’s University of London study found that their pot samples could maintain their potency for one to two years in “well-filled” “well-closed” containers left in dark, room temperature conditions.
Weed Storing 101
Most serious stoners have several air-tight homesteading-style glass mason jars of different sizes typically found in hardware and value stores, commonly used for preserving fruit and pickling vegetables. It’s important to keep different strains of weed separate to preserve their individual aromas and psychoactive effects. They’re perfect for pot too since mason jars are impermeable to oxygen, residual humidity and inert to temperature fluctuations, meaning that glass doesn’t secrete any chemical compounds that will kill the fresh aroma of your cannabis terpenes. Most clear mason jars unfortunately won’t protect your ganja from becoming dry and brittle due to sunlight or heat damage which is why opaque or dark, tinted glass jars are always your best bet. An airtight container made of titanium is your next best option to preserve your pot since it doesn’t secrete any ganja ruining gases. As you can see, there are a number of elements that come in to play when selecting optimal marijuana packaging.
It’s critical to keep any clear glass jars you may be using for your herb in cool, dark, dry places such as cupboards, cabinets or drawers. Placing your ganja jar in a dark paper bag can also help you protect your cannabis from harmful cosmic UV rays. It’s also very important to make sure that your jars are the right size for the amount of ganja that you need to smoke since extra empty jar space lets more air, with all it’s unwanted heat, ambient humidity and all the mold and mildew that can come with it into your herb. You can also vacuum seal your ganja jars to reduce the amount of oxygen you expose to your medicine.
What You Don’t Want to Do with Your Weed 101
- Never leave your medicine out in the open on tables or countertops exposed to light, heat and/or humidity. Never store your stash near electronics or other heat generating gadgets since the heat will degrade your dope.
- Never store your reefer in the refrigerator. The temperature fluctuations from opening and closing your fridge door every time you get the munchies will make your marijuana moldy and mildewy.
- Never keep your cannabis on ice in your freezer since this will break trichome resin heads off from the rest of the reefer before you can consume it.
- Never, ever add fruit peels to flavor your weed even if some sources tell you this is ok since it will add unwanted moisture, mold and mildew into your marijuana.
- Never store your weed in direct contact with any other substance with a strong aroma such as makeup, perfume, cologne, deodorant, shaving cream, aftershave or paint, polish or any other commonly carried cosmetic which can leech into your medicine. This is also why you want to store your stash separately from your lighters, pipes, bongs, grinders, pokers and other pot paraphernalia which will get funky with use and overpower the fresh of the pot you are aiming to preserve.
Plastic, especially the plastic sandwich baggies that most marijuana users keep their cannabis in, are positively the worst way to preserve your weed. Plastic baggies do absolutely nothing to keep light, air, heat, cold or moisture out of your marijuana. Even sealable plastic baggies will let lots of odors out from your pot out as well. Plastic is a horrible material for keeping pot fresh since it has a static charge that will pull precious trichomes from the plant matter onto the plastic creating a fine, sticky, powdery mess that you’ll never be able to get out of the bag into your bong. We highly recommend bringing your own empty glass jars for your budtender to fill rather than ruin your weed or the environment with plastic baggies.