Botanical Empress

Can Edibles Lose Potency?

Finding something you lost is always exciting, and coming across an old cannabis edible is no exception. This may feel like a sweet surprise when it happens, but is there a point of no return? Just like any other food product, cannabis-infused edibles lose freshness and expire over time. So what should you do when you stumble upon an old brownie in the back of the cupboard or a bag of uneaten gummies? Will it still taste good and get you high? Can edibles lose potency?

The truth is that, over time, the ingredients and cannabinoids in the edible will degrade. You may be optimistic that this infused treat will still taste great and bring you into a euphoric high, but time may not be on your side. The truth is, an old edible may not be as effective (or safe) as you might hope. Let’s dive into some factors to consider before you take a bite, plus some tips on how to store cannabis edibles to keep them as potent and tasty for as long as possible.

picture of non-potent cannabis ediblesCan Edibles Lose Potency As Cannabinoids Age?

Let’s start with some good news: cannabinoids don’t “go bad” – they simply degrade. This means there aren’t any specific safety concerns about consuming an edible with “old” cannabinoids. However, you may find yourself disappointed by the waning effects. If enough time goes by and your edible faces exposure to the elements, it will begin losing its potency. According to United Nations research, cannabis loses ​​roughly 16% of its potency after one year and 26% after two years.

As time passes, the molecular structure of cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) changes, making them less potent. The passage of time isn’t the only thing that degrades these molecules. Exposure to oxygen, light, and heat will speed up the degradation process. Improper storage conditions will not only rapidly increase the aging of cannabinoids, but will also impact the shelf-life of the food itself.

Before we move on to shelf-life, it’s important to remember that cannabinoids aging isn’t always a bad thing. For example, as THC degrades, it becomes cannabinol (CBN). CBN is a recently-discovered cannabinoid that is gaining popularity among cannabis enthusiasts and businesses, earning a reputation as the “sleepy cannabinoid.” If your old edible is otherwise safe to consume, you may simply have a more sedative experience due to aging THC turning into CBN.

Do Edibles Expire?

Now that we have some answers about potency, let’s make sure your long-lost treat is safe to eat. When it comes to food safety and freshness, cannabis-infused edibles generally have the same longevity as regular food items. Therefore, a better question to ask when you’re feeling tempted to eat an older edible may be, “Do edibles expire?”

The first thing to consider is the ingredients, because some foods are more perishable than others. A freshly-baked brownie that you make at home without preservatives won’t last nearly as long as a hard-candy with shelf-stable packaging from a licensed manufacturer. You will want to be more careful with an edible containing highly perishable ingredients (think butter or dairy).

Next, you have to determine if there is a “best-by” date. When you purchase edibles from a legal dispensary, the packaging will likely feature a detailed label including the expiration date and manufacturing date. Both of these dates provide you with invaluable information – 1) how long the food item has been sitting in the package, and 2) when the manufacturer believes the edible will expire. But even if the date passes, it does not necessarily mean the edibles are bad. This is when you may need to examine the texture, color, smell, and flavor. If something seems “off,” you may be better off tossing it. Sometimes, your senses are your best guide.

storage containers with edible cannabis cookies insideHow to Store Cannabis Edibles for Longevity

The best thing you can do to keep edibles safe and effective is by storing them properly. When in doubt, store your cannabis edibles in a dark, cool, and dry place. If you have shelf-stable items from the store, you can place them in an airtight container and keep them in a cupboard or pantry. More perishable items should go in the refrigerator or freezer. Edibles from the dispensary should include storage instructions from the manufacturer on the packaging.

When storing cannabis-infused edibles, you should also consider putting them in lockable containers and labeling them. This makes it easy to identify your special snacks from your normal food. Not only will this help remind you to finish your edibles before they go bad, but it will prevent any accidental ingestion by children or pets.

The short answer to the original question is yes, edibles can lose potency over time. There is a lot to consider when it comes to the potency of edibles, including the manufacturing or cooking process, ingredients, onset of effects, duration of effects, storage environment, and shelf-life. You’ll need to factor all of these matters into your decision on whether to eat an edible that’s been sitting around for a long time.

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