Cannabis edibles are a preferred method of consuming cannabis by both retail consumers and medical cannabis patients alike. But just how long do they last? Let’s explore the shelf life of edibles, how to store them, and what to do if they go bad.
- What Are Edibles?
- Common Types of Edibles
- How Long Do Edibles Last?
- Best Storage Options for Edibles
- How to Tell if an Edible Is Bad
- Can You Eat Expired Edibles?
- How to Dispose of Expired Edibles
- Final Takeaway
What Are Edibles?
Cannabis edibles are essentially any ingestible product that has been infused with cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Unlike cannabis products that are smoked or vaporized (e.g., flower, concentrates), edibles are swallowed and processed by the body’s digestive system.
Thanks to the liver’s conversion of THC to hydroxy-11-THC, edibles offer more intense and long-lasting effects compared to other consumption methods. Because of this, it’s important to have caution when experimenting with edibles as a beginner. Aside from the strong effects they bring, many cannabis consumers choose edibles to avoid the risks involved with smoking.
Learn more about edibles compared to smoking here: The Pros and Cons of Edible Marijuana vs. Smoking
Common Types of Edibles
The following are all of the currently available forms of cannabis edibles.
- Candy: Some of the most common cannabis edibles on the market today are candies, such as gummies, chocolate, lollipops, hard candies, caramels, fruit chews, and more.
- Baked Goods: Old-fashioned pot brownies are still quite popular among DIY cannabis chefs and can also be found in some dispensaries along with other cannabis-infused baked goods, including cookies, rice crispy treats, pies, and more! Baked goods are also the most popular choice for homemade edibles.
- Meals: Believe it or not, you can make a whole cannabis-infused meal! After infusing a base ingredient with cannabis, it’s easy to spruce up a pizza, batch of soup, and so much more. If you’re lucky enough to live near one, you can also visit a restaurant that specializes in cannabis-infused food.
- Condiments and Sauces: In some states, cannabis companies have started to make off-the-wall edibles, such as THC-infused condiments and sauces. From hot sauces to salad dressings and everything in between, there’s something in this category for everyone!
- Drinks: Cannabis-infused edibles also come in the form of beverages. The most popular cannabis-infused drinks on the market today include sodas, seltzers, juices, and coffee. You can also make your own cannabis-infused drinks at home by adding cannabis oil or tincture to your drink of choice.
- Pills and Capsules: If you want the effects of edibles without the calories and sugar, pills and capsules might be your thing. While they’re not technically food or drink, pills and capsules are consumed the same way as traditional edibles. You can find them at most dispensaries, but if you’d rather make your own, check out this article.
- Tinctures and Oils: Tinctures and oils are generally considered to be a category of their own, but they’re worth mentioning since they are consumed orally and provide similar effects to edibles. Tinctures can be taken sublingually by mouth for a faster high or added to food or drinks to easily make edibles.
How Long Do Edibles Last?
With the vast range of edibles on today’s market, it can be hard to pick. One way to differentiate between them is their shelf life, which we’ll detail below. No matter the type of edible, though, the general rule of thumb is to consume them within a year, as this is when their potency begins to substantially deteriorate. If you purchased your edibles from a dispensary, always go by the listed expiration date to determine if they’re still good to consume.
Because there is no evidence that cannabinoids cause the foods they’re infused with to degrade any faster than normal, determining the shelf life of an edible means looking at its ingredients. Edibles made with perishable ingredients will need to be consumed much faster than those made without. The length of time you would keep normal cookies, chocolates, and juices is the length of time you should keep cannabis-infused cookies, chocolates, and juices.
Here are some guidelines for picking out cannabis edibles based on shelf life:
- If you’re looking for edibles that will last the longest, opt for gummies, hard candies, or any other product that’s mostly sugar. These products are unlikely to ever spoil, though they can go stale after a year or two.
- While chocolate also stays good for a while, its shelf life is cut back by its susceptibility to heat and its dairy ingredients. Milk chocolate bars should ideally be eaten within eight months, while dark chocolate can last up to twice as long. Consider freezing chocolate edibles to keep them fresher and intact.
- Baked goods, which are most commonly prepared with cannabutter and other perishable ingredients, are some of the least durable edibles and should be eaten with two weeks or frozen if homemade. Go by the “best by” date with store-bought baked goods, which often contain preservatives.
- Tinctures, oils, pills, and capsules will last much longer than cannabis-infused food since the food’s shelf life is the main concern with true edibles. Yes, oils like olive and coconut oil are still food, but they are unlikely to go bad for at least a couple of years. Oils and tinctures are great to keep around and add to normal food for quick edibles.
When it comes to the expiration of edibles, it’s likely that the food itself will go bad long before the cannabinoids within it. Cannabinoids do, however, degrade over time and with exposure to heat, light, and oxygen. One study found that cannabis flower lost 16.6% of its potency after a year. While a similar study hasn’t yet been conducted on edible cannabis, a Denver marijuana bakery told Westword that internal research had revealed no degradation of the THC in its products even a year after their “best by” dates.
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To sum it all up, you should aim to eat your cannabis edibles within six months for optimal freshness and potency, though most sources agree that they should deliver the same effects for up to a year if stored properly (more on that next). Infused candy and baked goods can also be frozen, which has no impact on potency but keeps the treats themselves from going bad as fast.
Best Storage Options for Edibles
You want to keep your edibles away from light, heat, and air as much as possible. Keep your edibles in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry or drawer. You can also toss them in the refrigerator or freezer to keep them fresher longer, but they will need to thaw before being eaten.
The best way to store cannabis-infused edibles is in airtight containers, like mason jars. Plastic containers and bags will also work. If storing your edibles in the freezer, opt for a freezer-safe baggie or container.
Check out these other posts for more information on storing edibles and other cannabis products:
How to Tell if an Edible Is Bad
You can use the same standards as expired food to tell if an edible has gone bad. Gummies might become hard and tasteless, while baked goods will get stale and possibly moldy. Chocolate won’t mold, but it may become discolored or waxy. And of course, the listed expiration date is always a good thing to check on storebought goodies.
As far as the potency of your edible, there’s unfortunately no way to tell when this has passed its prime unless you have a THC testing kit. The only easy metric to go by is the amount of time that has passed: If the edible is a year old or less, it’s likely to still deliver its full effects.
Can You Eat Expired Edibles?
While it is not recommended that you eat anything after its expiration date, doing so won’t necessarily make you sick or bring about a bad high. In fact, as mentioned earlier, one bakery found its infused goods to be just as potent a year after they technically expired. As long as your edibles don’t smell funny or have signs of mold, it won’t hurt to take them. Still, don’t bet on experiencing the same effects from a year-old edible as one fresh from the dispensary.
How to Dispose of Expired Edibles
So you kept your edible a little too long. The most legally responsible way to dispose of old edibles is to take them back to the dispensary to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands. Depending on how far you are from the dispensary, however, that may be a taxing task. If you must dispose of them at home, put them in a ziplock bag or container before throwing them into the trash.
Edibles indeed expire, as their ingredients will generally become unsafe to eat in a year or two. Even if they don’t, like in the case of gummies and other products with longer shelf lives, the THC and other cannabinoids in them will begin to lose their potency at that time. Get the most out of your edibles by storing them in airtight containers in cool spaces, and always take into consideration the “best by” date on store-bought edibles.
Do you have tips for maximizing the freshness and potency of cannabis edibles? Drop them in the comments below.