Can Your Edibles Expire? How Long do Weed, CBD & THC Gummies Last?
Photo by Elsa Olofsson
Edibles offer a great delivery system for medical marijuana, especially for beginners. After all, smoking weed can be intimidating, but edibles offer all the beneficial cannabinoids without harsh smoke or requiring elaborate accessories like a dab rig or vape. Before you invest in edibles you may wonder, do edibles expire? How are THC and CBD affected by time and will your edibles lose their potency?
This article will briefly cover tips to help your edibles retain their potency, identifying expired edibles, and what would happen if you take the risk and try those expired gummies in the back of your fridge. For more information on edibles check out this post.
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Do Edibles Expire?
One glaring issue that can get missed given the price tag and excitement over cannabis-infused edibles is they’re still food. They are still governed by the same limitations of bacteria growth, mold, and spoilage as their non-cannabis counterparts. Cookies go stale, oil can go rancid, and food will spoil.
Edibles require the same preservatives as processed foods to ensure a long shelf life, after all, they still subscribe to the same rules of food safety. While cannabis has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, that doesn’t do much to change the other ingredients or their shelf life.
This is important to keep an eye on with homemade marijuana edibles. They often lack official dosages meaning those special brownies can send you into the stratosphere. Additionally, they may be lacking in certain preservatives meaning their shelf-life can be significantly less than store bought products.
Luckily, marijuana legalization means regulation so more pot-based products have sell-by, best by, and expiration dates. Like at the grocery store, these can give you guidelines for when a product might start to taste off vs. when it can potentially make you sick.
Edibles need fats like oil and butter to better deliver cannabinoids to your body. However, some fats can last longer while perishables made with dairy, or eggs will eventually go bad. Edibles that are exposed to water can develop mold.
When in doubt about the expiration date of an edible, defer to the non-cannabis version or natural shelf life of the ingredients.
If you’re planning to stock up on edibles it’s also important to know edibles can lose their potency. THC can degrade over time, while cannabinoids do not magically become toxic, they can lose some of their psychoactive properties which is why you bought those magic brownies or weed gummies in the first place.
Do THC Gummies Expire?
THC gummies and many cannabis-infused hard candies have an indefinite shelf life. Gummies are made with sugar, gelatin, and water. Even gummies made with beeswax have the potential to last for a long time as beeswax doesn’t often officially “expire.”
Individually wrapped candies are also likely to last longer since they’re not exposed to water or germs which can increase mold and bacterial growth.
Gummies don’t generally go bad but they still have the risk of mold. Keep an eye out for any discoloration, if they get very grainy or dry, and of course, if you see mold.
Can Weed Gummies Lose Their Potency?
While some candies can not expire that doesn’t mean they’ll always retain their potency. THC hates sunlight and oxygen. It will also naturally degrade over time when exposed to light or heat and convert into a completely different cannabinoid, cannabinol( CBN.)
While not the end of the world, this means that they’ll lose their psychoactive properties. Not to mention, CBN is more likely to make you tired. If you’ve overcooked your homemade edibles you may have converted your THC into CBN which is more likely to get you into your bed than get you high.
How Long Do Edible Gummies Take To Expire?
As a candy made from water, sugar, and gelatin, gummy candies can have a fairly long shelf-life. Gummy recipes can vary and this can affect their individual expiration dates.
Standard gummy candies can last from about 6 months to a year or even much longer. Cannabis products are often stored in an airtight container so if stored in a cool dark place, your edible gummies can potentially last much longer.
Unopened packages of gummies will potentially last longer than ones you have opened because when you open them, you expose them to oxygen and bacteria. Remember, opening packages and touching unused candy with your hand will expose them to various microbes that can speed up their spoilage.
With regards to THC content. Studies point to a confirmed 12 percent degradation in THC over the first 100 days of storage, equivalent to a rate of 3-4 percent each month. But this is for cannabis flower, not pre-made products. The handling and cooking of edibles does make some changes to these numbers. If you’re curious about the shelf life of cannabinoids, especially if you grow your own cannabis or make edibles, here’s a cannabis stability calculator.
Photo by Margo Amala
How Long Do Edible Cookies Last?
Edible cookies are made with milk and eggs which means they are much more likely to spoil. Fresh baked cookies only last about three days before they can start growing mold or make you sick.
Preservatives can extend this time, and edibles are likely to have some. It’s best to default to the best by date on the package of your cannabis cookies to avoid food poisoning.
Keeping your baked edibles in the refrigerator or freezer can potentially increase their shelf life. However, their dairy and egg content make them more likely to spoil. Luckily, they’re likely to spoil before too much THC degradation.
Do Edibles Lose Potency After A Year?
Besides expiring, edibles can lose potency over time as THC degrades. A year is about the time it takes for THC to degrade enough to lose its effects but it can occasionally degrade even more quickly. Cannabinoids can have a shelf-life of 2 years if stored properly. However, THC has quite a few enemies that can speed up its degradation.
THC’s worst enemy is oxygen which increases its chances of becoming CBN. When THC becomes CBN, it becomes less psychoactive but CBN can still offer a subtle high of euphoric or relaxed feelings. It is also more likely to make you tired.
Heat and light also increase the speed your edibles lose their potency. Store edibles in a cool, dark, dry space. Whenever possible, try leaving them in their original packaging and don’t open the package unless you plan to consume the contents within the next 3-6 months.
Can You Freeze Edibles?
If you want to preserve your THC edibles, you can try freezing them to retain their potency and stave off spoiling. Freezing edibles will stop them from being exposed to heat, light, and oxygen.
Unlike with cannabis flower, freezing will not affect the potency of the cannabinoids because they have bonded to the oil or fat. Other ingredients are likely to degrade before the cannabinoids start to. The only issue with freezing edibles may be the taste.
After all, if you invested the money in purchasing delicious edibles you may not want to ruin their flavor or texture.
Definitely consider freezing cookies and other baked edibles as their porous texture increases their chances of oxygen exposure and they have a shorter shelf-life than other edibles.
However, with beverages, candies, and more unique edibles, use your best judgment for how freezing them might affect how they might taste.
Can You Eat Expired Edibles?
There’s nothing stopping you from eating expired edibles except potentially the smell or taste. Cannabinoids don’t become toxic and you will not die. However, you do run the risk of foodborne illness and the larger question is will they even get you high.
It’s best to give sugar-based edibles the smell test. After all, candy can have a long shelf life and only by flavor or smell can you detect potential mold or pathogens.
Depending on how long you’ve had the edible, you run the risk of eating something that might make you sick and run the potential of only enjoying the subtle relaxing high of CBN. Food safety is the biggest issue with regards to edible expiration so it’s best to use your best judgment and definitely discard any edibles that smell or taste off.
What Happens If You Eat Expired Gummy Edibles?
Eating expired gummies is not the worst thing in the world. Given their long shelf-life you may just lose some texture or flavor quality. There’s also the potential that the THC has degraded and you will have a weaker high, a relaxing experience, or no high at all.
There is the potential for exposure to mold, fungi, or bacteria so just keep that in mind but you would know your chances at first bite.
Do CBD Edibles Expire?
The answer is yes, CBD edibles can and do expire. However, CBD edibles tend to have a longer shelf life compared to other CBD products when they’re properly stored. Again, cannabinoids can behave differently when bonded to fats.
Like any food product, CBD edibles can go bad over time. Factors like heat, light, oxygen, and moisture can increase the chemical breakdown of the ingredients or growth of bacteria or microorganisms.
Like THC, exposure to oxygen and light increases the chances of CBD oxidizing and degrading in quality. Over time, expired CBD edibles will lose their potency as the CBD content degrades and can also turn into CBN. They are unsafe to eat if mold grows. Consuming rancid edibles can potentially cause gastrointestinal distress.
What Is the Shelf-Life of CBD Edibles?
Most CBD edibles have a shelf-life ranging from 4 months to 1 year when stored properly. However, some products can last even longer. For example, capsules and hard candies are inherently better at resisting decomposition.
How Can You Increase the Shelf-Life of Edibles?
Part of what makes marijuana so magical is the countless biochemical reactions on our body’s endocannabinoid system. That being said, there are chemical reactions that can affect the life of your edibles.
Here’s a few tips for keeping your edibles fresh:
- Store in a cool, dark place away from heat and light. The ideal storage temperature is 60-70°F. The fridge works too but may harden or dry some edibles out over time.
- Keep edibles in an airtight container to limit oxygen and moisture exposure. Consider vacuum sealing extra sensitive items.
- Inspect regularly and discard anything that smells, tastes, or appears off. Don’t take chances with mold, moldy sections can contaminate a whole package and expose you to foodborne pathogens like salmonella, e.coli and listeria.
- Buy only what you expect to consume within a few months. The shorter time edibles sit around, the less degradation will occur and the more they’ll preserve their potency.
- Be mindful of manufacturing dates,, and follow best-by or expiration dates on packaging. While not definitive, they give a guide of expected freshness.
- For baked goods, store in the freezer to significantly slow staling and extend shelf life. Allow to thaw before consuming as cannabinoids could get trapped in ice crystals
- If it tastes off, throw it out.
How Long Does an Edible High Last?
As always, when taking edibles it’s important to be mindful of how they might affect you. Unlike with smoking weed, taking edibles can vary and affect people differently. The body processes edibles differently than when you smoke it. When you smoke weed it instantly hits your bloodstream. When you have an edible you need to digest the food, you can absorb some cannabinoids sublingually (i.e. under your tongue). Your liver converts THC into 11-hydroxy-THC. This is why edibles can affect everyone differently as some people can have stronger reactions to 11-hydroxy-THC. For example, some people face more anxiety with edibles or get more high.
It can take 30 minutes to 2 hours to begin feeling the effects after ingesting an edible. It must pass through your digestive system before it hits your bloodstream. Also, depending on your metabolism, how much fat you may have consumed, and your tolerance can affect how long your high will last.
With edibles, the effects can begin to diminish after 6-8 hours, however, they can last 8-12 hours and in some extreme cases last as much as 24-48 hours depending on how much you consume.
Edibles are growing in popularity. Despite being infused with cannabinoids they are still food and you should still treat them accordingly to avoid food poisoning. Check for dates on the packaging and keep in mind the date you buy them.
While THC and CBD don’t officially expire they can degrade so it may not even be worth the risk of stockpiling edibles that may lose their efficacy.
Before you invest in edibles, be sure to apply online for a medical marijuana card today to take advantage of your right to medical marijuana.
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Anand Dugar, an anesthesiologist, pain medicine physician and the founder of Green Health Docs. Graduating from medical school in 2004 and residency in 2008, Dr. Dugar has been a licensed physician for almost 20 years and has been leading the push for medical cannabis nationwide.