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How to Tell if Your Cannabis Has Gone Bad and Its Side Effects

D oes cannabis have an expiration date? Most users buy and consume cannabis in small enough amounts that the question never comes up. But if you’ve grown a large amount, or stumbled across some old weed you forgot you had, you will need to know: does weed go bad? And what happens if you smoke old weed?

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Properly cured cannabis stored in a cool, dry place has a shelf life of about a year. Around that point, weed will begin to lose flavor and potency, and may even develop mold that could be harmful if smoked. And even if that batch isn’t harmful, it still won’t feel very good.

In this article, we review how to tell if your weed has gone bad, how old weed might affect you, and how to keep your weed fresh going forward.

How to Tell Weed Has Gone Bad

We have five senses, so let’s put them to work.

The Eye Test

The easiest way to inspect your weed for freshness is to give it a close look. Fresh cannabis is a vibrant green color, sometimes with streaks of purple, and fine hairs that turn orange or amber. If these colors look washed out at all, it’s hopefully because they are covered in cloudy little trichomes. However, if that bright green has faded — or worse, turned to a muddy brown or yellow — then you’ve got some expired weed on your hand. Best to leave it alone.

Taste and Smell

The smell and flavor of a given cannabis strain come from the terpenes and flavonoids that develop during the curing process. But even the most patient cure cannot make weed impervious to the ravages of time.

Cannabis that has little to no smell will probably also have little to no taste. Not only will it be bland to smoke, but terpene degradation may warp the entourage effect, dulling the high you experience.

Feel for Moisture

Fresh cannabis buds are spongy without feeling dry. As cannabis ages, it will likely lose moisture, giving it a scraping, abrasive texture. While healthy buds are gently pulled free from their malleable stems, old weed feels brittle, with buds crumbling off the stem.

Check for Mold

The biggest threat old weed poses to you is mold. Moldy cannabis won’t hurt you the way expired food might, but a lungful of mold smoke is a lousy experience, and obviously not good for your lungs. The good news is that mold doesn’t hide well, so a close look should reveal any.

Mold presents in several different ways, so be careful. It may appear as irregular dark spots, or it could be a fine fuzz growing across the surface. What appears at a glance like trichomes could be powdery mildew.

If looking this closely is difficult, smelling it may be a better indicator. Mold often smells acrid or sour, curling up the corners of our noses or mouths.

Admittedly, some strains of weed smell pretty pungent themselves but trust your body to raise the alarm when it smells something dangerous. If you have any misgivings or just a “funny feeling” from some mysterious bud, don’t smoke it.

One commonly reported side effect of inhaling mold is nausea and diarrhea. If you’re experiencing such issues commonly when using cannabis it’s worth looking into your storage practices and the age of your bud.

Finally, it’s important to note that certain mold or fungal organisms can lead to cancer – aflatoxin is one such example. Properly storing and avoiding old buds will decrease the chance of exposure to such compounds.

The Effects of Expired Cannabis

Generally speaking, sativa strains make users energetic, while indicas put people on the couch. Those lines have been blurred in recent years through crossbreeding and the closer study of terpene profiles. One certainty is that old weed, regardless of the strain, will definitely put you on the couch, and probably put you to sleep.

One suggested reason is that the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC, is only one stage in the development of cannabinoids within the plant.

Cannabis plants are harvested when THC content is at its peak, but left “on the vine,” THC will develop into CBN, a cannabinoid that is less psychoactive, but thought to be great at inducing sleep. For this reason, CBN has become the subject of sleep science research, and has even come available for purchase in some markets.

A patient curing process drastically slows the development of CBN, leaving your stash of cannabis rich with THC. But curing does not stop this process altogether, and while cured cannabis can stay fresh for about a year, over time those cannabinoids will continue to develop and degrade. Therefore, older cannabis is often higher in CBN.

However, the jury is still out on how CBN makes us tired. While some early research and anecdotal evidence has pointed to elevated CBN levels equating to sleepy weed, further investigation has been mixed on the cannabinoid’s exact role.

CBN alone does not appear to make people sleepy, but degraded or old cannabis certainly does, and the exact reason is unknown. It may be a specific interaction between CBN and THC that causes the effect, or that cannabis with high CBN naturally has other qualities (such as specific terpene profiles) that are sleep-inducing. The consensus remains, regardless of the strain, older cannabis will affect consumers more like a couch-locking indica.

How to Store Cannabis Properly

Most of the problems addressed here can be prevented by more effectively storing your cannabis long-term. Of course, a patient curing process will prepare your cannabis for long shelf life, but the container and location it’s stored in will also have an effect.

Light and temperature are your primary adversaries when storing weed.

Light, especially UV light from the sun, will degrade cannabinoids and terpenes faster than anything — with heat coming in a close second. Always store your cannabis in a cool, dark location, and away from any appliances that may emit heat, like a stove or a computer.

Air and moisture are the other two factors to consider. Cannabis flower can be vacuum sealed for very long-term storage, but if you don’t have the hardware lying around, any jar with a rubber seal will do. A little air exposure when you reach for your weed is normal, but if air is leaking around your buds 24 hours a day, it’s going to go stale quickly.

Summary

Weed does not technically expire, but like all plant matter, it can degrade, go stale, and the window for use can ultimately close. The quickest way to tell if weed has gone bad is to take a close look, and maybe a close smell.

Mold is the most critical threat without being too critical. Moldy weed won’t harm you, but it will taste atrocious and you will likely cough it up. Check for mold by looking for dark spots throughout the piece, or cottony growth along the surface. If you’re still not sure, give it a good smell.

Old weed smells a bit like hay, or dry grass, and mold will likely smell acrid or repulsive. Good weed is skunky, that’s true, but bad week is beyond skunky, and will probably set off a small alarm in your head that says, “don’t put this in your mouth. If you are still unsure after this examination, don’t bother trying it.

The best thing you can do to prevent weed from going bad is to properly prepare it for long-term storage with a patient cure, then store it in a container that will keep it fresh. Wide-mouthed mason jars are the most common option, preferably with a latching, rubber lid. Not only do these jars seal well, but glass tends to make a better container than plastic or metal because the latter two will impart their residual smells and flavors over time. Failing that, sealing and locking containers may be purchased specifically for cannabis, as well as odor-proof bags.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will my weed get moldy?

It could, yes. Weed will grow mold if it is cured or stored improperly, particularly in humid areas. The first thing you can do to prevent mold in your weed is to cure it for several weeks. If you got your weed from somewhere else, store it in an air-tight container away from light or heat sources.

Does weed get stronger with age?

Briefly yes, then no. Freshly harvested cannabis will continue to develop cannabinoids during the drying and curing processes, but its potency will have a ceiling defined by its genetics. After that peak potency has been reached, it will inevitably decline over time. Again, the curing process can slow this degradation, but no weed is impervious to time.

Why does my weed smell old?

Cannabis loses flavor and potency, over time. Especially, if it is not properly stored in a cool, dry location, and sealed as tightly as possible. Air, light, and heat all degrade weed, from the plant matter itself to the cannabinoids and terpenes within. If your weed smells old, it’s probably well past its prime. Smoke at your own risk.

How can you tell when weed has gone bad? Keep the conversation going in the comments below!

Sports And Cannabis: A Winning Combination?

Maybe sports is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of weed, but using cannabis can be advantageous for athletes. A stoned workout does not sound like the best idea ever. And yet, weed can give your body a boost when it comes to athletic performance. That is due to the hundreds of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids cannabis contains. We try to figure out whether sports and cannabis are a good idea for practice and sports achievements.

Sports And Cannabis: A Winning Team Or Personal Foul?

You can work on your health in various ways. Most people do so by being mindful about their diet while they try to get enough exercise. Contrary to popular stereotypes, most regular cannabis smokers do these things just like everyone else. Although there is a persistent bias about weed smokers not caring about their health, cannabis enthusiasts actively try to stay in shape, too. Of course, everybody knows that weed smoke is bad for your lungs. That negatively affects your sports performance. However, it turns out that lighting up may in fact have positive consequences as well if you decide to hit the gym.

Olympic torch, anyone?

Is Weed Doping?

We can be brief here: yes, it is. International doping authorities indicate that in competition settings, THC from cannabis is always considered doping. In fact, smoking weed long before official matches can still lead to positive tests weeks later. So if you’re involved in serious competitions on a professional level, cannabis is not a good idea. Incidentally, this only concerns THC: the cannabinoid CBD is officially allowed by the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA). For amateur athletes though, the matter is much more nuanced. Let’s find out how sports and cannabis relate.

How Sports And Cannabis Relate

The ‘Runner’s High’

Anyone enjoying the occasional run is likely to know the runner’s high. The phenomenon occurs in other disciplines as well, though. Extensive training releases endorphins that can cause to to experience a high. It’s not the high caused by cannabis, because it involves different substances and effects, but the two can be compared up to a certain degree. A runner’s high is capable of turning the pain of intense exertion into a pleasant, rewarding feeling.

Now, obviously, endorphins and cannabinoids affect the body and mind differently. Nonetheless, a runner’s high and a cannabis high can help temper muscle aches and fatigue in similar ways. This in turn could help you stay motivated between workouts. In doing so, different cannabinoid and terpene profiles, as well as other factors, can make all the difference.

Sporty Cannabis Strains?

Some cannabis strains make you never want to leave your couch again. That makes hanging on to your exercise routine tricky. Other strains can have the exact opposite effect. Their stimulating, uplifting properties can help increase your motivation. You might find yourself back in the gym sooner for it.

So finding the right strain seems to be part of the trick. Of course, you’d still have to weigh detrimental effects on your lungs against the potential benefits of cannabinoids and terpenes. You could consider sativa-dominant strains . These tend to provide uplifting and energetic vibes rather than the physical body buzz associated with indica-dominant genetics

As it turns out, some types of weed seem more suited for athletes than others. Turning to science, we find little research identifying sports and cannabis as a potential winning team. One comparative study from 2017 found no positive effects of THC on athletic performance, for instance. Muscle capacity and aerobic performance dropped. In addition, some participants couldn’t complete the tests properly – because they were far too stoned, obviously. Perhaps the team should have taken the trouble of finding a nice and easy sativa strain like Grapefruit Superstar first…

Grapefruit Superstar has 90% sativa genetics

Rolling Fatties And Fat Rolls

If you’re an athlete using cannabis (whether you smoke or eat it), you’ll get THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This is weed’s best-known psychoactive component, which can be stored in our body’s fat tissue. When you start working out, your body can decide to start burning fat for fuel. Since fat can contain THC, small quantities of THC can be released along with this fuel, resembling the effect of tiny amounts of cannabis. Some studies indicated that blood THC levels could rise by 15% immediately after moderate exercise. This effect reportedly lasted for two hours. This could mean you might get high during workouts, but not to the point where it negatively affects your performance.

However, this effect has not been proven definitively in any laboratory yet. Nonetheless, ever more athletes seems to use cannabis incidentally – including professionals. Apparently, they get something out of it, but whether that something is sports-related we cannot tell. A recent analysis of the THC body fat effect found only minuscule quantities of THC after an intensive workout. Still, the researchers admitted that a lack of good data is the main cause for uncertainty. It seems we will have to wait for new research to tell us more.

Losing Weight Fast Through Sports And Cannabis

Sports enthusiasts may also try cannabis to lose weight faster. The American Journal of Medicine published an article demonstrating that regular cannabis users have sober-state insulin values up to 16% lower than people who don’t use cannabis. They also showed smaller average stomach circumference. This led researchers to conclude that cannabis supports healthy metabolism. This could help baking athletes lose weight faster than people relying on exercise alone.

The Analgesic Effect Of Cannabis

One of the best-known effects of cannabis is its analgesic capacity. CBD is especially renowned for its pain-killing effects, as well as certain terpenes found in weed. Cannabis has also been attributed anti-inflammatory properties. These traits make cannabis use in sports a logical path to explore. You could use it for sore muscles, overburdened joints, or inflammation. Cannabis could help reduce swelling and promote rapid recovery.

CBD is an increasingly common sight in gyms

There are ways to enjoy the athletic benefits of cannabis without smoking weed, too. You could opt for CBD Oil or CBD Tablets, for instance. CBD has no psychoactive effects, yet it does offer all the potential advantages described above. If, by contrast, you’re looking for cannabis strains containing CBD to smoke before or after practice, however, you could go for our CBD-rich strains. These contain more CBD than THC, alongside a range of beneficial terpenes.

Fatigue Recovery

These days, many athletes use cannabis on a regular basis after finding out how it can help them recover faster. Professional athletes stick to rigid, high-intensity exercise routines. Cannabis can help them recover faster after heavy physical and mental exertion.

Both CBD and THC can improve your sports performance. Yet even though using cannabis can offer advantages, smoking is bad for your health by default. As a true sportsman or woman, you may prefer to use edibles instead. Edibles are available in all shapes and sizes, containing THC, CBD, or both. There are in fact CBD edibles designed especially with sports in mind. These offer you more than just CBD, containing nutrients and healthy proteins in case of CBD Bars for instance. You could try the thirst-quenching chill of CBD Ice Tea or Kombucha. Our special tip: bring a bag of fruity CBD Gummies to chew on – not a bad choice to slip into your sports bag before you go.

Sharp Focus

So is toking up before working out a good idea? It is often claimed that smoking weed has a negative impact on your focus and memory. That might prove a disadvantage when training. Then again, it could be the other way around. A study published by Nature Medicine in 2017 found that regular, low doses of THC actually helped restore cognitive functioning in mice.

Resting And ‘The Zone’

Apart from cognitive functions, some fitness experts claim that using cannabis helps them get into ‘the zone’ more easily. It gets them in the right mental state for optimal performance, improving their focus in the process. Weed helps reduce fear and anxiety, further improving concentration. Athletes claim that cannabis helps them get into the flow, taking their achievements to higher levels. Last but not least, cannabis can help you sleep better, so you can return to practice well-rested the next day.

World-famous MMA artists like Gegard Mousasi are CBD fans, too!

Sports And Cannabis: Our Conclusion

All things considered, it would appear that sports and cannabis make for a team with promising potential. Still, simply skinning up a fatty before heading to the gym may not be the best way to go. Sativa-dominant strains, CBD, and other cannabinoids seem to offer interesting possibilities. On the other hand, smoking is bad for your lungs among other things. Then again, edibles are harder to dose. Much is still unknown, but the fact that athletes increasingly use cannabis indicates that a sporty lifestyle and the right cannabis strains could prove to be a winning combination.

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Pot? Weed? Marijuana? What Should We Call It?

You know this already: Legal weed is coming to Illinois and that comes with a lot of questions— everything from: “Can I get a DUI?” to “When can I buy a joint?” to What’s the proper terminology for the drug?”

WBEZ listener and reader Susan Okimoto asked us that last one. Here’s what she said sparked her curiosity: “I just heard news organizations calling it weed and I was wondering what the proper term for it is. Weed almost sounds like you’re high when you’re smoking it. Cannabis sounds too medical and marijuana sounds too stiff.”

So we asked a linguist at the University of Chicago, Jason Riggle, and a historian at the University of Cincinnati, Isaac Campos, to help us dig through some of the drug’s nicknames. It turns out there are plenty (check out this list of nearly 300 marijuana slang terms compiled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration), but we’ve narrowed it down to five for the purposes of our own sanity.

(P.S. You can submit your questions about legal weed here.)

Definition (Webster’s New World College Dictionary): 1. hemp; 2. its dried leaves and flowers, smoked, esp. in the form of cigarettes, for euphoric effects

U.S. origin: Starts to show up in U.S. newspapers in the 1890s from Mexico through the transnational press

Backstory: Marijuana, or marihuana, was the word used to describe the drug in Mexico dating back to the 1840s. It was popularized in the United States at the turn of the century, when U.S. newspapers started to publish English-language articles from Mexico, largely about crimes committed by people high on the drug. Marijuana had a “wicked reputation” in Mexico long before it did in the U.S., according to Campos, because it was associated with lower class Mexicans like soldiers or prisoners.

Should I use the term? Some avoid the word because of the argument that it was popularized in the United States to stoke anti-Mexican sentiment. But Campos argues avoiding the word erases the influence Mexican immigrants had on U.S. culture. He said the term became popular because of Mexican influence on U.S. culture, not because of a conspiracy to demonize Mexican immigrants.

Definition: 1. Hemp; 2. Marijuana or any other substance derived from the flowering tops of the hemp plant.

U.S. origin: Established in the 1700s as the scientific name of the hemp plant, from which marijuana is derived

Backstory: This is the word that Illinois lawmakers decided to use in the 600+ page law legalizing recreational marijuana and the state law legalizing medical marijuana in 2013. A lead sponsor of the recreational cannabis bill said lawmakers were uncomfortable using the word marijuana, and wanted to stick to the scientific name because of the plant’s controversial history. Several dispensaries and industry groups have also shifted toward using the word cannabis as opposed to marijuana or pot, some say to emphasize the drug’s medicinal benefits.

Should I use the term? This is the preferred term of some industry folks and lawmakers.

Definition: 1. A round vessel of any size, made of metal, earthenware, or glass, used for holding liquids, cooking or preserving food: 2. a pot with its contents; 3. potful; 4. a pot of liquor; drink; potation; 5. short for flowerpot, lobster pot, chimney pot, etc.; 6. a) chamber pot b) a toilet; 7. a) Poker, etc. all the money bet at a single time .

U.S. origin: Starts being used as a term for marijuana in the U.S. at the beginning of the 20th century; starts to take off culturally in the 1960s.

Backstory: There’s a popular theory that the word was abbreviated from the Spanish expression potación de guaya, or potion of grief, which was supposedly a glass of wine or brandy mixed with marijuana in the early 20th century, according to Riggle, though he says there’s really no evidence to prove this origin of the word pot as it’s used today. He said it also could refer to a tea pot — referencing early usages of marijuana-infused tea, though there’s little evidence to support that either.

“Basically the answer is we have no idea, so I want to call pot a mystery,” Riggle said.

Should I use the term? This seems to be a generational preference. People we spoke to agree that, at least anecdotally, it’s used more by Generation X, as opposed to young millennials or Generation Z. That’s in part supported by data from Google Books that show the use of “smoking pot” in U.S. literature starts to decline in the first decade of the 21st century.

Definition: 1. any undesired, uncultivated plant, esp. one growing in profusion so as to crowd out a desired crop, disfigure a lawn, etc.; 2. [Informal] a) tobacco b) a cigar or cigarette c) marijuana; 3. something useless; specif., a horse that is unfit for racing or breeding

U.S. origin: Starts to show up as a term for marijuana in the U.S. at the beginning of the 20th century, but used as a term for an undesirable plant as far back as the 1400s, and as a term for tobacco dating back to the 1600s.

Backstory: The term could be a shortened version of the word “locoweed,” a species of plant that grows in southwest and northern Mexico, according to historian Campos. It was often eaten by cattle or horses but had terrible effects on them. This word was sometimes used interchangeably with marijuana in late 19th century Mexico, so when stories about marijuana started to make their way to the U.S. the two plants got conflated.There’s a California bill from 1913 that aimed to criminalize the cultivation of marijuana that referred to the drug as “locoweed,” according to Riggle.

Should I use the term? Like pot, it seems to be a generational preference, this time used among young millennials as opposed to Gen Z. The use of the term “smoking weed” started to spike in U.S. literature in the first decade of the 21st century, while “smoking marijuana” and “smoking pot” started to decline.

Definition: 1. lasting a long time or recurring often; 2. having had an ailment for a long time [a chronic patient]; 3. continuing indefinitely, perpetual, constant [a chronic worry]; 4. by habit, custom, etc.; habitual; inveterate [a chronic complainer]

U.S. origin: Almost certainly popularized as a term for marijuana by the 1992 album The Chronic by Dr. Dre

Backstory: It’s unclear whether Dr. Dre’s album popularized a term that was already being used or if the album itself innovated that term, but Riggle says it’s difficult to find it being used in media or literature much before 1992. The term is associated with habitual use of potent marijuana (get it? chronic?).

Should I use the term? Some South and West side organizers in Chicago who are helping folks get into the industry say they’re using the word as a way to connect to people harmed by the war on drugs. The economic justice group Equity and Transformation is holding a series of workshops called “Chronic Conversations.”

“Some people kind of have an idea what cannabis is,” said Richard Wallace of Equity and Transformation. “But it still doesn’t speak directly to them . the word “chronic” is a great way to highlight and center the voice of our community within the discussion around cannabis.”

If the information above doesn’t change your mind about what you’ll call the drug, linguist Jason Riggle says that might just be because of your age.

“Whatever the slang was when you were in your late teens, early twenties — that’s likely going to be the slang you use for the rest of your life, aside from a few additions here and there,” he said.

But he also had a caution: Pay attention to the words major players in this new industry are using — especially if they’re choosing new words, rather than the phrases used by groups who have been most affected by the criminalization of pot.

As for news organizations, our question asker might be onto something. The Associated Press Stylebook provides these guidelines: “Use marijuana on first reference generally; pot and cannabis are also acceptable. Cannabis is the usual term outside North America. Slang terms such as weed, reefer, ganja or 420 are acceptable in limited, colloquial cases or in quotations.”

About our question asker: Susan Okimoto lives in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood with her husband and kids. She said, jokingly, she’ll draw from the expansive list of slang terms from the Drug Enforcement Administration to describe marijuana going forward.

Mariah Woelfel is a producer at WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter at @MariahWoelfel. Illustrations are by WBEZ’s interactive producer Paula Friedrich. You can follow her on Twitter @pauliebe. This story was produced for broadcast by WBEZ’s Alyssa Edes. You can follow her on Twitter @alyssaedes.