Maximizing the amount of THC in any harvest is crucial to all marijuana businesses. Most growers tend to rely on the oldest trick in the book – trial and error – but it’s by far the least efficient and least guaranteed.
There are just too many variables at play. For instance, any cultivator needs to be in almost total control of factors like humidity, temperature and stacking order while arranging the harvested plant. Regarding the latter, the structural integrity must always be protected.
Poor storage of cannabis is the top robber of profits in the industry. You might do it all right during cultivation, but a simple matter of how you store your products could lead to the loss of all your hard work within days or less. Odor, loss of potency and terrible flavor are some of the most common side-effects of a lack of foresight when storing cannabis.
With that said, there are many marijuana packaging and storage strategies one may employ to ensure longevity.
The first and simplest method of storing your cannabis is in the cellar, garage or shed. The trick is to keep them as far away from moisture and light as you can. If done correctly, it can last for months or even go on for a year.
Just the same way harmful ultraviolet radiation changes the color of your car in the summer, the same happens to the valuable parts of cannabis when exposed to light – the terpenes and cannabinoids break down.
The second works on more or less the same principles – as little light as possible – but has the added advantage of a naturally near-constant temperature. Put the harvested crop in pickle barrels and bury them in the ground. As you might guess, this is a bit more involving, and if the container isn’t sealed right, the effects might be wholly unfavorable.
It’s not all old-school in the cannabis industry, though. For instance, some growers prefer to use standard commercial freezers because they achieve more or less the same purpose. To keep the moisture away, a desiccant should be used (it’s any hygroscopic substance that will favorably absorb water and moisture).
Additionally, other growers like Leo DeMarco from GGTA (a large group of growers from Michigan) stores his crop in thick, opaque plastic bins to keep the light away and keep his product fresh.
However, the biggest culprit for spoilage is oxygen. During marijuana packaging it’s common industry practice to vacuum out all the oxygen and replace it with nitrogen, instead. Nitrogen is inert, it doesn’t react easily, so the shelf life is increased dramatically.
Curing is Critical
The last and most crucial part of marijuana packaging is curing. Curing is a long and tedious process for most but is something that should never be overlooked. It’s perhaps the most convenient way to create more potent and more flavorful cannabis.
If you’ve ever wondered why some marijuana is a lot harsher when smoked or has a horrid, burning flavor, it’s likely because the curing process was poorly done or skipped altogether.
From the moment a crop is harvested, it begins its long journey towards degradation – its enzymes and bacteria lingering around in the air start to break down the plant into simpler forms of matter.
Curing serves to slow down these processes or halt them altogether for as long as possible. It essentially prevents the bacteria from digesting your crop. In the end, the goal is to preserve the flavors and nutrients that occur naturally in cannabis.
For some growers like Shango, analyzing the buds under a moderately powerful microscope is the first step, and also the best way to make sure the trichomes (the small, hairy bits) have developed properly.
Though different growers have different preferences for the color they want the trichomes to change to, Shango and Stefanik prefer them amber or cloudy. For them, it’s the ideal point at which the crop is at maximum potency.
The second step is to hang the plants in the shed for two to three weeks (about 14-25 days) with controlled temperatures of about 60-70 degrees and humidity averaging something around 60%, and air circulated by fans. As you might imagine, it’s extremely important that the conditions within the tiny ecosystem they are created remain constant. Depending on the size and density of the flowers, however, the curing process may take a much shorter time.
Most farmers’ preferred method of storing the product is untrimmed, but at the same time, large stems need to be eliminated to reduce the amount of hassle they will deal with in later stages of the storage process. This is also Shango’s go-to technique.
Casey, a grower, stationed in California and working together with HappyDay Farms, also prefers to cure his crop under more or less the same conditions: 60-degrees inside and 60% humidity. However, his take a much shorter time – an average of 4-12 days – to cure because the flowers are smaller and less dense.
Curing is only as useful as how right it’s done. If the plant retains too much moisture after the process, all that work was for naught. Casey uses a somewhat novel method to determine whether the plants are ready or not. When forced, the plant should bend a little and then snap. If it snaps too easily, then it’s too dry; if it doesn’t snap at all, it’s still too wet.
For Leo DeMarco, the conditions are pretty much the same, but he prefers to start with higher humidity and slowly brings it down over the twelve days when the crop takes to cure. By the end of the process, the humidity will be stuck at about 50-55%. Like Casey, he has also developed his own method of determining when the curing is done. For him, when the fan leaves start becoming brittle, he’s getting closer and closer to the sweet spot.