Once upon a time, weed was weed. It came in a plastic bag from a friend of a friend, and you probably didn’t get a whole lot of info on strain, potency, or potential contamination with your purchase. Today, you can browse thousands of strains for their specific aromas, flavors, and effects; purchase cannabis in any form; even curate your own personal selection of cannabis, keeping certain types on hand for when friends stop by unexpectedly or a specific event calls for specific effects.
The problem with these possibilities? It’s hard to keep your stash fresh. Whether you splurge on a strain meant only for special occasions, or keep a library of indicas, sativas, and hybrids on hand for different times of day, your cannabis can still be degraded over time unless you take charge of its storage by managing humidity.
Most cannabis consumers know that humidity affects their stash; they’re just not sure exactly how. Relative humidity, or RH, represents the amount of moisture in the air relative to the amount of moisture the air is physically capable of holding at that temperature. It can affect everything from the smoothness of a toke to the effectiveness of cannabis in treating a given medical condition.
Maintaining the perfect RH is a delicate balancing act, with real-world implications for recreational and medical cannabis consumers alike. The sections below address specific impacts of humidity on cannabis, and what they ultimately mean for consumers of all kinds.
Aromas and flavors of cannabis are tied up in terpenes, the fragrant essential oils that give strains their signature tastes and scents as they moderate the effects you feel from any given variety of cannabis. They’re what give Agent Orange its signature citrus scent, lend floral flavor characteristics to Lavender, and contribute to the couch-lock effects associated with White Widow.
Over time, the cannabis trichomes that house those precious terpenes and cannabinoids will break down if your humidity levels are too low. For the consumer, this means you’ll no longer get an overwhelming whiff of oranges from a jar of Tangie, or taste the rich, juicy notes that give Blackberry Kush its name. Losing terpenes can take away from the medical benefits experienced by patients, too; myrcene, for instance, is considered partially responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects attributed to strains like Himalayan Gold, and losing those terpenes can mean losing those positives.
While an overly dry environment will degrade the precious active ingredients in cannabis, an overly moist environment invites an array of scourges into your stash. Mold and bacteria, for instance, often grow on cannabis under certain conditions, especially when RH is too high (generally considered to be over 65%).
Not only can contamination produce bad odors and flavors for the casual consumer, contaminants are particularly problematic for individuals using cannabis as medicine, especially when their immune systems are already compromised by their condition. For example, HIV/AIDS and cancer patients are especially prone to conditions such as aspergillosis, a potentially fatal lung disease, which can result from ingestion of cannabis molds such as Aspergillus. The ability to control humidity means the ability to guard against these types of contamination-born diseases.
Traditionally, cannabis consumers have been told to stay within the range of 59% to 63% relative humidity (RH) to keep their cannabis from losing weight, potency, and precious cannabinoids while protecting against molds and mildew. Lately though, some consumers have favored a slightly drier environment, with an RH as low as 54%. It all depends on your personal preferences and how long you intend to hold onto a given strain.
The secret to keeping your stash fresh and fungus-free? Adaptive humidity control packets like Integra BOOST, which absorb excess moisture when humidity is too high and release it again when RH is too low. To learn more about Integra products, visit the company’s website.
References: The Cannabis Encyclopedia (Jorge Cervantes); Cannabis potency and contamination: a review of the literature (McLaren et al., 2008).