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What Affects Cannabis' Quality and Potency?

Potency tends to be a hot-button topic in the licit – and illicit – cannabis market, and it certainly is important. However, another vital part of cannabis is its quality: the terpenes it contains, its aroma, how it lasts over time, and more.


Here are some things that can alter cannabis’ quality and potency before, during, and after it reaches the consumer’s hands.


Drying Methods

Drying cannabis is defined as separating solids and liquids, typically through heat (Sharma et al., 2022). Drying typically occurs over two periods, a constant rate period and one or more falling rate periods (Sharma et al., 2022). The constant rate period happens when evaporation removes water from cannabis’ surface, and the water inside the plant can keep the surface saturated (Sharma et al., 2022). The falling rate period occurs when the material’s surface becomes unsaturated, and the interior water level becomes lower than the surface evaporation rate (Sharma et al., 2022). Essentially, this falling rate period, which can happen multiple times, reduces water content and heat flow (Sharma et al., 2022).


A cannabis plant, dried cannabis, and CBD concentrate.
Courtesy of CBD-infos-com

Currently, there are many different drying methods for cannabis, including hot air or hang drying, oven drying, microwave-assisted hot air drying, and freeze-drying. Some methods work better than others at preserving quality and potency, but each has pros and cons. Hot air/hang drying is the oldest drying method and can take up to 14 days to complete, but it leaves the opportunity for mold growth due to the potentially uncontrolled environment (Al Ubeed et al., 2022). Oven drying cannabis is faster than hang drying but has the potential to lower THC and CBD content (Lazarjani et al., 2021). Microwave-assisted hot air drying can produce higher volumes of high-quality cannabis in less time, but the intense heat can create an off-taste (Al Ubeed et al., 2022). Freeze-drying is often viewed as one of the better drying methods, as it preserves cannabis’ volatile compounds and acidic cannabinoid forms; however, it does require costly machinery and high energy outputs (Lazarjani et al., 2021).


Drying is a complex process that helps shape cannabis’ quality and potency. These different techniques allow for varied types of cannabis to hit the market, which better sets the cannabis industry up for versatility and success.


Packaging

What cannabis is packaged in is extremely important to maintain its quality and potency. Air oxidation can cause significant losses of cannabinoids (Fairbairn, Liebmann, and Rowan, 2022), which is why properly equipping cannabis packages with airtight seals is vital for preservation. These airtight seals likewise block mold and bacteria from entering (The Packaging Company, 2020), extending shelf life.


Storage Conditions

Daniel Reason, Megan Grainger, and Joseph Lane say that THC is best kept refrigerated, and CBD, which is more stable than THC, can be kept at room temperature (2022). UV exposure speeds up the decarboxylation process, which, when done in excess, can transform THC into CBN and decrease the bud’s potency (Reason, Grainger, and Lane, 2022).


Temperature gauge to signify the ideal storage conditions for cannabis
Courtesy of avantrend

Humidity can lead to mold growth, and dry air can cause brittle leaves that can be hard to inhale (Bowman, 2022). So, if, during the cultivation process, cannabis is left in less than optimal conditions, it can lose potency and quality. However, this is also true once cannabis has reached the consumer's hands – even the most perfectly curated product can degrade rapidly if left in sunlight, humidity, or the wrong temperature.


Steep Hill Illinois is Here to Help

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References:


Al Ubeed, H. M. S., Wills, R. B. H., & Chandrapala, J. (2022, March 6). Post-harvest operations to generate high-quality medicinal cannabis products: A systemic review. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). Retrieved December 15, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8911901/#B77-molecules-27-01719


Bowman, O. (2022, May 26). How to store weed to keep it fresh and potent, according to experts. Insider. Retrieved January 23, 2023, from https://www.insider.com/guides/home/how-to-store-weed


Fairbairn, J., Liebmann, J., & Rowan, M. (2011, April 4). The stability of cannabis and its preparations on storage. Academic.oup.com. Retrieved January 23, 2023, from https://academic.oup.com/jpp/article-abstract/28/1/1/6196321?redirectedFrom=fulltext&login=false


How packaging affects the quality of cannabis products. The Packaging Company. (2020, September 30). Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.thepackagingcompany.us/knowledge-sharing/how-packaging-affects-the-quality-of-cannabis-products/


Lazarjani, M. P., Young, O., Kebede, L., & Seyfoddin, A. (2021, July 19). Processing and extraction methods of medicinal cannabis: A narrative review - journal of cannabis research. BioMed Central. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-021-00087-9


Reason, D. A., Grainger, M. N. C., & Lane, J. R. (2022, September). Optimal Storage Conditions of Commercial Cannabis Crops. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.iecr.2c0207


Sharma, M., Sridhar, K., Usmani, Z., & Xia, X. (2022, August 3). Postharvest operations of cannabis and their effect on cannabinoid content: A Review. Bioengineering (Basel, Switzerland). Retrieved January 23, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9404914/



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