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The Shelf Life of Cannabis Edibles

While most customers buy cannabis edibles with the intention to consume them right away, sometimes those edibles can end up like the long-forgotten yogurt at the back of the fridge. Once discovered (or perhaps already eaten), questions may arise; are these still good? Will they still work? Will they make me sick? Unlike that long-forgotten yogurt, it can be a little trickier to know if it’s safe to eat that rediscovered cannabis edible.

“The general rule of thumb is that cannabis edibles have shelf lives similar to their non-cannabis counterparts,” explains Scott Riefler, Chief Science Officer at SōRSE Technology. “Edible expiration dates are more about the food platform than the cannabinoids themselves. When it comes to food safety, THC and other cannabinoids are very stable.”

Blank White Aluminum Beer or Soda Can

Basically, cannabis edibles spoil just like any other food item, so it’s important to read the label before eating them. Riefler suggests that both retailer and customer be mindful of these three dates:

  • Expiration date: the date after which a food product should not be sold or consumed because of an expected decline in quality or effectiveness. This date is a food safety issue.
  • Best by date: the time frame where all ingredients and product attributes will be at their best. Foods can be safely consumed well past this date.
  • Sell by date: this date represents the last date this item should be purchased.

When it comes to how cannabis edibles go bad, Riefler explains that exposure to oxygen contributes to the degradation of both THC and the food platform.

“Cannabis edibles like gummies, lozenges and lollipops have some of the longest shelf lives,” he notes. “The availability of oxygen in the interior of those items is much less than that in a baked good or beverage. That said, consumers should be mindful of proper storage, like refrigeration. Properly storing your cannabis edibles maintains their quality and keeps their shelf life.”

When determining if a cannabis edible is safe to eat, Riefler suggests looking at the integrity of the edible and its packaging.

“With beverages, look for signs of separation and layering. With confections, make sure the protective wraps are intact,” he explains. “You want to look for signs of spoilage, such as mold. Does it smell off? Does it taste funny? If it does, you shouldn’t eat it.”

However, let’s say you don’t read the label and ignore the red flags and eat a cannabis edible well past its expiration date. What happens?

Riefler reassures it won’t send you on a crazy trip. In fact, the edible likely won’t even give you a high, as the THC and cannabinoids will have lost their potency from sitting too long. This is the case for cannabis in flower, extract, and edible forms.

“In an extreme case, you will likely experience an upset stomach related to the food platform,” Riefler says. “If this happens, drinking a lot of water is always a good way to flush out your system. However, you may want to contact your physician who can counsel you on the best course of action.”

When discussing cannabis edibles, we’re often focused on topics like how much to eat, how long to wait, and what to expect from the high. During the pandemic, more people are staying home and stocking up. If you have customers who are stocking up on their favourite cannabis edibles, it’s important to advise them to be mindful of their labels, shelf life, and how to store them properly.

“It’s also important to educate ourselves and consumers about the method of incorporating cannabinoids into edibles. How cannabinoids are presented determines the experience,” Riefler says. “Producers like SōRSE use enrobed or protected systems that provide better efficacy and reliability. It’s better than simply adding cannabinoids in oil form to the edible.”

Whatever the food product, it’s best to consume it fresh. Check your labels, find those ‘Best by’ dates, and make sure your edibles are stored properly. If that long-forgotten edible at the back of the fridge still looks good, smells good, and hasn’t expired, you’re good to go.