As cannabis consumers learn more about the compulsory labeling information for Washington’s recreational marijuana, the major metric for helping them to determine product freshness seems to be the harvest date. Similar to THC percentages, however, the harvest date is a handy piece of information that still needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
The first thing to note is that curing cannabis properly is extremely important for producing a superior smoke, and most producers cure flower for at least 1 month before their product hits the shelves. Some Washington cultivators even cure their their flower for 3 months or so before it gets packaged, so ask your budtender about a company’s curing and storing techniques before passing over cannabis that’s more than a few months old.
With regards to moisture level— which is likely the customer’s greatest concern when checking harvest dates, as “freshness” usually implies “less dry"— Washington actually mandates a maximum moisture level of 15% in order to keep the product weights more accurate. This state-mandated moisture limit is slightly drier than what veteran customers may be used to from medical dispensaries and craft black market growers.
Our experienced budtenders can attest that the freshness (or more specifically, the moisture level) relating to harvest dates can vary across the board; we’ve had buds harvested within a month that burned very smoothly, and we’ve seen flowers harvested within 1 month that were more dry than expected. Like any other factor that determines the quality of cannabis (grow medium, nutrients, etc), the overall freshness largely depends on the grower's curing process, their storage technique, and the packaging they use for their products (it needs to be airtight).
Another important point of consideration is seasonality. Washington was the first state with legalized marijuana to allow outdoor or greenhouse cultivation, and that only came after cannabis activists and environmentalists lobbied the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) to consider less energy-intensive means for production. Because of Washington’s cold climate and limited sunlight, outdoor cannabis is only planted and harvested once annually, making it all the more important for these outdoor producers to properly store their harvested buds so they’ll still be sellable throughout the year.
To that point, we carry flowers from the last outdoor harvest season (late October) that are still fresh due to the company’s impeccable curing, storage, and packaging techniques. Puffin Farm— an outdoor producer and staff favorite— harvests once a year and keeps their buds in high quality, airtight containers stored in a cold, dark environment. This process continues to cure the bud, and the flavor often seems to improve over time. Puffin packages the product once we place a new order, and they get it out to us immediately while it’s still in its prime.
So keep checking that harvest date, but more importantly, ask your budtender the right questions:
- Was this grown outdoors or indoors?
- Do you know how they cure and store it?
- Have you tried it yet?
- What flavor of ice cream did it make you crave? (optional)
- What’s good on Netflix right now? (optional)
Unfortunately the stash from this season’s harvest is running low due to the popularity of the product and its limited supply; expect to see a fresh batch of outdoor goodness in our shop late October or early November!
Article by Ramsey Doudar; an in-house marketing and social media strategist at Herbn Elements. Ramsey's perspective is influenced by 1.5 years of budtending, 5 years as a cannabis industry marketing professional, and 10+ years of being a super picky medical patient.