Cannabis is best understood as the precious flower it is, rather than the hardy, prickly “weed” that well-worn nickname suggests. As such, cannabis buds require deliberate, careful management every step of the way from seed, to jar, to the moment of consumption.
One often-overlooked step that can potentially ruin top-shelf bud or improve otherwise mediocre mids is the curing process.
As the final stage in the multiple-event marathon that is cannabis growing, curing is when all the hard work is preserved—or wasted. The unwary home-grower can have the best genetics and cultivation techniques at their disposal and end up with average or unusable bud if he or she neglects the curing process, which can take up to six weeks (or longer) depending on the desired final result.
And when legal cannabis is considered—particularly in states where craft cannabis from the legacy market has been replaced by the “cannabis industry”—the most frequent critique from cannabis connoisseurs is that the $75 eighths of beautiful-looking buds simply do not smoke, smell, or taste right. The reason why is an improper cure job.
Knowing how long to cure cannabis is vital information for every home grower to have. And though it may be too late to save some jars, if the store-bought cannabis you took home doesn’t smell or smoke quite right, you can try to rescue your weed and finish the cure job that the grower and distributor didn’t bother to finish.
Either way, it’s worthwhile for connoisseurs to become familiar with the basics of cannabis curing—and to be able to complete the process on their own.
What Is Curing in Cannabis Preservation?
Defined broadly, “curing” is a process in which a chemical reaction or physical action occurs.
For example, the polymers in the superglue you’ve used to patch together a favorite mug need to cure in order to fully harden; likewise, that pig’s leg needs to be cured with the help of salt, smoke, air and time to preserve and transform it into a highly prized and delicious cut of Iberico ham.
In the case of cannabis, the physical action in question is the removal of moisture.
Why Cure Cannabis?
There is a reason why freshly picked cannabis doesn’t provide much in the way of pleasure if you try to smoke it or vape it if you have a dual-use or dry-herb vaporizer—it’s too wet. With cannabis, the central goal of the curing process is to remove moisture.
While removing moisture does eventually allow the bud to be smoked, curing also helps preserve the bud so that mold can’t form. As well as ruining taste and appearance, moldy cannabis can be dangerous, as inhaling spores is a potential way to develop a lung infection.
Cannabis must be dried to be usable, but cannabis also must be properly cured for it to be truly top shelf. Curing cannabis also allows chlorophyll in the bud to break down, so that the final smoke is smoother and less “green,” aka less like freshly cut grass or hay, and more like the full bouquet of flavorful terpenes.
Advanced cannabis curers can also (to a degree) custom-tune their cannabinoid content with proper and careful curing, as aging cannabis in the proper conditions will allow THC to carefully “degrade” (the proper word, even if it invokes negative connotations) into cannabinol (CBN) and other cannabinoids. And if you want to go next-level, the bud’s array of cannabinoids and terpenes can be further explored with DaVinci’s Smart Paths temperature settings.
How Long to Cure Your Home-Grown Cannabis
If you’ve just completed a harvest, your fresh-cut cannabis needs to dry before it can be completely trimmed and stored. Traditional growers hang branches of their crop (or the entire plant) from lines; some industrial growers choose to place cut branches or buds on trays or screens.
Either way, you’ll need to find an area that’s as climate-controlled as possible with good air circulation. Too much humidity will promote mold; too much heat and aridity will dehydrate the plant too quickly and destroy the terpenes.
Use a simple digital device that monitors both temperature and humidity. The late, legendary strain hunter Franco Loja and the masters at EdRosenthal.com recommend you find an area that’s around 68 degrees Fahrenheit and at 55 percent humidity, though some commercial growers say 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and a range of 45 to 60 percent humidity works fine.
Leave the buds on their branches and hang them, with enough room in between for air to circulate, for about three days. After three days, about 30 to 40 percent of the moisture will be gone.
Loja’s technique was to cool the room down another few degrees, to about 64, to slow the drying process further. In another 10 to 14 days, the cannabis will be dry enough to trim—but not yet dry enough to smoke, unless you want a bitter, harsh smoke.
After this, what happens next depends on the source material.
If the buds are mid-grade, you might not need to bother with a long, painstaking curing process. If what you have is top-shelf, you may find value in keeping your cannabis stored in an airtight container, like a mason jar, in a dark room kept at 64 degrees and about 50 percent humidity, for another one to two months. During this time, check frequently, about once a day. If you notice a moldy, musty smell, open the container and allow the buds to dry further.
How to Cure Improperly Prepared Store-Bought Cannabis
Poorly cured cannabis is more common than most dispensary customers (and certainly dispensary budtenders, owners and investors) would like to admit. As EdRosenthanal.com notes: “Most commercial growers do not cure their crop; they just dry it and sell it.”
One very basic reason why is that since it contains more moisture, improperly cured cannabis is heavier. Thus, a pound of cured cannabis actually might be 1.1 pounds of not-yet-fully-cured cannabis. In a game of tiny margins, 10 percent is a big deal.
How to Tell If Your Store-Bought Bud Is Poorly Cured
Remember that cured bud is dried bud. If the buds don’t break up as easily as they should, if they stretch and tear rather than crumble—or if they just feel wet, like closer to a fresh plant than a dried flower—they’re probably not cured. Smoke from bud like this might feel heavy on your lungs; it might be harsher, and greener.
While home-finished cannabis won’t ever be quite as good as bud where the growers finished the cure job properly, you can try to rescue a bag or jar of half-cured bud at home while obeying some of the principles above. If the bud is too wet, remove some of the moisture.
You can unscrew the jar lid or pop open the bag and let some moisture escape, monitoring progress every few hours. Try to find an area that’s climate controlled—out of direct sunlight and out of overly wet or dry conditions. If you’re dealing with a large amount, transfer to another container, like a long, shallow plastic bin. Check back every day until the buds develop the flavor and taste you’re seeking.
The curing process may seem like a waste of time, but it’s time and effort that stand between good cannabis and great cannabis—and a lack of both can turn great cannabis into compost. And what all connoisseurs know is the value of curing.