Growing weed is one thing, but preparing it for consumption is another. If you’re clipping buds and dropping them straight into your bowl, you’re missing out on the potency and full spectrum of benefits found in marijuana flowers. That’s why growers, after months of waiting, wait just a bit more to ensure their crops are properly dried and cured before storing or partaking. Here’s what you need to know.

Drying

Drying is simply that: removing the water content from the plant. It’s not unlike having a dryer for fruits and veggies to turn them into chips or portable snacks. Drying is an important component for preparing marijuana, especially for growers, because that moisture can turn to mold pretty quickly otherwise. Some large growers may hang up entire plants to dry, but the best method is to clip just the buds and trim them down so they dry faster. The trimmings can be used for edibles or hash if you like.

Air drying is safe and effective, and leaving buds on the branches makes it easy to just hang them on a line of string — like drying clothes before drying machines were made. Keep in mind that airflow is key, so hang them a little apart from one another. The buds shouldn’t be touching each other to allow for even drying.

If you’ve ever air-dried a sweater, you may know there’s a screen raised off the table you place the sweater on so air can flow through it, drying it completely. You can also do this with your buds, again placing them so they’re not touching. It may cause a little flat spot on the bud, but it won’t affect the potency or anything else. Be careful to put them in a place where they won’t be disturbed (hello, pets!) because if they’re jostled the trichomes could break off, reducing potency.

Also, keep the relative humidity low to prevent mold from growing on them. Keep the air flowing and relative humidity around 50% and you should be fine. Depending on the humidity and relative moistness of the buds, this process could take a few days or a couple of weeks.

Curing

While drying, the curing process is also going on. That’s why it’s a good idea not to try and accelerate drying with heat. Yes, they’ll dry faster, but you’ll be left with a harsher smoke, lower potency or a less enjoyable profile of compounds (terpenes, cannabinoids, etc.). If you allow nature to take its course, the carbohydrates and chlorophyll in the plants will break down into simpler compounds and provide a better smoke. The biggest reason to spend time curing properly is that your smoke will be more potent as non-psychoactive compounds will convert to THC.

What you need to know about curing is that this is sort of the “magic time” for terpenes, which give your buds their distinct aroma. As the Beastie Boys say, “slow and low” is the tempo for curing. That is, terpenes can degrade quickly in warm temperature, so cool drying is key to aromatic buds. This also helps eliminate the minerals and sugars that are byproducts of chlorophyll breaking down. Those compounds can cause smoke to be harsher, so if you’re wanting bigger pulls from your smoke the smoothness will be enhanced by giving the time needed to cure this stuff out properly.  

So how do you cure buds versus just drying? If you haven’t already trimmed them down, now’s the time (just after drying). Separate them from the branches, but be careful not to break off the trichomes. Place them in airtight containers — typically non-reactive ones like glass or ceramic as plastic can sometimes interact with the terpenes — and put them in a cool, dark spot. If you didn’t over-dry the cannabis they’ll rehydrate just a little bit and won’t be as brittle as just after drying.

Each day, open the containers a couple of times to let fresh oxygen in (this helps chemical conversions to occur). If you smell ammonia then you didn’t properly dry them out and you could wind up with moldy buds! If this happens, go back to drying them in the air for a bit and hope for the best. You’ll only need to open the containers a few times a day for about a week. After that, you can open them once every 2-3 days for the next month. Some say you can cure in as little as two weeks, but the longer you practice this regimen the more chemical conversions to all the “good stuff” you want in your buds will occur. Some strains even peak around 6 months, but 1-2 months is typical. Yes, that’s a while to wait on your goodies, but it’s very much worth the effort.

Proper curing makes your final product last longer in storage, too. Once the process is done, you should store buds in an airtight container. Sealing the containers tight prevents important terpenes from evaporating out, which can change the profile of the strain you spent so much effort growing. Jars are ideal, making sure to “burp” the jar lid when you seal it to create the best possible airtight situation. It can be hard waiting this last little bit to enjoy your harvest, but it is absolutely worth it. Why do you think people pay so much for aged alcohol? Not that you should toss these in a whiskey barrel, but the idea is the same: Curing takes time and imparts flavor and increases potency. Now that you know, you’ll enjoy better smoke longer by just taking a little extra time to finish the process properly.