Views From The Leaf

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Processing and Storing Cannabis

March 8, 2021

Processing Plant

Cannabis growers have as many different techniques for processing the plant as the plant has cultivars. Every farmer swears by his or her method, and they all cover common ground. Cannabis should be dried and cured so that it retains enough moisture to enjoy but is dry enough to prevent mold. Proper curing, which is dependent on the plant’s genetics and environment, enhances and preserves the plant’s aroma, flavor, and potency and removes chlorophyll. (Chlorophyll gives cannabis the strong “green” taste that turns many people off but also provides valuable nutrients when ingested.)

As a general rule, cannabis plants are ready to harvest when the trichomes (sticky resin glands on the flowers) turn cloudy white or light amber and the leaves start fading and take on autumn hues (a natural process called senescence.) Plants can be harvested in stages, from the top down, so that less mature flowers on the lower part of the plant can have an extra week or so in the sun. Cannabis should be harvested in the morning because certain terpenes evaporate in heat as the day warms up.

Once the plants are harvested, the fan leaves are removed for juicing, cooking, composting, or mulching. (Once considered a waste product, these leaves are finally getting appreciation for their non-psychoactive health benefits.) The plants or individual branches are hung upside down on clotheslines or spread out on a screen to dry for four to ten days, depending on the climate and intended use.

For the smoothest flavor, cannabis should be dried as slowly as possible in a sixty to seventy degree room (moisture and warmth encourage mold) with good airflow that’s not blowing directly on the plants. Fans, heaters, and dehumidifiers are sometimes necessary to maintain temperature and humidity. For small harvests, buckets of water or wet towels in the drying room can be enough to keep up the humidity.

When the stems are almost hard enough to snap off but the flowers are not yet crumbly, the plants are ready to trim and cure. Trimming is the process of snipping off the small sugar leaves surrounding the flowers, which can be saved and used for cooking and tinctures. Trimming carves out the flowers’ nectar, where most of the sticky trichomes, rich with cannabinoids, reside.

Cutting slowly allows the sugar in cannabis flowers to break down and draws moisture to the plant’s surface, preventing mold growth. The most common curing method calls for placing the flowers – once they’ve stabilized at 58 to 63 percent relative humidity (depending on the plant’s genetics and environment) – in an airtight jar and placing it in a cool, dark place for one to six months. Once a day for the first week, the jar is opened to check moisture levels and rotate the flowers. It’s cracked open once a week or so after that until the moisture level is around 56 to 60 percent, optimal for long term storage (relative, again, to genetics and environment.)

The following information is presented for educational purposes only. Summit Releaf distributes this information to provide an understanding of the potential benefits of medical marijuana for patients living with one of the approved Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program qualifying conditions for an Ohio marijuana card. Links to third party websites do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations by Summit Releaf and none should be inferred.

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