Cannabis Shelf Life Explained

Cannabis consumers are mindful about their purchasing choices and desire high quality products and manufacturer transparency. Shelf-life, degradation, shelf stability and other similar studies, while not currently required, are an effective way for producers to ensure product validity and consumer safety.

Aurum Labs can provide a free 30-minute consultation to design a study that is right for your cannabis products or we can refer you to Allay Consulting if their services would better suit your needs.

Below is a brief introduction to the nuances of these different studies. Each of them offer unique insights and can help your company provide a quality product over time.


What is a Shelf-Life Study?

The shelf life of a product is the period of time that a product remains safe and desirable for the consumer before it has been opened. The intention is to confirm the length of time a product retains its quality under certain storage conditions. A product should remain safe for consumers; retain desired sensory, chemical, physical, and flavor characteristics; and comply with any label declarations such as cannabinoid potency. A shelf life study can determine the expiration date of your product. Many factors influence the shelf-life of a product. Composition factors during formulation, such as pH and water activity. As well as environmental factors such as production, storage, and distribution of the final product.


What is a “Use By” Date?

Another version of a shelf life study can determine how long a product is good after opening and stored at certain conditions. It is referred to as a “Use By” or “Best By” study. We have all seen products with labels such as: “Refrigerate After Opening” and “Use Within 2 Weeks of Opening”.


What is a Cannabinoid Degradation Study?

Unlike a shelf life study, a cannabinoid degradation study can be performed just to determine potency degradation over time. This information can be given to retailers and consumers to know how long cannabinoid levels will be accurate to the product label. Think of this as an expiration date but only for cannabinoid potency. This type of study does not determine if your product is safe to consume or still retains desired sensory characteristics.


How Do Cannabinoids Degrade Over Time?

Once a cannabis plant has been harvested, the cannabinoids begin to degrade. The plant is no longer receiving nutrients from the soil or root system, and the cannabinoid biosynthetic pathways are interrupted, thus creating a fixed timeline for peak freshness and potency.

Concentrating cannabis into a carrier oil is a common extraction technique. However, over time, both cannabinoids and carrier oils also begin to degrade. Environmental factors such as temperature, relative humidity, ambient oxygen and Ultraviolet light exposure attribute to both cannabinoid and carrier oil degradation.


What is a Shelf Stability Study?

Shelf stability is different from shelf life. A shelf stability study is applicable to consumable products stored at room temperature that are potentially hazardous (ie: beverages, oils, tinctures, high water activity baked goods, dairy, etc.). If you plan to produce and sell such products, you may be required to get shelf stability approval. Some major predictors of shelf stability are pH, water activity, and ensuring adequate temperature is reached during cannabinoid oil processing/decarboxylation. The approval process is a 3rd party audit of the production method that verifies steps were taken to ensure microbial contaminants are eradicated.

For example, in Denver county to get your product approved, the Denver Department of Environmental Health requires verification that your product is being treated through a heat step or refrigeration and that in the course of production at least two steps were taken to eliminate Clostridium botulinum spores, a deadly neurotoxin producing bacteria. You cannot sell a cannabis product without certifying that the product has adequate procedures in place to consider it shelf stable. The process is complicated, time consuming and can be frustrating. The consultants at Allay Consulting have completed hundreds of these approvals and are willing to discuss if this is a requirement for your products.


Aurum Labs:

Aurum Labs is an ISO 17025 and state certified cannabis testing laboratory located in southwest Colorado. Founded in 2014, Aurum Labs was one of the very first cannabis testing labs in Colorado and has been a pioneer in the industry ever since. We provide fast, accurate and affordable results and offer a tailored customer experience, so your products get the attention they deserve. Customers can get timely testing of their plants and products as well as clear, concise Certificates of Analysis (COAs) with QR codes for validity and shareability. We can test your cannabis and cannabis products for potency, homogeneity, microbial contaminates, residual solvents, pesticides, terpenes, mycotoxins, heavy metals, and more! We can also provide tailored testing and specialized consulting, designed to suit your individual needs. Additional services include sample pick-up, site visits, consulting services, R&D, and shelf life studies, degradation studies, and more. Aurum Labs adheres to worldwide standards and scientific best practices and we are committed to our clients and offer solutions to improve the efficiency of their business from seed to sale.


Allay Consulting:

Allay Consulting is comprised of four former cannabis regulators. We worked for a local public health authority with a focus on cannabis safety. Our hands-on regulatory experience (collectively over 22 years experience) provides lessons learned for our marijuana and hemp clients. With offices in Colorado and Oregon, Allay Cannabis Consulting guides companies through the hazards of the budding cannabis industry by navigating compliance pitfalls, ensuring best practices, and ultimately making sure the product you create ends up in stores, and not disposed of.  With expertise from seed to sale including: specific state cannabis regulations, FDA, cGMP, OSHA, ISO, Fire and licensing assistance. As rules and standards of the industry continue to evolve, Allay Cannabis Consulting can save you from the headache of trying to keep up, enabling you to focus on the bigger picture.



Phimolsiripol, Y., & Suppakul, P. (2016). Techniques in Shelf Life Evaluation of Food Products. Retrieved from

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