Freeze drying is mostly known for its food preservation uses. But one of the other major advantages of using this process is its ability to preserve pharmaceuticals — freeze drying cannabis, for instance.
Freeze-dried cannabis is one product that has shown continuous growth over the past few years. In fact, the global legal marijuana market was valued at $16.7 billion in 2022 and it is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25.4% by 2030 [*].
With so much growth expected, preservation methods are also on the rise. Keeping cannabis fresh is important for its effectiveness when used. There are several ways of doing this, but here we’ll focus on how freeze drying works and how it may benefit cannabis users.
Can You Freeze Dry Cannabis?
Yes. As mentioned, freeze drying isn’t limited to fruits, vegetables, and meats. It is also a great way to keep cannabis and hemp at the height of their freshness for longer periods.
Stages for Freeze Drying Cannabis
The freeze drying process occurs over three stages, namely: freezing, primary drying, and secondary drying.
The freezing phase is the most crucial step in this process. Rapid freezing down to temperatures below -40°F is used to eliminate the formation of large ice crystals since they can deteriorate the final product quality.
After freezing is the drying phase, where heat is applied for ice to sublimate (turn from solid ice into vapor), removing about 95% of the moisture content. The cannabis is then exposed to slightly higher temperatures to remove the remaining water out of the buds.
Similar to other freeze-dried products, freeze-dried marijuana typically contains between 1% to 4% moisture. Freeze drying pharmaceuticals this way ensures product integrity, less damage, and easier transportation.
Benefits of Freeze-Dried Cannabis
While many people may be more accustomed to fresh marijuana or hemp, there are many benefits to having freeze-dried cannabis.
- Preservation – One of the main reasons freeze-dried weed is growing in popularity is because it retains its cannabinoids and terpenes, including THC and CBD compared to other drying methods. It also prevents oxidation through controlled moisture removal, which is essential to the stabilization and processing of live biomass.
- Sanitary – Freeze drying offers a more sanitary option for processing marijuana. Since testing standards and regulatory policies are becoming more specific, it is important to manage oversights that can occur in many cannabis production sites. Freeze drying allows for the mitigation of contamination between the product and unnecessary exposures.
- Protection – Freeze drying helps minimize oxidation and eliminates the risk of mold and mildew growth, which is a risk of hang drying cannabis flowers in the traditional way.
- Potency and added value. Traditionally dried and cured cannabis products are not as potent as freeze dried equivalents, which are also superior in quality. This also allows for higher retail price points for better products, contributing to market growth.
How Long Does Freeze-Dried Cannabis Last?
Freeze-dried cannabis can last quite a long time, but how long depends on how it is stored. If stored in polybags, they can last anywhere from six months to three years. However, storing them in cans will extend the shelf life to 25 years or even longer.
What About Freeze Drying Hemp?
Freeze drying hemp is also possible. The main difference between hemp and marijuana is the psychoactive component present in each. Hemp contains about 0.3% THC or even less, meaning that freeze drying hemp-derived products may not produce the same effects as freeze drying weed.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many questions regarding cannabis, so naturally there are also various inquiries on the nature of freeze-dried cannabis. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions answered:
Can you smoke freeze-dried cannabis?
Yes, you can smoke freeze-dried weed or cannabis. Rehydration is not necessary to have smokable flowers.
Can you use regular freeze drying machines for cannabis?
Regular commercial freeze drying machines can definitely be used for cannabis, but industrial grade freeez dryers can produce higher quality products.
What happens if you freeze dry cannabis?
When cannabis is freeze-dried, every bit of the strain is preserved without the excess moisture. You can get the full bud without it being deformed or shrinking. Freeze drying ensures that the aromas are intact and that the product is at full potency.
The Bottom Line
Freeze drying provides cannabis producers with a valuable way of extending the product’s shelf life, improving its overall quality, and contributing to a growing market. Just like other pharmaceutical substances, potency, effectiveness, and overall original constitution are preserved. This makes it easy to store, transport, and consume.
Cannabis is just one of the many pharmaceuticals that can be freeze-dried. For your other freeze drying needs, contact us at Empire Freezing & Drying by calling 973-649-9800 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.