Growing Tips from the 101
Part X – Curing, Storing and Distributing Marijuana
Make It All Go Away
Let me first start by saying…..The sale and distribution of cannabis without a license to do so from a state that has legalized marijuana is against the law. The following information and related photos/videos are for educational purposes only. Now, with that being said…let’s move on.
At this point in our cannabis journey, you are going to be surrounded by the usable and unusable parts of the cannabis plant. The marijuana smell will be the most intense. Post-harvest and after trimming the odor of weed will invade your surroundings and there will be quite a bit of plant stems and leaves to get rid of. In states where weed is still illegal, it will be far more vital to mask the smell and more difficult to discard of unusable plant material. In states where weed is legal harvest brings friends, family and co-workers together for hard work, long talks and great feasts just like when Midwest farmers come together for their fall harvest.
In this installment of our “Know Before You Grow” series, we will address the mess and discuss how to make it all go away. Just like harvesting plants at different times affects the trichomes and the high, sealing up marijuana at different points during the curing process will also affect quality and potency. Different kinds of concentrates, extracts, and treats can be made out of all that trim but the trichomes are fragile right after trimming so we need to get that trim on the drying racks or into the freezer as soon as possible. Although both your buds and your trim are at their most fragile time right now you should be having a ball relishing in either your first or yet another successful harvest. Let’s get started!
- Dry trimming & drying
- The freezer is your friend
- Curing & sealing
- Disposing of evidence
- When to weigh
- Packaging and labeling
- Scissor hash
- Resetting the room
- Cleaning & updating
- Notes & collaboration
- New ladies take the stage
- Dry trimming and drying – In our previous installment we gave instruction on wet trimming your weed. Either very small plants or very large crops may provoke a grower to dry trim their plants. In the wet trimming process, we trim our buds immediately after harvesting the plant…the buds are de-fanned, trimmed and hung to dry. After a couple days of hanging upside down the buds are de-stemmed and dried a little further then sealed up. Dry trimming requires the entire plant to be hung upside down until dry then the trimming and de-stemming processes happen simultaneously. Where space does not allow the entire plant to be hung it may be separated by pulling the branches from the stalk and hanging the branches on strings like you would hand trimmed buds. After a few days the leaves will shrivel and dry around the buds, the plant will shrink in size and the stems will lose their flexibility. Do not let the plant hang so long that the stems break in half when bent. Just as with wet trimming drying is complete when the stems snap but do not break…when bent in half the stems should crease like an aluminum or cardboard tube would if bent. The buds should feel crispy and the big fan leaves should be shriveled up, stiff and dry. When you pull a fan leaf away from the buds it should stay stiff and break off in one piece. If your leaves are stiff…your stems snap and crease….and your buds are crispy to the touch your weed is ready to trim. If your leaves crumble….your stems break in two when bent…and your buds are not only crispy but stiff you probably went way too far on drying time. If your leaves are limp and soft….your stems still bend before creasing…and your buds are spongy and soft you still have a way to go as your weed is not yet dried. Once your leaves, stems and buds all give the proper indicators we are ready to dry trim. At this point remove your plant from the hangers in workable pieces. When dry trimming the trichomes are very fragile and break off easy so we recommend using a kief tray or a clean flat surface so you can save all the kief that will fall off during the trimming process. Pull off the fan leaves and discard, trim away the sugar leaves with scissors and then continue right into the de-stemming process once the buds are shaped to your preference. The drying time takes 5-8 days. If you wet trim the buds will hang for a couple days before being de-stemmed then dry a couple more days before being sealed. If you dry trim the plant will hang for a few days before being completely trimmed and de-stemmed all at once then the buds will dry a day or two more before being sealed.
- The freezer is your friend — If you plan on growing any more than two large plants you will most likely need additional freezer space. If you achieve ¾ pound out of 2 large plants and keep all the trim this much trim will occupy most of the space in a typical residential freezer. If you repeat the grow every 8-10 weeks you will start to build up a surplus of trim. Trim will keep in a freezer for a very long time and many concentrates/extractions such as ice wax or bubble hash require that the cannabis be frozen for the process. Immediately after trimming we put our trim into turkey bags, we leave the bags open and airy until full. We do dot seal the bags until they are ready to go into the freezer. The trichomes are fragile and very active right after trimming and decomposition of the plant matter causes “sweating” inside the bag. Trim will stay fresh in a freezer for over 6 months with no problem. If you wish to use trim for something requiring dry trim like RSO (Rick Simpson Oil) or cannabutter take the needed amount out of the fridge and dry it out on a screen or drying rack. If you wish to use your trim for something like bubble hash it can go from the freezer directly into the mixing pot as the trim must be frozen for this and other processes. There are some concentrates like bubble hash and ice wax that are best stored in the freezer as well.
- Curing and sealing – Of course pulling your weed off the hangers too soon or too late will affect your buds a bit. But as long as your drying room is dark, below 70 degrees temp and below 65% humidity, any mistakes made regarding drying time can be easily fixed with curing. However, mistakes made during the curing and sealing processes can be irreparable. Curing time for us is rarely longer than overnight. Whether we dry or wet trim the buds are put into plastic totes with sealable tops after destemming. We will put the top on the totes lightly but not sealed. Before going to bed that night we will give the buds a shake in the tote and either at that time or when we get up the next morning we will seal the top on the tote. We will leave the buds in the tote for a few more hours then weigh it and seal it up in bags or jars. The most common mistake made with curing and sealing is not sealing the cannabis once it is cured. Plastic bags or canning jars is not enough. If you are going to use bags…they need to be turkey bags tied and sealed. If you are going to use jars…they need to be sealed jars. Whether using bags or jars we use a basic food sealer to lock in the curing. Even if you “nailed it” when it comes to drying and curing you are “killing it” (and not in a good way) if any air whatsoever can get into your container. If even the smallest amount of air gets into your jar or bag the curing process continues and your weed will eventually dry out. It will breathe enough when you open it to use or smoke some. The rest of the time…keep it sealed up.
- Disposing of the Evidence – So now your buds are all sealed up, your trim is in the freezer and you have a bit of a mess to clean up. If you grew your plants in anything over a five-gallon pot you have some “stalky” stalks, some pretty big root balls, a bunch of soil and a pile of fan leaves to get rid of. Even in states where weed is legal the stigma of marijuana is very real. Some clients pay to have their crop trimmed as dealing with the mess can be overwhelming. In states where weed is illegal, there is both stigma and legalities to consider before even attempting to grow marijuana. When harvesting in areas where weed is illegal or stigma is severe the last thing you need is the trash collector or a nosy neighbor stumbling across your fan leaves or stems. Do not try to re-use the soil as any contaminants in it are not worth the half-assed nourishment left. Spread the soil around yard plants or landscaping in your yard. If you are using perlite, coco, coir or any kind of aeriation soil you can spread it right into your lawn. It will help the grass and look like a “normal” occurrence to neighbors. There are many that believe there is all kinds of goodness in the root balls and use them as well…we do not. We tried to dry one out and grind it into something we could use for teas and pastes but we lost interest and now just use our root balls for kindling. We dry both our root balls and all our stalks & stems. After every harvest or two, we have a bonfire at the beach and pay homage to the weed gods. If you have enough property for barnyard animals they love to eat the fan leaves. For years it was a little joke amongst our family and friends that we could always spot the weed growers by the goats…..nothing will get rid of weed leaves, stems and stalks better than a couple goats. You can bag up your leaves stalks and stems and burn in a fire pit either in a backyard or a camping/recreational area. Keep in mind that your weed stalks and stems will emit a strong smell of marijuana while they dry and decay. No one will notice the smell of dry stems burning in a campfire but they will notice the smell of those same stems drying. If you are in a scenario that means severe stigma or punishment if your weed project is discovered this is the most crucial time. Seal up your drying/curing area and plan your harvest/trimming days carefully. Whether you burn it, mulch it or drive it to a remote hillside or ditch somewhere….get rid of those stems and fan leaves quick. It would be a shame if you spent three months growing this weed, made it through the smell of flowering and then were discovered because someone got a whiff of your throwaways. Buds are cured then sealed, trim goes in the freezer…..burn, mulch or relocate everything else.
- When to weigh cured cannabis – If dried correctly cannabis can be weighed right after it is destemmed. Whether we are wet trimming then destemming indoor cannabis or dry trimming an outdoor crop we weigh the marijuana right after we destem the buds. We will weigh it again when we bag or jar the buds. If the cannabis is commercial or dispensary cannabis we put 455 grams into our 1 pound (453.5 gram) bags. Other than padding 1 pound bags with an extra gram we have never seen any weight discrepancies or weight loss due to moisture in any cannabis weighed after destemming.
- Packaging and labeling — Packaging and labeling are just as important for an amateur grower at home as they are for a commercial facility in any one of the weed-legal states. Strains, nutrients and soils pretty much look the same and only expert eyes can tell them apart. Label everything….label everything associated with your plants and label your plants from seed to sealed product. At the time of this grow series and articles associated with it, we live in Oregon where weed is legal both medically and recreationally. To work in the commercial weed industry management and above must attend two required classes. One deals with compliance and the tracking of cannabis while the other class is dedicated solely to packaging and labeling…it’s that important. Whether you are just trying to be able to tell your strains apart or operating a dispensary in a weed-legal state labeling is paramount to your operation. Just as a dispensary owner has to label everything and adjust inventory you must label everything and adjust those labels as you transplant plants or consume your product. Imagine if you transplanted 4 plants and did not keep track of or change the labels at the time of the transplant. Those plants would take off in their new pots and even days later you will not know which is which. Imagine how many plants or stashes have been mislabeled or renamed by stoners over the decades. Both the cannabis culture that pioneered legalization and the governing bodies that execute regulation agree wholeheartedly that strict labeling is key in returning to and maintaining strain purity along with reliability of the strain’s identity. Whether you are in your own home with masking tape and a felt pen or in a coastal dispensary using the MMJ system and Dymo labels……be thorough, be precise and be accurate as to the identity, timeline and quantity of your plant or product.
- Scissor Hash — I truly believe scissor hash is one of the greatest gifts from ganja. Just as a midwest farmer marks the end of corn harvest by cleaning up the combine and smokin’ a cigar…..Pac Northwest growers mark the end of their harvest by cleaning up the scissors and smokin’ some hash. It doesn’t matter if you are working with 8-inch tall plants and wet trimming with tiny sewing scissors or taking down huge outdoor plants and dry trimming with 10-inch shears…the best of your smoke and the essence of your plant is on the blades of your trimmers. While trimming your buds the stickiest and most perfect of your plants’ trichomes will stick to your fingers and the blades of your scissors. This wonderful resin or live culture can be peeled off fingers and gloves. The best of this resin is scraped off the blades of the trimmers. You can put it in a rig and dab it, you can hit it in a pen or anything that will burn BHO & rosin or you can stick in a pipe or joint and spark it up with a lighter….it’s an incredible post-harvest gift from your ladies.
- Distribution – Some weed-legal states make it easy for medical card holders to sell overages. Some only allow patient to medical dispensary sales and some will allow patient to recreational dispensary sales. Some states allow patient to patient transactions while others do not. The number of plants you can grow varies from state to state and the amount of cured weed you can have on you at any given time varies from state to state as well. But make no mistake….if you want to sell your weed you a need a card in your hand from a weed-legal state allowing you to do it. You either need a medical marijuana card designating you as a patient, caregiver or grower in that state’s medical marijuana program or you need a very expensive recreational grow permit in a recreationally legal state. If you are not a licensed recreational or medical grower or a card holding medical marijuana patient it is illegal to sell your weed. Your cannabis must be tested to sell either recreationally or medically and if weed is not legal in your state testing labs are not available. If you are thinking “I’ll drive my crop to a weed-legal state, test it and sell it there” you better think again. You must be a resident of that state before a testing lab or dispensary will even talk to you. Transporting weed across state lines became a huge no-no with legalization as “legal cannabis” is a state by state situation. Transporting into a weed-legal state is not only against federal law, it is so frowned upon by weed-legal states that some allocated funds formally dedicated to busting sack slingers to stopping weed crossing the border. Those of us in weed-legal states don’t want your weed sold here….we want you to legalize weed in your own state. Sounds harsh, but the truth sometimes stings a bit. If you do choose to distribute your weed illegally plan and secure your distribution means before you start. You do not want to be in a situation where you are sitting on top of black market pounds looking for a buyer. You might be thinking “I’ll move to a weed-legal state and operate there.” Good choice, there’s room for more stoners…right? Actually, things are getting tight. Rent has gone sky high and properties with grow site potential are getting few and far between in weed-legal states. You’re welcome here…but the stoner spaces are getting full. Again, put the effort into legalizing marijuana in your own state. It’s frustrating, time-consuming, costly and exhausting…but so worth it when you see that first green cross go up in your own hometown. If you are in a weed-legal state and clueless to how your states’ market works locate a testing facility first. You will need to test your weed to sell it anyway and the testing facility will know what you need to comply. If you are planning to grow within a state’s medical marijuana program there are limits to what and how much you can sell and you should have your medical marijuana card in hand before starting your crops’ flower cycle.
- Resetting the room – There’s an old nursery rhyme that goes something like this… ” There was an old man named Michael Finnegan. He grew whiskers on his chin-negan. The wind came up and blew them in again. Poor old Michael Finnegan – begin again! ” At this point in our cannabis journey you are Michael Finnegan and it is time to begin again. Resetting your room takes some preparation that we talked about earlier in this instructional series. Your in-house nursery or your commercial nursery should have bud-room ready clones ready to go under the lights. Your next run of plants should be acclimated to your nutrient regimen and looking big, beautiful and bushy. Coordination is key to resetting your room. Plan extra time between crops if you are using your grow room as a drying/curing room as well. We keep our rooms rollin’. We start our next crop in big pots and on nutrients by halfway through the previous grow cycle. In other words, we have our next plants ready and vegging before our existing run reaches week 4. The more runs you do the better you will get at transitioning crops. If you are person that is good at planning and budgets remember to double up on your pots and nutrients in the budget and plan your transition. Otherwise, you will be waiting weeks between grows to allow your next run enough time to build enough strength for budding.
- Cleaning and updating – You will need to tidy up a bit in between grow cycles. You will need to empty out the room, then shop vac or sweep out all the visible dirt, dust and plant matter. Reseal any openings and replace any foam that is damaged and patch any holes in divider tarps. Repaint or touch up any areas where paint is chipping or worn through. Rinse and/or blow out your nutrient containers and water lines if you are using an automatic watering system. Everything taken out of the room should be washed with isopropyl alcohol before it returns to the room. Pots and trays should be power washed and wiped down before new plants are planted in them. Any updating or replacing should be done at this point. Never update or change equipment during a flower cycle unless you are repairing damaged equipment. If you are planning on changing or updating equipment (especially lights) you should do so between grow cycles. Old school bulbs should be changed every 2-5 flower cycles, double ended hps hoods need to be changed every 18-24 months and R/O water filters need swapping out once in a while as well. Any bulbs, filters, hoods etc…that need routinely changed should be changed in between grow cycles if possible. Clean all hard surfaces (except bulbs) with alcohol before entering the room and make sure new equipment is in place before sulfur burning. Spray neem on your new crop of plants a week to ten days before they enter the room. Sulfur burn the room once you have cleaned and replaced everything…sulfur burn the room and neem the plants again when the new crop is in place.
- Notes and collaboration – Hopefully you kept a wipe board or notebook in your nutrient room or near your grow site…hopefully, you kept notes as you progressed. It’s time to compile all those “notes to self” and have a gathering of minds with all involved in your crop, even if your cannabis project is a solo mission. Hopefully, during this pow-wow you will maybe smoke some of the previous crop while planning the next one. In all seriousness, learn from your mistakes and plan your new strategies so each crop will be made better than the last.
- New ladies take the stage — I often refer to marijuana plants as rock-stars and weed workers as roadies…and I love it when a new band of ladies takes the stage that I have prepared for them. Just as a roady must make everything perfect for fussy musicians, you must make everything perfect for finicky plants. Just as roady must lug all the musicians’ crap around for them, you will haul more dirt and water than you care to before your cannabis journey concludes. However, just like the roady…when the lights come on it is you that will be most proud of the music. And to you my fellow cannabis grower I say…