Nitrous Packaging: Is it Safe? Does it Change the Bud?

Nitrous Packaging: Is it Safe? Does it Change the Bud?

Published on 9/14/22

Gone are the days of buying and storing your weed in a Ziploc bag. In today's world of dispensaries, consumers have come to expect a wide array of beautiful packaging designs of all kinds - glass jars, tins, pouches, and more. 

Cannabis packaging has evolved. One of the best innovations is nitrogen packaging, which is used to extend the shelf-life of cannabis flower. But is it safe to consume? Does it affect the flower? Here's everything you need to know about nitrogen packaging for cannabis.

What is Nitrogen Cannabis Packaging?

Unlike oxygen, nitrogen is a colorless and odorless inert gas, which means that it doesn't tend to react with other substances. This is a good thing for protecting perishable items from degrading over time. 

That's why nitrogen packaging (also called N2 packaging or nitrous packaging) is widely used in the food industry and now cannabis. When you open a puffed-up bag of potato chips, that's the same nitrogen sealing process used in cannabis packaging.

Although we tend to think of oxygen when we take a breath of fresh air, most of it is actually nitrogen, 78% to be exact. Oxygen in the air is reactive to all kinds of substances. That's why nitrogen packaging is widely used to protect everyday perishable products (food, beverages, cannabis) from oxidation and degradation.

The Nitrogen Sealing Process

The nitrogen-sealed packaging process works by flushing the oxygen-containing air out of sealable packaging and replacing it with nitrogen gas. With a cannabis flower packaging machine, the flower can last longer before it reaches the consumer. The same type of nitrogen sealing process is used in the food and beverage industry to keep products fresh. The sealing step is critical to ensuring that air can't creep in and nitrogen can't escape from the package over time.

Different types of specialized sealable containers can be used, such as mylar pouches or metal tuna-style cans. In addition to air exposure, light degrades cannabis, too, so containers should be opaque.

For individual consumers and smaller suppliers, nitrogen packaging at home is possible but not commonly done because a nitrogen packaging machine is an expensive investment that can be tens of thousands of dollars depending on the type.

Benefits of Nitrogen Packaging for Cannabis

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The nitrogen packaging of cannabis is all about preventing oxidation, which is the chemical reaction that occurs when oxygen in the air combines with other substances, causing them to deteriorate. It's the same process that causes an apple slice to turn brown if left out on the counter or iron to rust when it's exposed to moisture in the air. 

Processed foods are treated with preservatives that prevent the oxidation process so that they won't degrade as quickly. Just like fresh food, cannabis is a perishable product. Without proper packaging, it, too, will oxidize and degrade over time.

So, what happens to cannabis when it oxidizes? 

In stale cannabis that's unprotected from air and light, the cannabinoids and terpenes degrade over time and change the effects. For example, cannabinol (CBN) is a cannabinoid found in higher concentrations in stale cannabis that's been sitting out over time, and it's thought to be responsible for drowsiness. 

When cannabis has been exposed to air over time, the result is a conversion of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to sleep-inducing CBN. Simultaneously, the THC concentration is reduced when it gets converted to CBN. Nitrogen packaging helps prevent this process and keeps the flower's makeup as close as possible to the moment it was trimmed.

In addition to cannabinoids, cannabis is full of other compounds, like terpenes and flavonoids. These biomolecules are a major player in the entourage effect, the mechanism where compounds in cannabis cause a wide range of physiological effects that vary depending on the type of cannabis consumed and your unique physiology.

Nitrogen packaging keeps cannabis fresh and prevents it from losing its natural biomolecular richness. This is great for consumers who want to stock up, suppliers who depend on large harvests, and retailers looking to prolong shelf-life.

Another advantage of nitrogen-sealed packaging is that, depending on the package type, it can help keep the shape of the buds intact by protecting them from getting squashed or damaged.

Is Nitrogen Packaging Safe?

Even though nitrogen is the largest component of the air in the atmosphere, you might have questions about safety. Nitrogen has been used for years in food and beverage packaging, and the Food and Drug Administration states it's generally recognized as safe as a direct human food ingredient.

In fact, nitrogen packaging can help prevent potentially negative consequences of weed sitting around exposed to the air, such as the development of mold that could cause serious health problems. Overall, nitrogen packaging is a safe method for preserving and protecting cannabis.

How Does Nitrogen Packaging Affect Cannabis?

Nitrogen is an odorless, colorless gas, so you won't notice it or be able to detect it once you open a package that's been nitrogen sealed. 

Nitrogen-sealed packaging provides a layer of protection to cushion your delicate buds from physical damage. When nitrogen is introduced into the package, it drives out oxygen and moisture from the air, keeping the flower fresh for longer and preserving the cannabinoids and terpenes.

When you open the package, it's like the buds were freshly trimmed. The result is a more pleasant experience of rich taste and fresh aroma because the flower has been preserved as close as possible to its original form.

Final Takeaways

  • Nitrogen packaging for cannabis keeps your buds fresh and prevents degradation, leaving you with a richer experience. 
  • Just like with food products, cannabis is a perishable product. Oxidation can lead to loss of potency and quality.

Nitrogen packaging is an effective, safe way to extend the shelf life of cannabis and offer the best consumer experience.

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