Dear Mother,

Are there really any differences in rolling papers, or am I cool just using the cheapest ones I can find at the corner store? Are hemp, rice, "raw," or organic really better for you, or is that just marketing?

— Roll 'Em Up!

Dear REU,

Rolling papers and cannabis definitely go hand-in-hand, and while some folks don't care about what brand they're smoking on, most people do indeed have their own preferred, favorite type. But is there a difference between the brands out there? And will certain papers affect your smoking experience?

Yes! And I'm here to help you wade through them.

Here's the thing: You don't want crappy rolling papers. You simply don't. They will impact the quality of the joint, cause it to burn unevenly (the bane of a regular smoker's existence), and could potentially be laden with nasty chemicals depending on how they're produced. It actually pays to know a little bit about what's out there and why you might prefer one specific brand over any old rolling paper.

If you're rolling joints, you should be looking for rolling papers that have the least amount of additives and chemicals as possible. You're not just inhaling cannabis when you smoke a joint, but wisps of the burning paper, as well. Some well known brands (like Zig Zag) use questionable ingredients in their papers that can lead to irritated lungs and other health issues. I mean, do you really want to smoke something that includes bleach or chlorine?!

While cute and possibly "tasty," steer clear of papers that are colored or flavored. Both sense-enhancers utilize chemicals that might make your joint appear or taste better, but what's not cute is the damage those chemicals can do to your insides. With those warnings out of the way, let's look at what you want to see in quality papers.

Unless you're a big spender who likes 24k gold rolling papers (seriously), most papers are made out of wood pulp (i.e. thinly pressed paper), hemp, or rice. Each material has pros and cons, and can be a better — or worse — choice, depending on your own preferences and rolling skills.

For instance, papers made out of wood pulp are usually the easiest to roll with, but they burn fastest, usually have a noticeable taste, and aren't the best for the environment. Rice, on the other hand, can be a bit more difficult to use, but burns slow and easy, is relatively tasteless, and is the most sustainable of all the materials. Some folks swear by hemp while others don't see much of a difference in material, instead relying on brand loyalty.

The papers with arguably the widest name-brand recognition is RAW. They've been around for a long time and are best known for their "natural, unrefined" papers, either wood pulp or hemp-based. Unrefined means that no bleach was used in producing them, which is better for your health (and the environment's!). There's a reason they're so popular: these are hearty papers that can withstand unskilled fingers. They're not too thin, sticky, or tearable, so they're perfect for newbie joint rollers. And added bonus, RAW's organic hemp papers have all the qualities people love in the Classic version, but burn cleaner and are more gentle on your lungs!

RAW also offers paper cones, which are almost like premade joints in the shape of… cones! You grind your cannabis like normal, but you just place it into the cone and lightly pack it down and… voila, a fancy joint! These are obviously pricier than simple papers, but they provide a service that those with butterfingers out there certainly appreciate. Plus, they come in Classic, Organic Hemp, and Wiz Khalifa variations.

One of the top brands that skilled joint rollers love has to be Elements. The company uses rice to make their papers, and the company's 300 series (ultra thin) is one of their best products. That said, thin rice paper can be tricky, and unless you have practiced many, many, many times before, you might find these papers to be a bit high-level for you. But once you do have the technique down? It's lit! Literally. The paper is merely a vessel, you will only taste your cannabis, and there's less ash than with other papers.

If you still have cheap, chemical-laden papers laying around, use those as practice papers, but try and stick to unrefined/natural papers in rice or hemp for actual joint smoking.

Happy blazing,