When it comes to getting high with your friends, the simple pleasure of a finely rolled joint is hard to beat. Easy to light, hit, and pass along, it only takes a few puffs at a party to draw in a circle of fam eager for their turn to burn. And with its self-contained convenience and portability, the humble doobie is among the most popular methods of consumption for smokers. But rolling a good joint is a skill that not everyone has perfected, prompting many consumers to turn to pre-rolls.
Pre-rolled joints were the third most popular cannabis product category in 2018, with a sales growth of 79 percent over the previous year, according to data from cannabis analytics firm Headset. That popularity hasn’t been lost on cannabis companies, either — many of whom are upping their game and offering ready-to-smoke joints fit for connoisseurs.
But what, exactly, goes into making a good pre-roll? What qualities should consumers be aware of when looking for the best pack of j’s to smoke? To find out, MERRY JANE checked in with some industry experts for their input.
The Power of Flower
For starters, top-of-the-line pre-rolls are made with 100 percent cannabis flowers. So, gone are the days of shake-filled joints twisted by bored budtenders. David Elias, the co-founder and CEO of Lowell Farms, said that when his company launched Lowell Smokes in 2017, using trim or cannabis crumbs culled from the bottom of bags for pre-rolls was standard practice in the industry. At Lowell, however, only top-quality flower from some of California’s finest growers go into their joints.
“These are cultivators that have been doing this for decades, using organic fertilizers and natural methods and never using pesticides,” Elias said. “And I think that there is a really big difference. In 2017, there was no regulation requiring that we test for pesticides, but we've been testing for pesticides since our first pack.”
Lowell Smokes are made from 100 percent cannabis flower, but instead of strain-specific joints, the company has opted to create blends with names the likes of The Happy Hybrid and The Party Sativa.
“Blending the pre-roll for flavor and effect was something that we started with early on, and it's been one of the things people love about a pack of Lowell pre-rolls,” said Elias.
Lowell Smokes are available individually in tubes or in 3.5-gram and 7-gram packs that feature sustainable packaging.
“We made a decision to use natural materials,” he said. “Everything's one hundred percent recyclable packaging in our packs of smokes.”
One of the most important aspects of providing the best pre-rolls to consumers, Elias added, is standing behind your product.
“Right from the beginning, we've included a sticker and a note to our costumers that for any reason they have a less than perfect experience, they can contact us and then we'll replace the box... We strive for excellence and we strive to meet every single pack perfect for our customers. And in the event that that does not happen, we want to know about it and we want to make it right.”
Gallery — The Art of Joint Rolling:
Elizabeth Hogan is the Vice President of brands at GCH, Inc., a company founded by Willie Nelson, and is also the owner of Willie’s Reserve. She said the company’s pre-rolls, “which we call a Ready Roll Joint because that's what Willie Nelson called it,” are one of the original products offered by its partners in states with legal cannabis. She said that one of the most important aspects of creating a quality joint is properly preparing the 100-percent cannabis flower.
“For super-dense cannabis flowers, the folks assembling the joints have to take a slightly different approach to grinding that material than they would for flower that has a more open structure,” said Hogan. “And that's just one of the most wonderful and beautiful things about cannabis varieties: That they really do ask to be treated individually to be understood for their own unique expression and then to be processed and assembled based on that.”
Ready Roll Joints are packed in tubes for protection and are available as one 1-gram joints or two half-gram joints.
“The advantage there, of course, is if you have a smaller circle or fewer people to share it with, two half-gram joints can deliver an excellent experience two times, instead of the excellent experience one time... and then a pretty good experience when you relight it,” explained Hogan.
Quality Pre-Roll Checklist
Victor Berrio, the president of pre-roll manufacturer Pineworx, told MERRY JANE that his company, which uses proprietary production equipment, recently pivoted from traditional marijuana pre-rolls to serve the exploding market for hemp joints. Made popular particularly in states without legal pot, hemp pre-rolls could reach a much larger market with far less regulation.
But the production challenges associated with creating good joints from hemp flower — which include grinding the material to a consistent particle size and packing the pre-roll to the optimum density — are the same for cannabis, giving Pineworx’s experience an edge on the competition just entering the new market.
Before lighting up, Berrio said that there are four factors that are indicative of top-quality pre-roll — be it hemp or marijuana. The first thing to check is the packaging, which should keep the joint fresh and protected from breakage. Pineworx packages are sealed tight to not only preserve terpenes and freshness but also to make them odor-free.
“Not everybody wants to walk into 7-11 and smell cannabis,” Berrio explained.
After opening, the next thing to check is the appearance of the joint. Take a good look at the joint to make sure it isn’t creased or lumpy. And check that there are no holes that would cause uneven burning. Then, Berrio suggests holding the pre-roll up to the light.
“And if any light shines through, there's usually a gap in the cannabis because it hasn't been packed to the right density, which means it's not going to smoke correctly.”
Third, note how the pre-roll feels to the touch. When grasped between two fingers and subjected to slight pressure, the joint should feel solid, “but not so solid it feels rock-hard,” Berrio said. Lastly, check the aroma of the pre-roll. The joint should have a clean aroma rich in cannabis terpenes without any odor of grass or hay.
Of course, lighting up and experiencing a pre-roll’s flavor and effect is the final test of quality. But now that you know what to look for, see how the next joint you buy stacks up against some of the industry’s best.
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