A federal court will force the distributor of RAW rolling papers to pull dozens of products off the market after a rival company sued them for making misleading marketing claims.
The court's decision resolves a lawsuit that Republic Brands, maker of OCB and Top rolling papers, brought against HBI International, distributor of RAW, Elements, Juicy Jays, and other popular papers. HBI has long claimed that RAW created the world's first organic hemp papers and that the company's founder, Joshua Kesselman, invented pre-rolled cones. HBI has even called OCB's Organic Hemp papers “RAWnabees,” or knockoffs of its own popular RAW organic hemp papers.
Republic Brands eventually sued HBI, alleging that the company was making a wide variety of misleading claims about its products. In addition to disparaging its competitor's products, HBI was accused of claiming to donate its profits to charity and lying about the origin and creation of its papers. Republic's attorneys argued that these inaccurate claims created unfair competition and violated the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Over the course of a long and drawn out court case, Republic presented evidence that many of HBI's most popular marketing claims were completely untrue. For one, HBI has claimed that it donates some profits from the sale of its RAW products to a charity known as the “RAW Foundation.” After viewing the evidence in the case, the court concluded that this charitable organization does not actually exist.
HBI has also proudly claimed that its papers are made by artisanal craftspeople in Alcoy, Spain, which they claim is the “birthplace of rolling papers.” Many RAW products are stamped with a special “Spanish Alcoy Paper Blessing,” and the company says that its paper booklets, pre-rolled cones, rolling papers, and bulk paper bobbins are all made in Spain. But according to the court, "HBI makes no rolling paper in Alcoy, Spain whatsoever."
The court also debunked many claims that the company makes about its manufacturing process. HBI has said that RAW rolling papers are made from “unrefined” fibers taken from the center stalks of hemp plants. The company also says its papers are made with natural hemp gum and that the adhesive used in the papers also contains or is made from hemp. According to the court, these claims are all untrue. HBI's claims that it manufactures its products using wind power are apparently inaccurate as well.
On January 31st, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois issued a permanent injunction that blocks HBI from manufacturing, ordering, or selling products that contain any of these misleading claims. Under the injunction, the company will no longer be allowed to say that its products are made in Spain or that any profits will go to charity. HBI is also blocked from saying that it invented organic rolling papers, that its founder invented pre-rolled cones, or making any other claims that were disproved in court.