I am a weed-snob and from time to time I like to buy preroll joint packs. If you're new to cannabis, this may seem like a perfectly reasonable statement that you see no issue with, but in the world of weed, you should know that hardcore stoners typically have a strong disdain for prerolls.
But don't let my appreciation for prerolls fool you, I'm a weed snob through and through. The first time I ever smoked a joint was in 2005. All these years later and I can still picture the misshapen little beast. The strain was unknown, its lineage traced only to my dad's top dresser drawer. In 2010, I leveled up my stoner game, significantly. I finally learned how to roll a proper joint after two travelers shamed me for not knowing how in Amsterdam. My passion became a career when I worked at a dispensary in 2013. During that time, for both personal and medical customer sales, I rolled more joints than I could count. Someone said it takes 10,000 joints before you become a weed genius, right?
But the universal truth is that prerolls are convenient! That can't be argued. But I, as a good stoner, refuse to sacrifice quality for the slick convenience of the preroll. Historically, dispensaries used to offer prerolls made from the leftover trim as an add-on to the end of an order. Many stoners would claim that cannabis companies knew that people probably wouldn't be unrolling the joint to inspect what's inside, so they made prettier packages and raised the prices.
But sometimes a girl wants convenience and ease! And in the years since the cannabis industry has expanded, brands have upped the quality of prerolls, using higher-quality weed, papers, and filters. And people are digging them. The combined cannabis users from California, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington spent $36.59 million in prerolls in May 2019 alone, according to a BDS Analytics report.
To be able to reach for a preroll pack, pull out a joint without effort, and know it's going to be a pleasant smoking experience? Welcome to the future, my friends.
For the sake of being sensible, savvy shoppers, let's talk about when preroll packs make perfect sense, and when they don't.
Look for convenience, quality, and price
It's the modern age of weed, and each joint doesn't have to be unrolled to know the product is up to par. Cannabis quality, accessibility, how the pack feels in my hand, how the joint smokes, the carb, the filter, the burn, the way it's topped off at the end — so many factors go into what makes a lovely preroll.
Most weed brands will say their prerolls are “fire,” the weed world's way of saying “This is the best of the best.” But can they actually back it up? It comes down to knowing the source of the flower and measuring the quality.
Lab testing is a good place to start. I ask the budtender whether the cannabis inside the preroll is lab-tested. If possible, I ask for a certificate of analysis for the cannabis. When I look at lab results, I am looking at the cannabinoid and terpene ratio. Depending on what you're looking for, you may be looking for high THC, or maybe you want a preroll that is 1:1, meaning it has equal parts THC to CBD. Avoid prerolls that claim to be filled with “house shake,” trim, or schwag; this is bottom-of-the-barrel stuff that can't be made into anything else.
There are going to be situations when I'm busy, but also need to get high or medicate. In moments like these, when time is not on my side and I need something to smoke fast, the preroll is my best friend. They're the fastest, easiest way to enjoy weed. Joint packs are like three to 10 of my best friends packed into a small, travel sized box that fits in my pocket or purse.
Something I didn't consider until recently was, what if the act of rolling a joint was too painful? Buzzfeed contributor Lara Parker wrote about her use of cannabis to help alleviate pain caused by endometriosis. She wrote: “I prefer the prerolled option as opposed to actual flower because when I'm in a lot of pain, grinding a weed flower and sticking it into a pipe can sometimes feel overwhelming. I know that might sound insane, but believe me when I tell you that it's so hard to function when you're in extreme amounts of pain. The joints make it so easy, and the effect is almost immediate.”
This argument changed the way I think about rolling: There are consumers who deal with pain and health issues so severe that they don't have time to roll a joint.
Tip: substance over style
Don't judge a pack by its cover. Yes, many preroll joint packs look pretty and clean on the outside, but how good is the weed inside, really? I am like a bird, easily distracted by shiny objects, but it doesn't take much to stop myself and ask the budtender to tell me more about the brand, the product, and it's lab results before getting swept away by presentation alone. The beautiful branding is one piece of the puzzle, but it's not the most important factor. The product inside is.
Also, there is nothing worse than a too-tightly-packed preroll that doesn't get enough airflow, so that when I try to hit it, next to nothing gets inhaled. There can be the problem of too much resin dripping down the preroll, with the potential of bottlenecking the end of the joint near the carb. It must be lit evenly so there's no canoeing. The pack, the consistency of the grind, the dryness of the weed are all important factors to how the joint smokes. If a preroll misses on one of these crucial marks, I unpack it and do it myself.
If the preroll does cost more, I ask why is it extra? Is it special or craft to justify the cost? Is it really VIP or just VI-Pricey? Many popular brands in California — Lola Lola, Higgs, Lowell Farms — cost about $35-$40 for six joints, equalling out to an eighth, or 3.5 grams, per pack, reasonable for the highly taxed legal market in California. Some are $20-$30 for a 1-gram preroll, landing a bit pricier on the scale, and growing ever higher depending on if the joint is rolled in fancy paper, if it's infused with oil or kief, or if it contains rare, high-quality cannabis. It needs to be worthwhile for the consumer.
Feature illustration by Sabrina Seguin/Weedmaps