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  • Pineworx Prerolls

How to Judge a Pre-rolled Joint's Quality Before You Buy

By Greg Chapman and Scott Bryant

Joint, doobie, cone, pre-roll…whatever the kids are calling them nowadays.

They are called many things in many places, but they’re the go-to smoking choice for a growing number of consumers as availability and favorable pricing become more standard. According to information gathered by from participating dispensaries in the state of California, pre-rolls were the third largest cannabis product category with 79% growth in 2018. Furthermore, pre-rolls accounted for 37% of legal California cannabis product sales in the $5-10 price range and 43% of sales in the $10-20 range. Consumers enjoy pre-rolls as their go-to choice for a number of reasons including price point, convenience, portability, full spectrum experience, and the most obvious reason, because they make you look cool. But with such apparent awesomeness comes inherent problems that the everyday consumer should be watching out for to ensure they’re investing their money into a quality product. But how can you ensure the quality of something that in most cases is all wrapped up in a plastic, inside a tube, inside a box?

4 obvious things to look out for to help you quickly judge a pre-rolled joint at the counter.

1. Appearance

2. Feel

3. Aroma

4. Packaging

1) Appearance of the Pre-Roll

You can learn a lot about the quality of a pre-roll just by looking at it. Are there creases or indentations in the paper? Does the pre-roll look like it was crafted with care or does it look like it was made in a haste? Do the sizes vary greatly among pre-rolls of the same brand?

The devil is in the details is a good way to explain that when it comes to pre-rolls, the little details can make or break your positive smoking experience. Believe it or not, pre-rolls are very fickle during the production phase and if they aren’t crafted properly, they can turn out sour for a number of reasons.

If your pre-roll appears lumpy or has areas where the paper is crinkled or creased this may be a warning sign that the cannabis inside was not pre-treated correctly, ground up properly or packed with care and precision. You may also get the dreaded paper run, where one side of your pre-roll burns much faster than the other side. These are not uncommon issues with pre-rolled joints, and they’ve been plaguing us for years, but with proper manufacturing and packing techniques this can be easily avoided if you know what the warning signs are of an improper pack.

If your budtender is open to it ask them to pull out multiple pre-rolls from the same brand. Compare them next to each other. What you are looking for here is consistency among size, length, density and overall appearance. You can expect there to be a 5-10% variance in size among them because the cannabis flower is just a difficult plant to work with, but any more than that and you are looking at a product that has inferior manufacturing and packing techniques. If the pre-rolls look fairly unison, then you are more likely to have a more enjoyable smoking experience.

2) Feel of the Pre-Roll

The feel of the pre-roll is a very important step in learning about the quality of the product you’re about to purchase.

While you are examining the look of your pre-rolls you should also be gently moving your fingers up and down the paper, giving very, very gentle squeezes along the sides. What you’re feeling for here is that there is an even pack from top to bottom and that the paper doesn’t feel “loose” around the cannabis. It should feel tight to the point that you don’t sense any extra room inside the paper but not so dense that you can’t feel a little give in the cannabis inside. Too loose of a pack and you will have problems with the paper running and the joint extinguishing mid smoke. If the pack is extremely loose, the cherry of the pre-roll may even fall out, causing you to lose considerable amounts of cannabis, while also burning holes places you don’t want them. On the other hand, if packed too tightly you will find it difficult to light and hard to pull a hit through.

While feeling the joint you should also be cognizant for stems that may be poking through. Stems are going to be (to some degree) a part of any pre-roll that you enjoy from a mass-produced product, but there are certain steps that only quality companies take to remove as much of them as possible. If you can feel stems poking through in a few places it generally will mean that the company producing the product did not do a fantastic job with removing the stems or that your joint came from the bottom of a batch. Think about rolling a joint by hand - removing stems before grinding is always one of the first steps. Residual stems can lead to a more bitter flavor and the potential to cause headaches. Grinding up the stems causes a more spongy blend, which can negatively affect the burn quality of your pre-roll.

A small amount of residual stems do not have much of an affect on experience of your smoke, but it may point to signs of overall inferior quality. However, stems can occasionally cause a rip in the paper and affect the way it smokes. Think of it as a carb on a pipe. If that hole is open, then the air flow is being affected because the seal has been broken.

Feeling for stems can also be a trick to determining what type of cannabis material the company is using in their products (trim vs. flower). If the stems are long, straight and skinny, these are typically indicative of trim being used. If the stems are thicker and have small nubs, this is more representative of flower.

3) Aroma of the Pre-Roll

Smelling your pre-rolls will help you to judge the freshness the product. We recommend smelling your pre-roll as though it were a cigar at first. Place the joint right under your nose and take a big inhale while slowly running it along the underside of your nostrils. The joint should smell pungent and be full of terpenes, just like the flower you are used to smelling.

If you are having a hard time picking up a scent turn the pre-roll so that the crutch is facing up towards your nose, give a small squeeze of the pre-roll and take a big inhale. This is not a preferred method though as it requires extra care to not cause any damage to the product itself.

Take a dry puff. It’s as simple as it sounds. Put the end of the crutch to your lips and take a short dry pull. This will give you a good idea of what the cannabis inside is going to taste like. Do you like the flavor? If yes, it is most likely going to be a pre-roll that you will enjoy smoking.

Terpenes degrade naturally over time regardless of the packaging that cannabis is stored in. Much like the carbonation being released from beer once being opened, there is little that can be done as it is a natural degradation process once the cola is removed from the stem (although proper storage techniques can help slow the process). This is helpful because it can help you estimate the age of the pre-roll you are judging. If you can smell the cannabis, it’s probably fresh. The less aroma you get from the pre-roll, or the more earthy the smell, this could mean that the product is a bit older or may not have been stored or packaged properly to preserve freshness.

4) Pre-Roll Packaging

Think about when you’re storing your flower… you most likely keep it in a jar, sealed container or bag to preserve freshness. As with any food or bio product, oxygen and light are usually the biggest enemies and will greatly increase the speed of degradation. A properly packaged pre-roll should be both airtight and protect it from the light, which is why you will often see joints stored in a tube inside of a box.

Unlike cigarettes, there is currently no standard for pre-roll packaging. It appears that almost all multi-pack products of pre-rolled joints are using their own unique packaging; and for a good reason! The industry is still young, and every brand is trying to stand out. Many packages out there aren’t fully sealed and may come packed openly in a cardboard box. The most common pre-roll packaging on the market is your standard pre-roll tube. These are a convenient way to keep the product fresh and most are child resistant, but it’s also bulky for just one pre-roll and creates a lot of plastic waste.

Pre-roll packaging is absolutely one part of the market that is lacking. At Pineworx, our entire business is based around pre-rolls and pre-roll packaging. There are very few options and companies have to be extremely creative. When purchasing a pre-roll product, if you value freshness, flavor and potency, make sure you’re purchasing a product that is sealed to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Once you experience the difference, you’ll understand exactly what we’re talking about.

We work with our clients to ensure they’re making the proper packaging and storage choices to deliver the highest quality product possible to the end consumer.

As the pre-roll industry moves forward, overall quality across the market will steadily increase which will, over time, remove the need for buyers to be as picky about their joints. But as it stands now the industry has a long way to go for the average quality to reach an acceptable level or for there to be any standards in place. Once you find pre-rolls that you’re happy with, don’t be afraid to ask your dispensaries who is packing the pre-rolls that they are selling you. Dispensaries and delivery services are still learning as well. There is no current, existing blueprint on how to be successful in this industry which means every bit of input you can give is important. Your valuable knowledgeable and feedback can and will help shape the pre-roll industry towards a higher level of quality.

Thank you for reading! We hope you found the information presented above to be helpful and insightful. If you have any more questions about pre-rolls please feel free to send us an email or ask us in the comments section below!


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