Let’s start from the very beginning!
Hand rolled joints have been around for longer than you may think. Twisting it up in paper was first documented in Mexico in the 1850’s. However, joints in the 1850’s mostly consisted of tobacco with a sprinkle of cannabis flower on top. This was considered a big innovation that began to spread across North America over the coming years. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that joints began to substantially increase in popularity.
The alcohol prohibition of the 1920’s played a major role in the surging popularity of cannabis usage, in particular hand rolled joints. The introduction of speakeasies around the country, provided an underground hub where jazz music thrived, specifically New Orleans. Jazz musicians would tour around the country to these speakeasies, and bring their renown “jazz cigarettes”, aka rolled joints, with them. Cannabis was preferred by the musicians over alcohol because it allowed for them to get into “the best mood to perform”.
It also helped that cannabis was considered legal at this time. This meant that any cannabis smoker, or at the time known as a “Viper”, could roll and smoke a joint in public without legal consequences. Popularity for the plant quickly boomed in different genres of music like rock and roll, and the blues.
Eventually, the “Marihuana Tax Act of 1937” was federalized, which outlawed the possession and sale of the cannabis plant. Joints were specifically targeted in the media, with propaganda about “Reefer Madness” and that cannabis would drive you insane.
1960-1970 The Hippie Era
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Vietnam War became not only a battle to stop the spread of communism, but also became a time for rebellion amongst the people. Specifically, rebellion against the government for change and freedom.
In the 1960’s, also known as “the Hippie Era”, smoking the cannabis joint turned from an act of madness, to an act of peace and love. It became a non-violent act of protest against the government, and brought people together under a collective revolution for change. In fact, soldiers in the Vietnam War were reported to have smoked cannabis in large quantities, with some reports stating that 70-80% of the troops had tried it.
The War on Drugs
Everything changed in 1971, when former President Nixon declared his war on drugs. This eventually led to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 1973. These new policies specifically targeted the cannabis smoking communities, and gave rise to mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. It also halted scientific research to evaluate the medical safety and efficacy of cannabis, and gave rise to skyrocketing incarceration rates, specifically amongst the black communities. Although cannabis is now legal in most states, there are still people serving time for cannabis-related charges. Protestors have called for justice and reform for these people as their previous charges are no longer considered a crime.
However, even with the federal control and political hysteria of the 70’s and 80’s, the tobacco paper companies and rolling paper industry in general, continued to follow the rise in cannabis consumption. Companies shifted marketing focus to adolescents and began adapting their paper material for cannabis needs to allow for longer smoking times.
Thanks to the decriminalization of cannabis over the years, and specifically the legalization of cannabis in the 21st century, today’s market is like nothing we’ve seen before. Consumers have the ability to choose from a wide variety of strains, sizes, cannabinoid ratios, and even the ability to choose pre-rolled joints – packed up and ready to smoke.
The pre-roll market is growing as consumers prefer the convenience and manufacturers recognize the importance of using top-shelf flower.
Pre-roll automation has also contributed to the number of pre-rolls on the market, thanks to the efficiency that cannabis manufacturers now have over the flower process. Semi-automated and automated production has allowed companies to increased amount of product and get it to the shelves quicker, meeting increased consumer demand.
The Present Market
Pre-roll popularity is not slowing down any time soon. The sale of pre-rolls in the Canadian and U.S markets are outpacing the total market. They have become the second-fastest-growing product category as cannabis consumers shop for value products and enjoy the convenience of the pre-packaged good.
A report from the Ontario Cannabis Store, shows almost $97 million of pre-rolls were sold between April 2020 and March 2021, this is an increase of $42.6 million between April 2019 and March 2020.
Figure A from Seattle-based cannabis analytics firm Headset shows that across recreational markets in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon (medical and adult use) and Washington state, pre-roll sales increased by 47.1% from $640.1 million in 2019 to $941.6 million in 2020.
With educated consumers and an increased roll-out of legal cannabis stores, brands are being pressured to meet demands for higher quality products. We can expect to see full-flower and craft pre-rolls customized based on the consumer and the occasion. We are starting to see pre-rolls specializing in size, twist, flavour, terpene profile, cannabinoid ratio, paper type and more, all making a large difference in consumer buying habits.
Investors and manufacturers are starting to understand not only the importance of getting a foot in the pre-roll market, but also educating themselves on the quickly evolving trends as consumers are placed to benefit from their continued evolution.