A classic choice among cannabis connoisseurs, joints represent one of the most widely recognized methods of cannabis consumption. The traditional choice for stoners on the go, the joint holds a central place in cannabis culture and lore. As Cheech & Chong showed generations with their iconic movies, joints come in all shapes and sizes; from toothpicks to tree trunks, joints can be as varied as their rollers. While highly portable and convenient, rolling a well-packed, smooth-burning joint does take a bit of practice. Follow along with the article below to learn how to roll a better joint.
There are several things to consider before actually beginning the rolling process. First things first, how much cannabis do you actually have? Do you have enough flower to roll a solid joint? (Perhaps a less pressing issue in today’s burgeoning cannabis climate, you can still find many a stoner willing to tell you stories about the bad old days of prohibition, when, at times, a skinny joint of dirt weed was all that could be scraped together.)
How much flower is enough? For most rollers a half gram to a gram and a half of ground flower is sufficient for an excellent joint (although I have had a few good ones with less, and a few great ones with much, much more). The main thing here is to have the proper ratio of flower to paper. You want enough material to be able to work easily with, but not so much as to be unmanageable. This varies some according to individual rolling style, but as long as your paper will wrap fully around the ground flower then you should be able to seal your joint. If you have plenty of flower it can be tempting to want to overfill your joint. Don’t do it. Many a joint has fallen apart or torn on rolling from overeager stoners seeking the iconic fatty. Remember, you can always roll another joint.
So you have enough flower to roll a joint (and you even got to buy it in a store)! What’s next? Selecting the desired paper is the next step in the decision making process. Coming in all shapes, colors, materials, and sizes, choosing the right paper can seem daunting. However, for a standard joint, 1¼ papers are the preferred choice. 1¼ papers have enough paper to wrap fully around your flower, but not so much as to overwhelm the taste of the flower. These are probably the most widely manufactured rolling papers on the market. Additionally, many seasoned smokers prefer unbleached papers over bleached ones. The bleaching of papers is executed exactly as it sounds, using chlorine bleach, or a similar toxic solvent such as calcium carbonate, to strip out the unwanted pigment in the paper. Although marketed for human consumption, papers treated with bleach often contain residuals of these solvents as well as any contaminants contained within the original solvent. While potentially dangerous for humans, these solvents are also highly toxic to the natural environment.
So how do you know what you’re buying? Unbleached papers will appear typically brown or tan, as compared to the stark white of bleached papers (although there are now some rolling papers on the market that are stripped of color using natural alternatives such as hydrogen peroxide.) Additionally, hemp-based papers are quickly gaining in prevalence and popularity within the cannabis community. A more ecologically friendly option than the traditional wood pulp based rolling papers, the farming and harvesting of hemp takes a much lesser toll on the natural environment than current logging practices. Using hemp papers brings the smoking process full-circle, utilizing paper made from the cannabis plant to consume the cannabis flower.
Although you can roll a joint just about anywhere, most rollers find it handy to have a clean flat surface to set materials on and to catch any flower that falls out as you’re rolling. You will need some way to grind, cut, or mince your flower, such as a grinder, a pair of scissors, or a sharp knife. You will also likely want a small tool, such as a pen, pencil, chopstick, or stem to help pack in any loose bud at the end of rolling. While not a necessity, many people now prefer using cardboard filters to maximize their smoking experience. A small piece of thin cardboard or cardstock works great for this purpose, and many brands will now include paper for filters in some rolling paper packs. If you’re using a filter, you can prepare it by taking a small piece of filter paper, giving it a few accordion folds and then wrapping the rest around the folded center. The folded filter will likely resemble an N, M, V, or Z enclosed by a circle. It is folded this way to provide structure to the filter, as well as to prevent flower from falling through.
Now, you have plenty of flower, you’ve selected your paper, you’ve decided whether or not you’re using a filter, and you have gathered your materials on a flat clean surface. It’s time to get down to the rolling process. While it may seem like a lot of preparation, having everything in place will help you maximize your chances of rolling a phenomenal joint.
First off, grind your flower. You want the material to be finely ground, but not to the point of powder. For most cannabis grinders on the market, once through is sufficient to reduce the material to a desired consistency. However, very dense or slightly moist bud can sometimes remain in larger chunks that may require further breakdown. You want the ground material to be of generally uniform consistency. The consistency of your ground flower will affect your final product. If working with very dry flower, be careful not to over handle it and turn it into dust. Joints made up of very fine material will burn faster. A fast burning joint is typically not considered desirable, but it can have its place in the connoisseur’s bag of on-the-go tricks. Desired consistency will vary according to an individual’s particular preferences.
Once your flower is ground to the desired consistency, set it aside for a minute and turn your attention to your rolling paper. Most rolling papers come out of the pack with a central crease. While you can simply fill a paper and roll it up, many rollers find it easier to create a secondary guide crease before rolling. To do so, position the paper so that the central crease runs left to right and the edge with the glue on it is face up and furthest away from you. Fold the bottom edge of the paper up to meet the central crease. You can fold across the central crease for larger joints, but folding just far enough to meet the central crease seems to work best for most rollers. Alternatively, some styles may require a slight slant to the fold to create more of a cone shape, but it may be wise to stick with the basics to ensure your joint comes out well. Once, you have made your guide crease unfold the paper back to its full size.
At this point you can go ahead and load in the flower. Pick a side to serve as the mouthpiece, typically the right side for right-handed rollers, and imagine what you want your joint to look like. This may seem like a silly step, but visualizing what you are about to do can seriously help you achieve your desired shape, especially if it’s not your first joint of the day. If using a filter, fold it as previously instructed and place it into the mouthpiece end of the paper so that, once the joint is folded, the filter will be completely wrapped by the paper. A slight taper at the mouthpiece end can help flower from falling through if you aren’t using a filter. (Be careful not to make the taper too tight, or you might end up having to cut off the tip to be able to draw smoke through.) Distribute the ground flower evenly down the middle of the paper, more or less in between the center crease and your guide crease. Be sure to leave room on both the top and bottom edges of the paper to allow easy handling and rolling. If tapering the end you can put slightly less on that side, but make sure the material is distributed so that the paper will wrap evenly around it once rolled. You don’t want any air pockets, as these can cause your joint to run or canoe.
Now you roll. Pick up the unrolled joint if it’s not already in your hands. Using your thumbs and middle fingers to support the unrolled joint is the preferred method of handling here. Placing thumbs in front and middle fingers behind, you can keep in and position the inner material with your pointer fingers. Using your thumbs, bring the bottom of the paper up to wrap over the ground flower. Tuck the paper over to where it just barely encloses the ground flower, lick the glue strip, and work slowly to roll from one end to the other. I usually start at the end that will be the mouthpiece and work towards the end that will be lit. This can help you seat the filter properly or create a slight taper if going without the filter. Additionally, some rollers prefer to lick the whole glue strip and tuck all at once, while others prefer to tuck and lick smaller sections until sealed. Play around and find what works best for you. Once sealed, you may want to lightly tamp in any loose material with your packing tool, but be sure not to pack too tightly. Twirl the end to be lit into the iconic twist, and light it up or squirrel it away for later use.
As a side note, make sure your joint is evenly dry before lighting. It can be easy to get things a bit too wet when sealing, which can cause runs or canoeing. If you do get your joint too wet, you can always toast it with a lighter or other heat source (but be careful not to catch it on fire prematurely). This will help dry things out and can also serve to start heating and melting the terpenes and cannabinoids within the flower, further binding the joint together. The application of heat also begins the decarboxylation process necessary for transforming THCA into the psychoactive THC, arguably, creating a more readily available source of psychoactive compounds within the joint. However, the application of heat before lighting can change the texture and flavor of the flower, as terpenes (compounds that are responsible for much of the flavor and aroma within the cannabis plant) begin to melt and volatilize. Toasting your joint is a personal preference and many people find this practice undesirable. Likewise, I have met many individuals who always toast their joints.
There is an incredible amount of variation among joints, according to each roller’s personal preferences and style. Some rollers prefer the iconic fatty look, and will place a little more flower in the middle to ensure the desired shape. Some old timers suggest placing a little less flower in the center of the joint. This helps keep your joint from bulging out in the middle, creating a more evenly consistent smoke and a discreet outline. (Thanks, Dad.) Some folks like to get fancy and create cross joints and intricately shaped multi-pronged behemoths. But, whether extremely basic or wildly ornate, a joint is a joint. In the end, the important thing is that you enjoy your flower. If your joint holds together and gives you a great smoking experience, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s simple or fancy. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; even the most experienced stoners sometimes roll a dud. So, if at first you don’t succeed, there’s no need to get frustrated. After all, it’s the perfect excuse to roll another one.