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The Basics of Rolling Papers


Organic, natural gum, hemp, unbleached, cellophane, printed, watermarked, flavored; With so many options on the cannabis market for rolling papers it’s a challenge to find the right wrap or your joint. So today we try to make sense about the papers we use to roll marijuana.

There is more to discuss than you might think when it comes to rolling papers but once you have the information you need you’ll be able to intelligently select the right paper for the right joint so let’s get started.

First let’s break rolling papers down into categories based on the manufacturers:

  • Major Commercial Makers of which there are 3 huge rolling paper manufacturers that make up the lion’s share of worldwide sales. Some of the most popular of these are JOB, OCB, ZigZag, Bugler, Joker, Rizla, PureHemp, Bambu, Top, Abedie and EZ-Wider. All of these brands are part of the big 3 of rolling paper manufacturers.
  • Independent Paper Makers such as RAW, Elements, Juicy Jay and Skunk Brands make up the next largest and fastest growing market in the rolling paper industry. This expansion is clearly related to the growing cannabis industry and the fact that many of these brands cater more to marijuana smokers than to traditional tobacco smokers. These brands tend to be niche and high-quality tier brands with a focus on natural, sustainable and more seemingly healthy options.
  • There are also specialty and novelty rolling papers which may belong to any one or neither of the previous categories but include clear papers, specially printed papers and promotional or marketing papers made to promote an event or some brand.

Now let’s discuss the various sizes of rolling papers.

First let’s discuss the width of papers:

  • Single wide papers are the standard old school cigarette paper size but most cannabis smokers find them too small and cumbersome.
  • 1.25 or 1 ¼ width papers are the most common among avid cannabis smokers and are, as you likely guessed, about ¼ width wider than the single papers.
  • 1.5 of 1 ½ papers, it would be no surprise then, are the widest commonly available paper and are ½ as much wider than regular papers and often thought of as the easiest to roll width of papers. 1.5’s are perfect for new rollers or for those who like to roll really fat joints.

Now let’s discuss the length of rolling papers:

  • Standard length of 78mm is the most common rolling paper length, which is just short of the 84mm length of most store bought tobacco cigarettes.
  • King Size Length is 110mm. For cannabis smokers they are useful for rolling cones with that extra room to twist off the top or for rolling with a tip or crutch and still having plenty of room for cannabis.
  • Other sizes and lengths of papers are available such as entire pull out paper rolls, and oversized papers. DLX brand, a very slow burning paper, actually makes 84mm papers to be exactly the same length as cigarettes.

Next we will explore the various Materials used in making rolling papers:

  • First we have Traditional pulp paper. Non wood plant fiber known as rag fibers from various plants are used to make the most common of rolling papers. Most of these papers are bleached to be white and many also have chemical additives such as magnesium carbonate to control the color of the ash and Potassium Citrate to control the speed of the burn among many other possible chemical additives.
  • Next we have Natural unbleached and/ or unrefined pulp papers. These papers are made from a similar pulp as traditional papers but without the addition of chemicals to slow the burn or color the ash. The are usually a light brown color because it is not bleached to appear white and RAW is probably the most popular of the natural unrefined rolling papers.
  • Rice paper is made, not surprisingly, from rice which is processed and pressed very thin into a slick and crisp paper. Some advantages of rice paper include being very thin and transparent in taste and they are slower burning than pulp papers. Elements papers are a quality rolling paper proudly made from rice paper.
  • Hemp papers are pleasant in flavor, especially when smoking with cannabis and easy to roll due to the porous grippable texture. Hemp papers and wraps are really growing in popularity alongside the growing legalization of cannabis. Some hemp papers currently on the market are RAW organic, Chills, Skunk brand, Pure Hemp, Hempire, Bob Marley and Irie.
  • Clear or Cellophane papers such as Chills, Trip and aLeda are not truly paper but are made from cellulose gum processed with glycerin and water to create an all natural, yet transparent wrap for your smoke. Although not as popular as they were when introduced in the 1980’s the clear cellophane wraps are still around, blowing the minds of new stoners every year.
  • Although not a material in and of itself, organic papers are also available which are manufactured from organically grown materials of course and bear mentioning. RAW Organic papers are probably the most notable organic hemp papers available.

Now let’s look at Watermarks and how they are used in some rolling papers:

  • Some papers are smooth with a clean and slick surface devoid of markings. These papers do not have a watermark.
  • Other papers, such as the Zig Zag papers here, have a design lightly imprinted into the surface of the papers. These are known as watermarks and in the case of this design is often purely decorative.
  • Functional watermarks – Some papers however  have a watermark that not only looks cool but is also there to serve a purpose. The trademarked RAW Criss-Cross watermark is designed to help insure an even burning roll and is found on their RAW, Elements, Skunk Brand and DLX papers.

Let’s compare the 2 main rolling paper Gum types:

  • Arabic Gum is an all-natural gum extracted from the sap of the Acacia tree and is the most commonly used rolling paper gum found in papers from Jokers to RAW. Depending on the care used in extracting the Acacia tree gum it can even have health benefits, as is the case with the organic gum used by RAW papers which they claim may help lower cholesterol.
  • Sugar Gum is the second most common rolling paper gum and is made simply, as you might expect, from making a gum from water and sugar. Elements famously uses a sugar gum line in their light and crisp all natural rice papers.
  • Then there are ungummed papers such as Club Modiano and OCB ungummed, two papers that are available without gum and use a thin edge of paper to provide a closing line. Also the clear cellophane papers have no gum because they provide their own gum when moistened as the cellulose gum breaks down and becomes sticky.

Finally let’s look at some of cool Special Packaging in rolling papers:

  • Magnetic Closures are among some of the new feature found on some better rolling papers. The elements papers packages all have it and some upscale line such as the RAW Artesano papers have magnetic closures on the packages.
  • Tips in the pack – Another new feature in rolling paper packaging is to include papers to roll tips or crutches for joints directly as part of the packaging, such as the RAW Connoisseur line of papers.
  • Rolling tray – And one of the most fascinating paper package designs has to be the really cool fold out rolling tray package of the RW Artesano line of papers.  Truly an all-in-one rolling paper package, RAW is really changing the game with their functional package designs.
  • Credit Card size and shape rolling paper packs is also an useful and unique packaging option available from RAW again as well as from CC Papers.

Now that you know all about rolling papers you should be able to intelligently choose the right paper for the right joint.

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