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Pre-Rolls

What's in a Pre-Roll?

More than pipes, bongs, edibles, oils, dab rigs, or any other means of consumption, the joint remains an icon. It may be the only method that, when pantomimed, says to the rest of the world "cannabis!"

A joint is cheap, discreet, disposable, and easily shared among friends. It requires neither the financial investment of a bong nor the time commitment of an edible. But unless you’ve got nimble fingers or hours to spend practicing, it can be tough to learn how to twist one up.

Enter the pre-roll.

Before legal, regulated markets, consumers themselves were the ones rolling joints. But as medical dispensaries and recreational shops emerged, demand grew for ready-made smokeables. By now, pre-rolls are almost everywhere, serving as go-to gifts and common suggestions to cannabis newcomers.

There’s just one thing: A lot of people think they’re junk.

"Out of maybe the 50 pre-rolls that I’ve got from dispensaries, two of them have been smokeable," laments one cannabis-focused YouTuber. "The rest have just been disgusting. They’ve gone in the trash, they’ve gotten broken up, they’ve just not been smoked. It’s pretty gross."

He’s not alone. Many in the cannabis community steer clear of pre-rolled joints because of the perception that they contain low-quality cannabis. But where did that reputation come from? Is it deserved? And does it really mean pre-rolls aren’t worth it? We spoke to budtenders, producers, dispensary owners, and cannabis enthusiasts to find out.

The biggest takeaway? When it comes to pre-rolls, it’s hard to generalize. But at least in some markets, they don’t always deserve the bad rap.

"The quality really varies a lot," said Lauren, who spent three years working in a Seattle medical dispensary and who requested anonymity in order to preserve her industry ties. While some producers use higher-quality flower, she said, others add what’s called trim — the leaves and stems that are cut away from the bud before curing.

"A lot of the pre-rolls that are out there are made with a combination of plant material, and sometimes that includes smaller stems," she said.

The biggest problem with a pre-roll is the paper, because it hides what’s inside. That makes it easier for producers to get away with using sub-par cannabis or trim. Even when a store includes high-quality cannabis, consumers still can’t judge what’s inside — so the store may see little advantage in stocking high-quality pre-rolls.

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