When it comes to getting high, the discerning cannabis smoker has a host of options. Some prefer bongs because the water takes some of the harshness out of the smoke. Others prefer pipes, which can be as elaborate or simple as the user prefers. Most are made of glass or wood, but silicone is now an increasingly popular option. In a pinch, a hollowed-out apple will work, and if you want to go full-on MacGyver, a toilet paper roll, a piece of tin foil and a pin can be used to make an ersatz pipe.
However, for ease of use and the simple social joy of smoking out with your friends, nothing beats a joint.
The problem is, not everyone can roll a joint, or at least one that’s smokable.
Provided you can manage to actually get the leading edge of the paper to roll smoothly around your weed and under the remaining paper without ripping, the result is often misshapen and smokes unevenly. Recognizing the public’s need for an easy-to-use and portable option, savvy cannabis retailers stock a variety of pre-rolled joints to satisfy every taste.
While it’s tempting to envision a gang of trolls busily hand-rolling joints in a sweatshop somewhere, the reality is that technology has once again come to the rescue. Gone are the days of those clumsy “cigarette” rolling machines — essentially a loop of flexible plastic slung around two joint-length rods — that practically require a Ph.D to operate.
Today’s rolling machines are far more sophisticated and can produce 100 pre-rolls in less than five minutes. While some retailers buy ready-made pre-rolls from cannabis cultivators or manufacturers, others prefer to make their own. To get the skinny on the art of the pre-roll, Alaska Cannabist reached out to two experts.
Nico Blake is the “pre-roll sensai” at Cannabaska, a cannabis cultivation center and retail store in Anchorage. Blake said he makes anywhere from 150 to 1,200 pre-rolls a day with the aid of a Futurola Grinder and a Futurola Knockbox, which are made in the weed-smoking capital of the world, Amsterdam.
First, Blake takes small, immature buds leftover from the trimming process and sifts them to remove any stems or seeds. He then places the flower in a grinder, which he describes as a cross between “a really big coffee grinder and a weed whacker” and is “the size of a small child.”
After the weed is sifted a second time, Blake checks to make sure it has the proper consistency. “I compare getting the grind of the pre-roll kind of like you’d do for coffee. You don’t want to powderize any of your stuff because we have a lot of resinous material that we work with and it tends to clog really fast.”
Crutches, which are the mouthpiece of the joint, are placed in a holder and the pre-rolled cones are placed in them with the wider, open end facing up. The ground flower is packed into a hole-filled container that is placed above the cones. With a press of a button, the container starts to shake and the weed falls into the cones below. The shaking action also packs the weed down into the joint, ensuring a nice, even smoke.
Cannabaska’s pre-rolls are made with a glueless hemp rolling paper for a better-tasting product. To ensure the quality and flavor of the weed is up to par, Blake always hand rolls a joint and smokes it before filling the machine.
Blake was hired as a budtender two years ago but became the store’s sole pre-roller after showing an aptitude for it.
“They called me in one day and asked me to work a couple of hours to help hand-fill in the back. That’s back when we were filling everything by hand. I was glad to do it. You know, I’m from the South, and to me it was like, ‘I’m gonna get paid to roll joints. Absolutely. I’m fine with that.’”
Blake describes his job as a “dream come true.”
“I remember growing up and sitting in a circle with everybody, and we were all talking about the rapper Waka Flocka Flame and how he pays a person to roll blunts for him. It’s an actual paying job and the guy makes $50K a year. And I thought that was awesome and crazy. We all said ‘What if we could do that one day?’ The second I got this job I called my friends and said, ‘Hey, guess what I finally get to do?’ It’s hard to believe.”
Sandy Glonek, the retail manager of Red Run Cannabis Company in Kenai, oversees the making of all of the store’s pre-rolls. The store also uses a Futurola Knockbox, and the joints are made using bud leftover from packaging.
“Our pre-rolls are all flower pre-rolls,” she said. “We do hand picking, so it’s not like dust. You can actually tear a joint open and see little buds in there. People love our fluffy little buds.”
Though a manufacturing crew makes most of the pre-rolls, Glonek likes to do small, specialized batches herself. “Say I have a bunch of buds from a bunch of different packages. I’ll combine all of those into one pre-roll. I’ve gone so far as to put 13 different strains in one joint. I called it “The Kitchen Sink.”
Glonek calls her special joints “salad pre-rolls” and sells them deli-style out of large glass jars.
“They’re really unique and people love them. They know it’s a limited, one-shot deal and might not happen again, and they really enjoy that. All the time they’re like ‘I want another one.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, if I get those same amounts of bud back again I can do it.’”
Glonek writes everything down on a “mixed strain sheet,” a process she acknowledged is labor-intensive.
“I have to add up all of the strains, list all of the specifications of the THC, the CBD, the terpenes, everything. And then I have to get an average of what the THC in that joint’s going to be, and the terpene profile. It’s a lot of paperwork but it’s worth it.”
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at dchomicz@AlaskaCannabist.com or 459-7582.