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Saturday May 7, 2022

By Paul Barach

Batch of pre-rolled joints that have tan filter tips on one end reading, "RAW" and extra twisted paper at the other. 420 Culture

Stopping into your local dispensary for a pre-rolled joint is one of the greatest conveniences that cannabis legalization has offered. It’s cheap, easy, and perfect for a quick toke alone or with friends while you’re on your way to whatever fun you’re looking to have. Pre-rolled joints make an amazing birthday gift and are equally great for any event, from concerts to summer barbeques.

However, it can be hard to know what’s inside that pre roll even after you pop the top, unless you have some type of futuristic stoner technology, such as a cannabis X-Ray or MRI (Marijuana Rating Instrument). Scientists nowadays are all too busy to invent such devices – probably researching climate change or teaching rats to mix baking soda and vinegar inside tiny volcano dioramas – but there are ways to tell the quality of your pre-rolled joint before taking that first puff.

History of Pre Rolled Joints

Before getting into what’s actually in your pre-rolled joint, we should begin with a short history of pre-rolls and how they gained their less-than-stellar reputation. We would all like to believe that each dispensary rolls their joints with top shelf bud, using the same love and care that your friend Molly did back in college so that you could all have a good time together. But this is the real world and dispensaries are less like your friend Molly and more like your weed dealer, Andy, who was hella cool but also in it to make money.

To that end, most pre-rolled joints are basically produced as a way to squeeze a little bit more profit out of each marijuana harvest.

A pile of cannabis trim that is green, brown, and yellow with a joint sitting on top of the pile that is wrapped in a white rolling papers and and white filter at the tip.
Unfortunately, there are some low quality joints made from the leftover cannabis trim. photo credit

Usually, pre-rolled joints contain the lower-tiered cannabis shake, the bottom ends of jars, or even ground up trim. These are then mixed together, sometimes from different strains, and poured into pre-rolled joint cones that are then machine shaken and twisted off by hand. All this to say, there’s a reason most people consider pre-rolls the culinary equivalent of Ballpark Hot Dogs.

This isn’t to say that all pre-rolled joints are necessarily bad or that some aren’t made with care. The shake in a pre-roll may be as potent as the flower it comes from, but it’s just more likely to have been dried out and will have lost a lot of its kick.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are some truly fire pre-rolled joints out there, however, they won’t be the ones that you find for bargain marijuana prices. You are not always going to have to settle for some low quality joints and the potential headaches, paranoia, or sore throats. So, how do you know if you’re buying a quality pre-rolled joint? Here are some tips.

Ask Your Budtender What’s in the Pre Rolled Joints

Any trustworthy budtender knows that their tips and their good name are on the line when questions of cannabis are brought to the fore. They would rather dash themselves on the rocks from the nearest cliff, no matter how far the drive, than lead you astray with any sort of false representation of their wares. They may also just be working a low-wage retail job because they like weed.

The tops of brown joints with paper twisted at the tops that are poking out of a yellow package with holes for each one.
Trust your budtender to steer you in the right direction. photo credit

Either way, your budtender is always a good place to start when you have any questions about your product. They’ll either have tried the pre-rolled joints themselves, or have a general idea of the feedback from any coworker or customer who’s smoked them previously.

While not every budtender is the best informed or the most committed to their job and the customers they serve, a simple question such as “How is this pre-roll?” should be easy enough to answer.

Check Who Makes the Pre-Rolled Joints

There is a demand for quality pre-rolled joints and cannabis companies are beginning to rise to that occasion. Several producers specialize entirely in pre-rolls and are putting out quality joints whose contents are the exact same finely curated flower as they sell in canisters, bags, and jars.

Hundreds of joints that are lying on top of each other with greyish-green bodies and a white tip which serves as a filter.
Some companies focus only on pre-rolled joints as their popularity has grown over the years. photo credit

Even if the pre-rolled joint isn’t being made by a specialty company or wholesale brand, most high-quality grows will still put out joints as well with comparable quality to their flower. If it’s coming from a grower, or a company who is banking their financial success on pre-rolls, it’s a safe bet that it’ll be decent.

You Get What You Pay For With Pre-Rolled Joints

Look, there are some real diamond-in-the-rough pre-roll joints out there. Sometimes you’ll come across a nice five dollar pre-roll that is so terpene rich and potent that you don’t even have to hold a flame to it. The light shining down on it is so brilliant that the end will spontaneously combust.

However, five bucks is five bucks, and if that’s what you’re spending then you can’t really be expecting too much out of your pre-rolled joint besides getting you stoned in a cheap, convenient, and mobile way. The same can be said for penny pre-rolls being offered as promotional products from some dispensaries. They’re making their money somehow, and it’s not through acts of charity.

Five joints were stuffed with green cannabis with tan rolling paper that are facing you as well as a pile of weed in front of the joints.
Joints vary in price which can be a gauge on the quality of the cannabis inside. photo credit

On the other hand, if you’re buying a quality pre-rolled joint or a pack of them for twenty dollars or more, you can be pretty certain you’ll be having a much better experience. Charging a premium price for a pre-roll is a producer’s way of telling you that you’ll be back for another soon.

If your pre-rolled joints come in a tin or well-designed packaging, that’s another tip that they’re putting their money into quality. You can also be pretty certain you’ll have a better experience if the pre-roll is strain specific. A Gorilla Glue or Blue Haze pre-rolled joint will generally deliver what it promises more than a “house blend.”

The Nose Knows Good Pre-Rolls

Pop the top of your pre-rolled joint’s container (if it’s not sealed) and take a whiff. If it’s grade-A weed, you’ll know it from the rich blend of terpenes and fresh, dank aroma. If you’re getting a hearty blend of pine, lemon, lavender, cloves, diesel, berry, or any of the other common scents, you know it’s good.

If you’re having a hard time placing the smell besides that it smells like weed (or if it smells like hay), then it’s probably a little dried out and not the best of the batch.

Another scent to notice in your pre rolled joint is if it’s especially woodsy, smelling like bark or a campfire. This tells you that there’s probably stems ground up and mixed in with the flower. Synthetic smells are also something to watch out for, since they mean pesticides were used in the harvest.

Women with pink and blonde hair that is curled with her hands cupping a joint as well as a lighting the joint with her one hand that has hand tattoos and rings.
A good way to identify a good joint is to use your nose and pick up on terpenes. photo credit

Of course, there is a middle ground between buying a cheap pre-roll and tossing down extra for a premium pre-rolled joint. Our elders, and their elders before them could roll a decent joint with nothing but paper and some torn cardboard for a filter tip. There’s nothing stopping you from doing the same and plenty of YouTube videos to help you along.

Buy a gram of quality weed, crumble it up into your paper (or better yet, use a grinder), and roll that sucker up and you’re good to go. It may be a little less convenient, but you’ll always be certain of what you’re getting, and you’ll have that sense of accomplishment that all your hard work paid off.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What To Look For in a Pre-Roll Joint?

If you can, pop the top of your pre rolled joint and take a whiff. If it’s got a pungent mix of floral, citrus, or other weed smells, it’s probably using quality flower. If it smells like hay, or woodsy, it’s old weed and stems. Another marker of quality in your pre rolled joint is if it’s at a higher price point, or comes from a producer known for growing bomb weed. You can also ask your local budtender for their recommendations.

What Do Pre-Rolls Contain?

Usually, pre-rolled joints contain the lower-tiered cannabis shake, the bottom ends of jars, or even ground up trim. These are then mixed together, sometimes from different strains, and poured into pre-rolled cones that are then machine shaken and twisted off by hand.

How Do You Get the Best Pre-Roll?

You pay a higher price for quality. Otherwise, your best bet is to either smell the pre-rolled joint for freshness, buy pre-rolled joints produced by quality growers, or ask your budtender for the pre-rolls they’d recommend.

Do Pre-Rolled Joints Lose Potency?

The flower in pre-rolled joints is more likely to lose potency faster than with nugs of flower because it’s already older, ground up shake or trim. This means that it's already going to be older, drier, and thus less potent once it’s put into the joint.

What to Know About Pre-Rolls?

Pre-rolls are a cheap, easy, and portable way to smoke weed on the go. However, you shouldn’t expect them to contain the highest quality weed unless you’re paying a higher price for them. Your budtenders should be able to help you pick the best pre-rolled joint for your purposes.

How Do You Put Out a Pre-Roll?

If you’re done smoking it, stub it out against a hard, non-flammable surface. If you’re planning to smoke the rest of it later, either gently press it against a hard surface until the cherried end is snuffed, dab the ember with a wet finger to snuff it, or gently flick the burning end until the embers fall off. Then place it back in its tube to store it.

What are your thoughts on pre-rolls? Do you love them, hate them, or have indifference toward them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

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