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What is a pre-roll?

pre-roll, cannabis joint
Pre-rolls.

A pre-roll is, simply, a pre-rolled joint, typically with a crutch.

Joints are cheap, discreet, disposable, and easily shared among friends. They require 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 weed shops emerged, demand grew for ready-made smokeables. By now, pre-rolls are 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.

How are pre-rolls made?

The rolling paper can hide what’s inside, making it easier for producers to get away with using sub-par cannabis or trim. Even if a pre-roll does include high-quality cannabis, consumers still can’t judge what’s inside so stores may see little advantage in stocking high-quality pre-rolls.

Trim

Many cannabis consumers steer clear of pre-rolled joints because they often contain low-quality cannabis. They’re most often made with trim—the leaves that are cut away from buds after harvesting. 

This trim contains some trichomes but not as many as buds. Trim has much more plant matter than trichomes compared to buds, and when smoked, this plant matter makes trim harsh.

Producers often make pre-rolls out of trim or sell trim to extractors for making concentrates, to get as much money out of their product as possible.

Shake

Another source for pre-rolls is shake. As nugs are shifted around in jars at dispensaries, small bits of flower fall off, which budtenders can collect for use in pre-rolls.

Nugs

Full nugs can also be ground down and used in pre-rolls, fetching a much higher price. Nug-sourced pre-rolls are harder to find, as most pre-rolls are created to use up all product from producers and dispensaries.

Filling pre-rolls

Using shake, trim, or ground down nugs, the filling material is usually loaded into pre-rolled paper cones by the tens or even hundreds. A machine shakes the joints to help settle the mixture and remove air pockets. 

Once joints are filled, an employee gently tamps down the contents of each one to make sure it’s not too tight or too loose, which can cause it to burn poorly. With a twist of the tip, the pre-roll’s ready to go.

The benefits of pre-rolls

Pre-rolls are great because they’re cheap, portable, and easy to consume. If you don’t want to buy a lot of flower or deal with grinding it up and rolling it, you can pop into a store, buy a pre-roll, and light it up whenever. 

How much do pre-rolls cost?

Pre-rolls are usually only a few dollars each, and they often come in packs. You can buy singles, doubles, or packs of five or more. 

They typically come in half-gram and full-gram amounts, and can sometimes be infused with concentrates for an added kick. 


Ben Adlin and Pat Goggins contributed to this article.