The Smoke and Mirrors of Pre-Rolls: Papers and Marketing Gimmicks

The Smoke and Mirrors of Pre-Rolls: Papers and Marketing Gimmicks

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Cannabis and hemp products undergo rigorous testing during production, yet a critical aspect often goes unnoticed — the safety of smoking accessories like rolling papers remains unchecked for harmful contaminants including pesticides and heavy metals.  

Because of this, there is simply no way of knowing what contaminants may have made their way into rolling papers. This lack of oversight, in an industry that prides itself on regulation and consumer safety, can create a blind spot for consumers and manufacturers alike, even resulting in batches of pre-rolls being destroyed in states that require testing of a final product, like California.  

Labs in the past have also found high percentages of rolling papers available commercially to have levels of pesticides or heavy metals that were over actionable limits, bringing to light the hidden dangers that smoking accessories can pose, especially in products consumers hold dear.  

In 2020, Colorado even updated its regulations so final products, like pre-rolls, would have to be tested after the previous two years saw “failing microbial contaminant testing after the original Harvest Batches passed testing.” But not every state has taken such a step. 

It’s imperative to shed light on the truth about rolling papers, the peril that lurks within them and the deceptive marketing strategies used to greenwash these products.  

Mythbusting Rolling Paper Marketing 

As the pre-roll segment of the cannabis industry evolves, there has been a variety of rolling papers claiming to be sustainable, organic or natural. However, not all these claims hold.  

Deceptive tactics and misleading terms are employed by marketers to create a false sense of security. For instance, promoting the use of “rice paper” is misleading because rice is not used in the papers. While actual rice paper is edible and used in many Asian dishes, rolling papers do not contain rice or its fibers but rather wood pulp. Wood pulp is an ideal material because it offers enough thickness to hold its shape and is thin enough to limit the impact on flavor.  

Similarly, the term “unbleached” is often found on paper packaging and is also misleading. This language is often used on white rolling papers to create an association between bleach and the color white, though no bleach is used in modern rolling paper production. Likewise, brown rolling papers are often marketed as “natural” or “unrefined,” making consumers believe that it is a healthier alternative.  

In reality, brown paper is not any more “natural” than white paper, they are simply less refined, meaning that the wood pulp refining process was stopped earlier in the brown paper production process, leaving more of the plant material behind, thus creating a brown hue. There is nothing “unnatural” about refined white rolling papers, the only true difference lies in the paper’s thickness, not its naturalness. 

The Perils Lurking In Rolling Papers and Blunts

Palm leaf and rose rolling papers have risen in popularity, but what’s inside might shock you. For instance, rose papers can carry the highest contamination risks. Roses are grown easiest with the help of pesticides, which is not a safety concern unless the flower is being used to inhale and smoke.  

Palm leaf blunts and corn husk filters are also found to frequently fail for heavy metals, pesticides and microbial contamination. In fact, some of these are not even made with palm leaves, but leaves from the Cordia tree!  

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Made from natural leaves, the heavy metals in “palm leaf” blunts come from the soil that the leaves grow in, and the pesticides that are sprayed on the crops. It’s a process known as “bioaccumulation.” As for the corn husk filters, the natural material rolled up tightly can hold moisture, making it a potential breeding ground for mold and other microbial contaminants. 

In 2022, for example, one of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division’s recalls were aimed at products wrapped in palm leaves and featuring corn husk filters, noting that the total yeast and mold levels found in the products were unsafe. 

At Custom Cones USA, we have done our own extensive testing on palm leaf wraps and corn husk filters and have been unable to find consistently clean sourcing for any product, which is why we no longer carry them. We had a similar issue with rose petal wraps and no longer sell those either. 

So next time you see a rolling paper or pre-rolled cone that is billed as “natural,” keep in mind that “natural” doesn’t always mean “safe.” 

Are your papers tested? 

With the possibility that rolling papers or pre-rolled cones can carry hidden dangers to your customers — and your company — it’s important to always make sure you either test your paper yourself or that pre-roll supplier is as focused on compliance as you are. 

Always ask if your pre-rolled cone supplier does their own testing and ask to see the certificates of analysis before purchasing. If they are unwilling to show you before you buy, that could be a red flag. And check that they use a reputable, accredited lab for their testing. 

Think of your pre-rolls in a similar vein as your edibles. They are both products that your customers are going to consume and they should be as safe and tested as possible. Just because you are not eating a pre-roll doesn’t mean it shouldn’t also be high quality and safe. 

Final Thoughts 

When sourcing pre-rolls, considering the paper used is as crucial as the cannabis itself. 

Shockingly, most U.S. states do not mandate testing for cannabis paper products, emphasizing the need for a cleaner, purer and more responsible smoking experience for cannabis consumers. Yet. 

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Consumers trust the companies they purchase from, assuming the products are safe and clean. Unfortunately, this trust is not always reciprocated.  

At Custom Cones USA and DaySavers, we voluntarily test all of our pre-roll products and prioritize exceeding industry standards to ensure our products are free from detectable levels of pesticides, heavy metals and microbial contaminations, offering a safer smoking experience.  

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