The Venerable Joint Has a Long History and a Bright Pre-Rolled Future
Humans have been smoking marijuana in pipes for millennia. Twisting it up in paper was a big innovation in the 1850s.
The classic joint offers a cannabis experience like no other, perhaps due to its unique ability to simultaneously combust as well as vaporize its contents. While ubiquitous today, this smoking mechanism is a relatively new invention that owes its birth to Mexican laborers in the 1850s. The first commercial cannabis cigarette arrived two decades later, with Grimault’s Indian cigarettes claiming respiratory ailment alleviation with their Indica resin in the Boston Medical Journal. For thousands of years prior, humans had relied on pipes, hookahs and chillums (a.k.a "one hitters") to consume this ancient plant.
The birth of the doobie.
The joint of the 1850s was little more than loose flower sprinkled into tobacco, bearing little resemblance to the shotguns, tulips, scorpions, plumbers, fuzzies and tarantulas of today. A precursor to the joint developed in Europe in the 1600s where peasants rolled up tobacco from cigar butts discarded by the aristocracy with newspaper scraps. Joints grew in popularity through the 1930s, when people smoked freely while the government’s attention was focused on prosecuting alcohol users between 1920 and 1933.
Not bluegrass, another kind of grass.
A contributor to the rise in the joint’s popularity was its close relationship with jazz music, perhaps due to its ability to provoke imaginative improvisation. Audiences from New Orleans to New York were captivated by this musical style and cannabis grew in popularity along with it. On July 19th, 1943, Time magazine chose to highlight this relationship, and excerpts from that article include:
‘The association of marijuana with hot jazz is no accident. The drug's power to slow the sense of time gives an improviser the illusion that he has all the time in the world in which to conceive his next phrases’, ‘It is less habit-forming than tobacco, alcohol or opium’ and ‘no case of physical, mental or moral degeneration has ever been traced exclusively to marijuana’.
Mad about reefers.
The end of alcohol prohibition on December 5th, 1933, catalyzed the growth of booze-filled jazz clubs, effectively ending the underground jazz scene. The end of prohibition also led to the government turning its prosecution attention from beer to cannabis, with Louis Armstrong becoming the first celebrity musician to be arrested for possession. Cannabis retained its enormous symbolic value to the counterculture with close ties to grunge, rock and rap music alike.
The Vietnam War, besides being a battle to stop the spread of communism, was also a time for rebellion, change and freedom. Use amongst soldiers during the war was common, and the joint experienced a resurgence in the 1960s and 1970s when cannabis became a symbol for peace.
All about the papers.
Nixon declared his war on drugs in June, 1971, eventually creating the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 1973. At the same time, companies like Zig-Zag were responding to increasing consumer focus on paper porosity, pulp content, tensile and tear strength. Paper designed for use with tobacco burns all too rapidly for cannabis needs, and companies adapted while also shifting marketing focus from patriots to adolescents. The growth of the rolling paper industry followed the rise in cannabis consumption despite the government’s efforts at removing the distinction between cannabis plants and drugs such as heroin and LSD.
The rise of the pre-roll.
While we have seen a stark decline in flower sales in mature legal markets, the pre-roll market is growing as consumers prefer the convenience and manufacturers recognize the importance of using top-shelf flower. The end of a joint burns at 750-1100°F, while THC begins to vaporize at 315°F. Thus, the joint offers combustion as well as vaporization with smoke moving through flower to ultimately enter the lungs at a sauna-like 120-140°F.
While smoking in general is certainly on a consistent decline, we will see many innovative improvements to the classic joint in the years to come. Pre-rolled cigarettes account for 93.7 percent of tobacco sales in the US today. We expect mature cannabis markets to trend towards those levels over time.
The future of the joint.
This is the pre-roll of today: top-shelf flower, terpene enhancement, hash sprinkling, slow burning paper, specialized filtration with each joint in its own glass tube, sold in distinctive and attractive packaging with an ignition feature. There is room for manufacturers to play with form, function and experience. Pre-rolls customized for the consumer, the occasion and the intention can capitalize on this pre-roll resurgence and capture mindshare along with wallet share. Investors and manufacturers are as well served to understand these trends as consumers are placed to benefit from their continued evolution.
Propaganda is the fuel that drives public policy far from public opinion.