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Joint Rolling for Dummies

Don’t blow this joint — learn how to roll an A-plus jay with these spliff-rolling tips from the experts.

The classic marijuana joint remains the most popular way people consume weed, despite the availability of pipes, bongs, vapes, edibles, pills, ointments, and even infused pedicures. Joints are perfectly discreet, great for sharing, and still, have that timeless appeal from the Summer of Love and Cheech and Chong days.

But joints are perennially frustrating for a lot of people to roll. If yours are badly proportioned disasters whose paper burns all wrong, the stiffer challenge of rolling a blunt will leave you completely out of joint.

Marijuana event space Oakland Cannabis Creative held a 420 “rolling competition” last month, which inspired  SF Evergreen to roll up our sleeves and see if there’s anything beginners can learn from ninja-level joint and blunt experts.

“We realized how serious everyone takes their rolling,” says Raeven Duckett, co-founder of Community Gardens, one of the event’s sponsors. “We had 10 artists  — we called them artists  — who thought they could roll the sweetest blunt or spliff.”

Technically, joints, blunts, and spliffs are all separate, distinct varieties of the rolled-up marijuana cigarette genre. This rolling competition did three rounds with each as a separate category, as crafting each has a different set of best practices. But whichever you pick, it’s imperative that you first crumble or grind your bud down to a powdery, high-quality “mix.”

“The mix is perhaps the most important part of the joint,” says Bobcat Press’ 1994 classic The Joint Rolling Handbook, which is still available on Amazon and remains a canonical reference work on the topic.

The handbook shows you to roll all manner of exotic and specialized joints, plus two-way double joints, and even the Windmill (with four built-in mini joints that hit simultaneously!). But it all starts with the mix.

“Make sure the consistency is even and break up or remove any lumps or ‘woody’ bits,” The Joint Rolling Handbook says, referring to stems or other non-bud matter in your cannabis flower.

Hardcore joint nerds use an herb grinder for this, but you can also just patiently break down the bud by hand to make sure it’s nicely ground with even consistency.

For a traditional marijuana joint that uses a standard rolling paper, start by distributing your marijuana mix evenly horizontally across the half of the rolling paper that does not have the adhesive gum.

“Pick everything up and start in the middle, rolling outwards,” The Joint Rolling Handbook advises. “Let your thumbs do most of the work, and give support and pressure with your forefingers. You should start to feel the mix firming inside the paper.”

Use your thumbs to massage that weed out evenly, avoiding the center-loaded “pregnant joint” phenomenon. Once your joint has achieved good form, lick the paper’s gum and gently massage the adhesion until dry. Poof, you’re ready to puff and pass.

Understand this will take practice to perfect. In the meantime, you can always “paper over” your early efforts’ cosmetic flaws by applying a second-layer rolling paper that will create a smoother appearance.

You can also avoid all the practice with the popular Raw Roller rolling machine, a lovely little contraption that generally retails for under $10 at dispensaries and head shop-style tobacco stores all over town. The Raw Roller makes joint rolling astonishingly simple. Just lay your weed mix into the roller, slip in a rolling paper, and lick it. Out comes a picture-perfect joint, in seconds, with absolutely no know-how or expertise required. Its base is even made of hemp plastic!

You may have also seen an advanced-level cone, with a chic twist of the paper on the far end. Most dispensaries sell cone rolling papers you can stuff with ground marijuana, twist the end, and pretend you’re capable of rolling a virtuoso, artisan jay.

Spliffs, meanwhile, are hybrid marijuana-tobacco cigarettes. So they’re popular with the unhealthy nicotine crowd. Since the tobacco makes spliffs harsher to hit, they’re often rolled with a “crutch” or “rolling tip” that acts as a faux-filter — although doesn’t actually filter the smoke or make your damned tobacco any less hazardous.

But a crutch helps the smoke flow better, limits saliva grotesqueness, and keeps spliff-smokers from burning their lips. Any plain, white card paper can be rolled into a small tube to create a functioning crutch, and ripped corners of unwanted business cards will do nicely. 

If you care about health or hygiene, rolling paper brands often sell cheap packs of rolling tips that don’t have any printing ink or chemical additives found in commercial cigarette filters.

Blunts are the most challenging category of these green arts. These hollowed-out cigars stuffed with high-grade bud are harmful as hell to smoke, almost always have nicotine in the cigar paper, and are not recommended for therapeutic purposes other than getting wasted.

The most popular variety is the Backwoods blunt, thanks probably to Mac Dre’s 2004 track “Backwoods Swisher Sweet.” Backwoods blunts are made from sweet-flavored Backwoods cigars, which carry great prestige among blunt snobs. They’re expensive and difficult to find — and they’ll be all the more so if and when the flavored-tobacco ban kicks in.

But you can still roll a blunt with a $1 liquor-store cigar.

Start by finding the outer crease of the cigar paper, and gently unroll the whole thing. Toss out the tobacco and brush away any extra, spread your pot evenly throughout, and carefully reroll the blunt back into cigar form. Lick the paper to make it stick, and apply more saliva with your tongue and lips to make the blunt’s exterior congeal once it dries.

Does that sound disgusting? It is! As previously noted, blunts are an exceptionally bad idea from a health standpoint.

But they’re the life of the party, just as joints and spliffs are so well-suited for social circles. Yes, you can just pop by a dispensary and buy pre-rolled joints, but joint rolling is an awfully handy skill. And if it’s late-night after the dispensaries close, you’ll be happy you can rock ’n’ roll all night.

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