I started smoking weed at the age when most people stop. I was in my early 20s and living in Victoria, where I got my English degree. Even back in the mid-1990s, Victoria was very cannabis-friendly. The compassion clubs and head shops had yet to open, but the attitude on the street and especially at my school was one of peace and tolerance. The hippie diaspora had touched BC deeply, and the capital city of British Columbia was no exception.
My first experience was with joints. Old fashioned, classic, roll it on your lap while sitting on the stoop after class, joints. In addition, maybe that is why I still prefer that method. As much as I love the artistic beauty of a nice glass bong or a well-carved pipe, it always comes back to the papers. Now that we do not have to whisper about it, as if smoking weed is something to be ashamed of, let us talk about the best papers to use and where to get them.
There are a million different kinds of papers out there. Depending on where you are shopping, it might even be more. Not all papers are not created equally, however. You can make “rolling paper” out of anything, and there are all kinds of jokes about smoking your exam paper or your least favorite book. Who doesn’t like to take a few pages out of Leviticus as an offering to the cannabis gods?
Seriously, though, think about what you’re doing. Burning something and inhaling it. Everything in that paper ends up in your lungs and eventually your bloodstream. Therefore, what is the best kind of rolling paper to use, and the worst, and why?
The Worst—Clear, Scented, and Dyed Papers
If what you eat should be free of artificial flavors, chemicals and dyes, then the papers you choose should be the same. As fun and attractive as those novelty papers are, they should stay that way – as a novelty. It’s not just a health issue, either. There are several reasons to avoid certain types of papers.
Let’s start with clear papers. Wow, are these ever cool! You can see the weed as you smoke it! Why doesn’t everyone use these?
Clear papers do have some advantages. They burn slowly compared to other papers and are easier to roll because of their thickness. And why are they so thick? Because they are made of celluloid. The manufacturer will use the word “celluloid” in their advertising because using the more colloquial term would equal a PR nightmare – plastic. To be specific, the same stuff they filmed movies on before digital media.
Burning plastic is dangerous anyway. Imagine smoking it? That can’t be good. Use them for a party or a night out, but avoid them if you’re a regular smoker.
As I became a more experienced cannabis consumer, I discovered something interesting. Cannabis tastes good. Messing it up with something scented takes away part of the experience. I know folks that are so serious about this that they refuse to even use filters.
Scented and dyed papers contain many of the same chemicals and additives. You have to admit, those little cartoon coconuts and varying designs are extremely cute. It feels like that nostalgia of “scratch and sniff” especially when you come across more unique flavors like marshmallow or absinth. For a themed occasion, the right kind of scent or color is a lot of fun. Imagine the theme for a wedding reception or a gender reveal event, for example.
On the other hand, if you want the taste of marshmallows, then just go buy a bag. Absinthe is great, so go drink some. We’re smoking cannabis here.
Papers that come in silver and gold often combine celluloid and a complex dye process. Again, fun as a novelty, but do you really want to burn that and inhale it?
The Best – Natural, Thin, Unbleached
Natural means just that. Free from dyes, colors or artificial flavors, put together from a base ingredient that also contains no additives. Be careful of this as well – just because a paper is simply white does not mean it is free from chemicals or artificial ingredients…
The best papers are made from natural ingredients like hemp. Rice paper is also a nice choice. Focus on the addition of chemicals or plastics when choosing your papers, and stay away from them.
Thickness in general is a matter of taste, and the pun is intended. Yes, thicker papers are easier to roll. I have never used a machine, but if you do, then you might want something more durable. The more paper there is to smoke, however, the more of that extra material gets in your lungs. Personally, I would recommend the thinner, the better. A good guideline to use is to gauge how transparent the paper is. If it is translucent, that is the perfect paper. Clear means you have got a paper made of plastic and opaque means you have extra material to inhale.
If you are confident in your rolling abilities, there are papers that are “ungummed.” These are so natural that they do not even have a sticky strip. As inconvenient as that might seem, it is the ideal choice.
The classic papers that most people come across are the standard white ones. These are often labelled as “classic”. Again, good old marketing. These are bleached, which is just as bad as being dyed.
Zig-Zags for example, are the classic white bleached papers, but even this brand has seen the light and offers an unbleached version. The folks at Zig-Zag are a little touchy about the connection the brand has with cannabis smokers, and their products are intended for use with tobacco. That is their story, and they are sticking to it. During Prohibition, these were always marketed as “cigarette papers” to avoid any legal entanglements.
As the organic weed craze escalated in the early 2000s, and Legalization became inevitable, other brands rose that were developed specifically for cannabis. Brands include Elements, RAW, OCB, and Smoking Black. Most of them include several natural varieties with names like Natural, Organic, Unrefined, and the likes. Unlike in past days, these brands can openly offer a myriad of choices intended for use with the kind herb. Moreover, unlike past days, we can openly discuss which papers are good for daily use and which are not.
These companies have based their whole business model on their organic varieties of papers. Raw (my personal favorite) actually uses this concept in the name of their company. Natural hemp is the main ingredient in their papers, and I am a big believer in hemp as an alternative to other materials, like wood pulp.
It is not always about health. The overuse of paper is a real environmental concern. A tree should not have to die so I can enjoy a nice smoke. The boreal forest that I grew up in is under serious threat partly because of the laws against industrialized hemp. Using trees to make paper has been insane, never mind unnecessary, and that actually has more to do with the criminalization of cannabis than any public health concern. Read, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” by Jack Herer. However, that is another story.
Chemicals, dyes and artificial flavors do not belong in your food or your joints. Roll if you want to. Stay medicated and stay healthy while you do.