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Industy-wide Rolling Paper and Cone Shortage Q&A with Niles from HBI

We have been seeing more demand than supply when it comes to rolling papers, most specifically RAW brand products.  With cannabis becoming legal in more states, the demand for rolling papers has increased, but the number of papers being produced has not. And it’s actually more difficult than you would think to make a rolling paper.

Here’s some history:

Most rolling papers are made in Alcoy, an area in Spain where some of the first paper mills were established.  As the use and trading of tobacco became more common, the need for a special paper to smoke it in grew.  Before rolling papers, cigarettes were wrapped in other leaves, tied with string, or even rolled in newspaper.  The Alcoy region of Spain was the perfect place to produce these thin specialty papers, as the humidity level is especially low. The first rolling paper books were made by Pay Pay and became available in the mid 1700’s.

In the late 1990s, after establishing HBI Int’l (which is the distribution company we order our papers and cones from), Josh Kesselman was invited to Spain by the owner of a rolling paper factory who was looking to develop new products.  Soon after, Juicy Jay’s, Elements, and RAW papers were born.  It only took about 20 years for those brands to become the gold standard when it comes to joint rolling.

In an article called, “The Unfiltered History of Rolling Papers, Plus Tommy Chong’s Big Fat Jamaican Vacation”, Kesselman says “From time to time we outgrow our machines…and it’s like, okay, we’re making enough paper, and we’re folding the paper, but we don’t have the machine to get it into booklets. It’s going to take six months to build that new machine, so what are we going to do in the meantime? Well, we go back to the old ways. We set up an old factory room the way it was done back in the early-to-mid 1900s.”

We talked with Niles from HBI and asked him our questions: 

As someone who works in the smoking accessory industry, have you been seeing a shortage in the supply of pre-rolled cones?

If you define a shortage as not having enough cones to satisfy market demand, then yes there is a shortage, however, we are actually making more cones than ever before. We did, however, lose some production time early in the year due to pandemic shutdowns. It would be great if we could immediately meet the demand, but it is more important to us to maintain our quality standards than to crank out more product that could be subpar.

Do you think this shortage is due to increased demand as more states and countries decriminalize cannabis use?

This is certainly a factor in the cone shortage. There are more people smoking than ever, more MJ businesses in general who are using cones for pre-rolls, and also the explosion of the CBD market is factoring in as they make CBD pre-rolls. We even work with a company that was using RAW cones to package their catnip. We are truly blessed that a lot of people enjoy using our cones.

Can you tell us more about the rolling paper and cone manufacturing process? Is it automated like most other manufacturing processes? 

 I am not a true expert on the manufacturing process however my understanding is that most of the cones are still handmade. The rolling paper itself is made in our rolling paper factory in Alcoy, Spain and they still use the same machines to make that paper that have been used for decades.

 Do you have any tips or tricks to get around the cone shortage?

 Learn how to roll your own cone or a more classical shaped doobie. Josh (@rawkandroll), founder of RAW, has a ton of resources on his IG and YouTube where you can learn lots of techniques to help improve your rolling and smoking experience. Rolling your own is a valuable skill that is fun to learn and even more fun when you get to enjoy the finished product.

What’s your favorite cannabis consumption method?  Do you like fat blunts or hi-tech carts?  Are you into iced bong hits or are you fine hitting your favorite spoon pipe? 

 I prefer to smoke flower in something I roll myself or out of my favorite pipe (which I clean obsessively). I like to roll with a  1 ¼ or single-wide paper smoker for a mellow ember and a hit where I can enjoy the flavors of the cannabis.  While I love all of the innovation that has gone into different MJ methods of consumption, fresh flower is always my go-to.

Thanks, Niles! 

Are you still relying heavily on cones as your go-to method for joint rolling and cannabis consumption? We have some alternative ways that might help! 

  1. Learn how to roll with rolling papers! Watch our How to Roll a Joint video and follow along!
  2. Buy a pre-roll! We offer a wide selection at all four of our locations!
  3. Use a rolling machine! Rolling a joint couldn’t be easier!
  4. Try out alternative papers like palm leaf wraps!
  5. Check out RawPapersOfficial on youtube for more rolling tips and tricks!