Cannabis: Journey of the Joint
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 to consume this ancient plant.
Cannabis flower now accounts for under 40% of cannabis sales in mature legal markets with pre-rolled joints commanding an ever-increasing share in that category. Pre-rolled cigarettes account for 93.7% of tobacco sales in the US today, and we expect mature cannabis markets to trend towards those levels over time. Edibles, tinctures, capsules, sprays, patches, inhalers, oil cartridges and other cannabinoid delivery methods continue to cannibalize flower sales. Cultivators are well served to observe these trends as they consider integration with other parts of the supply chain.
Truth finds completeness only in freedom
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 pre-cursor 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, and people smoked freely while the government’s attention was focused on persecuting alcohol users between 1920 and 1933.
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’.
The end of alcohol prohibition on December 5th, 1933 catalyzed the growth of booze-filled jazz clubs and effectively put an end to the underground jazz scene. The end of prohibition also led to the government turning its prosecution attention from beer to cannabis, with Louis Armstrong himself becoming the first celebrity musician to be arrested for possession. Cannabis retained its enormous symbolic value to the counter-culture 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 higher than ever, and the joint experienced a resurgence in the 1960s and 1970s when cannabis became a symbol for peace.
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 heroine and LSD.
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.
Top-shelf flower, terpene enhancement, hash sprinkling, slow burning paper, specialized filtration – each joint in its own glass tube, sold in distinctive and attractive packaging with an ignition feature. This is the pre-roll of today. 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 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