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Rolling Papers: What’s the Difference?

Rice papers, hemp papers, wood pulp papers, bamboo papers, cellulose papers, natural–palm leaves, pre-rolled cones, wraps, unbleached, unrefined, flavoured or not; rolling papers are far more than just what you wrap your cannabis in, they’re an experience. There are near-endless options for any mood or event.

To date, smoking a joint is the most well-known method of cannabis consumption. From the convenience to the variety of sizes and styles, the average consumer can’t go wrong with any paper, pre-rolled cone, or joint chosen. That said, it’s better to have more knowledge about the rolling papers available and the differences in material, size and flavour, as well as generally used terms, are a great place to start.

Material Differences

Wood Pulp is, throughout history, the most popular choice for manufacturing rolling papers. Many believe white papers are bleached wood pulp and brown are unbleached, but this is false. In the rolling paper world, any material can be refined enough to produce a white or near-white paper, even wood pulp. Wood-based rolling papers are often blended with other fibres, like flax, to improve the texture and make them easier to handle. These papers are regularly thicker than ones made of a different material, with a medium-fast burn rate, and are perfect for those just learning to roll.

Despite being called rice papers, most manufactured nowadays are not made of actual rice and are generally made of wood pulp, hemp, flax, or a blend. The term ‘rice paper’ denotes wafer-thin papers and is often marketed as tasteless and slow-burning. These points make them ideal for many smokers, but the thinness makes rolling these difficult since tearing can occur effortlessly. Another downside to so-called rice papers is that the coveted thinness makes them challenging to use when the weather is damp due to moist air permeating the thin paper.

Hemp papers are often made of pure, 100% organic hemp – that’s typically what the companies producing these papers say anyway. These rolling papers often have colour, but they can be made white by removing the green and brown plant matter. For some smokers, the only way to consume cannabis is with hemp paper since it keeps the plant matter similar on a different level to other materials. Using hemp as the primary material over wood pulp helps reduce the impact that the cannabis industry has on forestry and hemp offers a sturdy paper that is exceptionally similar to the thickness of wood rolling papers. Rolling papers made with hemp are not tasteless, but the flavour imparted is very subtle, often accents the cannabis nicely, and is undetectable to most smokers.

Flax papers are produced by processing the plant stems into flax fibre and refining the fibres into durable, lightweight, ultra-fine rolling papers. These are likely the most comparable to rice papers, as flax is often one of the included materials used to manufacture ‘rice’ rolling paper. Rolling papers made from flax are usually very smooth and easy to use, though the thinness makes them prone to tearing between sweaty or shaking fingers. Compared to the other materials, flax papers are the least popular, and 100% flax papers are harder to find than blended papers.

Bamboo, a super-sustainable product due to its fast growth rate, makes sturdy but thin, often unrefined papers perfect for the eco-conscious smoker. Bamboo rolling papers, like hemp, are not marketed as tasteless; they produce a delicate woody flavour while burning. A notable plus of bamboo-based rolling papers is their slow-burning quality, which increases the smoking time and gives one a better opportunity to enjoy the flavours.

There are many styles of novelty papers made from materials like gold-flake and cellulose. Pre-rolled cones or rolling papers made of a hemp blend and coated in edible gold-flake are well-suited for adult parties of any variety. These are often sold as pre-rolled cones since the higher price makes them riskier to roll by hand. Cellulose fibres, on the other hand, are typically processed to a transparent state. Many people find them off-putting and are reminded of plastic wrap while using them, but an equal number prefer the slow-burning properties and the ability to see the flower as it’s being consumed.

Sizes & Rolling Machines

Rolling papers come in many sizes: single wide, 1¼, 1½, double wide, and king size. While the sizes can differ slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer regarding width, the following list should help showcase the differences between the standard dimensions.

  • Single Wide: The standard paper; typically, single-wide papers are 68-70mm by 34-36mm or 2.75” by 1.4”.
    This paper can be used in a 70mm rolling machine.
  • 1¼: Supposedly named for the ability to hold 25% more product than a single-wide paper can, these papers would be 76-78mm by 44-48mm or 3.1” by 1.8”. This is the most popular available and is also called French Size or Spanish.
    This paper can be used in a 79mm rolling machine.
  • 1½: Named for the ability to hold 50% more product than a single-wide paper can, this size paper is 76-78mm by 60-62mm or 3.1” by 2.4”. These papers have the same length as 1¼’s but will make a fatter joint as they have a greater width.
    This paper can be used in a 79mm rolling machine.
  • Double Wide: Called such due to holding double the amount of product of a single-wide paper. Usually 76-78mm by 63-88mm or 3.1” by 2.5”-3.5”. The size changes widely between manufacturers and is one of the least popular sizes despite producing the largest diameter joint.
    This paper can be used in a 79mm rolling machine.
  • King Size: This is the largest standard size available and typically the most consistent across brands. They are 100-105mm by 55-60mm or 4” by 2”.
    This paper can be used with a 110mm rolling machine, nothing smaller.

There are non-standard sizes offered by specific companies, like the RAW Brand Peacemaker Cones, which are larger than classic king-size papers or Zig-Zag Brand King Slim, which have the same length as the standard king and the same width as 1¼. Another unusual size offered in the industry is the RAW Brand Astrocone, which is a whopping 3 feet long and can hold approximately 8 ounces of cannabis.

Flavours & Styles

Concerning flavour, rolling papers have the market cornered on variety. From fruity flavours of apple, grape, blueberry and banana to sweet chocolate, fresh mint, absinth, buttered rum, maple syrup, cotton candy, and everything in between, there’s always something for anyone. The only thing to be wary of when smoking flavoured papers is that the flavour can be drastically impacted by the flower being rolled; ensure the taste of the flower has been considered before wrapping it.

Other styles available are large wraps and pre-rolled. They can be rolled into a cone shape or a straight tube in any material mentioned thus far. Pre-rolled papers made of prepped palm leaves are also popular, and when made by the brand King Palm, they often have crushable terpene pearls set into the filter to flavour the smoke as it’s consumed.

Commonly Used Terms

You’ll often see the terms “unbleached” and “natural” used in rolling paper packaging, and one would hope that these papers wouldn’t have encountered bleach, but these terms often don’t mean as much as shoppers assume. Most, if not all, rolling papers are made from natural plant products like hemp, flax, wood, palm leaves, and bamboo. The off-white shade of rolling papers comes from plant material being removed through the refining process, not from bleach. The darker the sheet, the earlier it was removed from refinement.

Cannabis products, as with products of any industry, are not exempt from the marketing language used to encourage shoppers to purchase unique, different, or a larger quantity of items. Using fancy terminology to make a product more appealing than an identical product from a competitor is why these terms are used so often in the industry. A first-rate example is “low fat,” which is common in many food packages. Generally, a company that uses “low fat” means “low calorie.” This can lead customers to believe that one product is healthier than another, despite that not necessarily being true.

It is recommended to try various differing rolling papers to ensure everyone is smoking what works best for them. With the wide variety of information available here, every consumer should be well-equipped to choose an ideal paper for their needs or wants.

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