By Jeff Klingman, theBluntness Feature Writer
For pure marketing impact, there’s never been a word with more power than “New!” And in an industry as young as legal cannabis, where everything’s kinda novel by definition, that goes double. In a technicolor future of sleek vape pens and elaborate dab rigs, THC-lotions and CBD tonics, it makes some sense that the humble joint—a delivery system that’s spanned eras from the jazz club to to Woodstock and beyond—might be easily dismissed as old news. But that doesn’t mean pre-rolled joints aren’t a potent slice of the cannabis market, and a foundational piece of overall dispensary sales.
In our ultra-regional moment for U.S. weed, hard stats shift from state to state in ways that can seem slightly arbitrary at a glance. According to Green Edge Analytics, Nevadans buy pre-rolled joint at roughly twice the national rate, accounting for about 15% of the state’s $728 million dollar cannabis market. Is some Southwestern cigarette-dangling classic cowboy iconography driving pre-rolls to over perform? Is it based on tourists who prioritize single serving disposability to ensure what happens in Vegas actually does stay in Vegas?
In Washington State, pre-rolls were outpacing edibles by around $20 million dollars in annual sales, even before an official crack down on colorful marketing tactics that officials feared were too tempting for impressionable kids. Those totals track significantly better than joint sale numbers in other maturing western state markets in Colorado, California, and next-door Oregon. But look at year-to-year growth trends, and you see that pre-roll sales in all of those states are all trending upward.
In recent surveys that span state lines, nearly half of cannabis consumers say they are taking convenience in mind when shopping for a delivery method, and are largely influenced by the ease of use when making a final decision. Rolling your own may have fallen out of favor in a time filled with grab-and-go options, but a pre-roll, like a wrapped food court sandwich, gets the job done quick and cheap, with pocket portability and an instant onset effect. Canna-sseurs have scoffed at shaky quality and uneven construction among mass produced pre-rolls that make for a less than ideal smoking experience. For curious newbies flooding into dispensaries for the first time, the ability to sample a variety of strains is still very attractive.
There actually have been advances in joint technology, rapidly accelerated by a true open market, that seem to be appealing to seasoned smokers as well. The steady uptick in sales for regular pre-rolls pales in comparison to the booming levels of growth seen in the market for “infused pre-rolls”, or cannabis cigarettes made to incorporate amounts of high-power concentrates like “shatter”, amounts thickly packed resin, or those that have been rolled in finely powdered keef crystals. And given that average price for an infused pre-roll is over double that of a regular old j, the profit margin can be especially advantageous for retailers.
Stats suggest there’s a limit to what consumers will pay for a single joint, though. After leading the country for years, infused joint sales in California stalled in 2018. The reason why is pretty clear—the average price per joint climbed, almost five dollars more than a similar product in Colorado, and over six dollars more than a typical Oregon offering. Infused pre-roll sales in those states have continued to climb. No matter how mind-meltingly strong any single joint might be, presenting it as a true luxury item is a tough sell.
But we also live in a time when you can get an avalanche of Instagram likes for rolling a joint into the image of a roast Thanksgiving turkey or sell custom spliff sculptures for upwards of a thousand dollars.
A joint can be large, and contain multitudes.
Photo via Instagram