The pre-roll. Simple. Effective. This isn’t your average joint. The pre-roll, otherwise known as a professionally rolled marijuana cigarette, has seen a jump in popularity. Sales of pre-rolls were up 50% in 2020. If you thought covid-pandemic precautions would dampen pre-roll demand, you were wrong. In fact, pre-rolls were the second-fastest-growing product category. Flower was numero uno.
Headset, the Seattle-based analytical firm, released data that showed the increase in pre-roll sales in several key recreational cannabis markets: California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington state. It should be noted that Oregon’s numbers included both medical and recreational sales. Pre-roll sales jumped from $640.1 million in 2019 to $941.6 million in 2020. Pre-rolls in 2020 held a 10% market share. That was up from 9.5% the previous year.
Those are huge gains. LeafLink, the cannabis wholesale marketplace, also reports pre-roll sales are going up nationwide too. Sales in this category in all cannabis-legal states increased by 144% from January 2020 to January 2021. Pre-rolls comprised 7.94% of the total LeafLink market share in January 2021.
Pre-rolls are so basic, so rudimentary. Is that why this product category is doing so well? Here are some theories:
- Pre-rolls allow the consumer to try different flower strains without committing too much.
- Cost-effective; a quality, one-gram pre-roll will cost around $10-$12.
- Easy for cannabis newbies to consume and control.
- Increased quality as companies pivot away from using junk material.
- Smaller-sized pre-rolls intended for single-use gained popularity during COVID, where passing the Dutchie would potentially spread the virus.
Where things start to get really interesting is when you factor in labor costs. Even though most of the pre-roll-making process is automated, the high-quality pre-rolls on the market use top-quality flower. Employees take those A-buds and methodically grind and separate them. That takes time. That time costs money. So while producers might not be as enthusiastic about the pre-roll, consumers just can’t get enough of them. And that might translate into increased sales in other areas — flower with its associated consumption mechanisms and accessories or new product categories — as customers get more familiar with the strains and dosage they prefer.
Jessica Ginet, who managed several Tier-II farms in southern Oregon, would help with pre-roll production once the harvest was complete. Their approach was similar to a wine flight. She said, “Customers loved the pre-rolls. Oregon had recently legalized on a recreational level, and the pre-rolls gave us the ability to create multi-strain packs for customers to sample.”
While each pre-roll was hand-finished with a tidy dutch crown, labor costs were cut significantly with a few critical pieces of machinery. The farm invested in a Futurola Knockbox, which could pump out 100 pre-rolls in ½ gram to 2-gram cones in less than five minutes. They also purchased a Futurola Super Shredder, which further automated the most labor-intensive processes by shredding or removing stems from pounds of flower at a time.
Not a hot dog
For tourists and travelers, pre-rolls are popular because they’re portable, discreet, and non-committal—all extra-important when in a new place and away from home. Tourists aren’t likely to lug a pipe or bong with them. New or inexperienced consumers might not have the know-how to turn flower and rolling papers into even burning joints. Pre-rolls fit the bill on so many levels.
To ensure the pre-roll you buy is quality, you generally get what you pay for. So, even if the pre-roll isn’t from a “brand name” with a ton of hype around it, for $20, you’ll almost always get a quality product. No longer considered the ‘hot dog’ of the weed world, consumers are savvy. They’ll quickly realize that the $5 joint they bought was filled with old shake and jump their price point a little to get finely curated flower and single strain pre-rolls full of tasty terpenes.
As pre-roll popularity skyrockets, so do specific strain phenotypes. The most popular pre-rolls contain a hybrid that blends various Indica and Sativa-dominant strains into new cultivars that hit the sweet spot.