Does the perfect joint exist? Science says…

perfect joint

What makes for a perfect joint? Is it the moisture content of the flower, the grind size, the paper, the type of joint, i.e., cone vs. straight roll, or perhaps a combination of several of these traits? 

These questions can be looked at from two different perspectives: the scientific and the empirical. One looks at which trait or traits directly affect the potency of the joint vapor, whereas the empirical looks at personal preference. 

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Smoking standardization

This is an interesting subject to explore these days since more and more countries are moving towards legalization, and standardized pre-rolls are becoming the norm. These typically come in two forms: cones that are packed or straight joints that are rolled like cigarettes and have the same form. 

Living in Amsterdam for almost twenty years made me appreciate the individuality behind the ritual of joint rolling. From how we each stored our flower to the type of grinder and paper we used, it was all so specific. You really got to see the ritualistic side of cannabis consumption. 

perfect joint
Rolling a joint is a deeply personal practice. Photo: Canva

As a result, the varied forms of joints people consume are vast, ranging from spliffs, which are joints rolled with tobacco, to small Rizlas or Zig Zags with no filter, to Raw papers rolled into a cone. There are even the blunt smokers who prefer to roll using different tobacco leaves, some with flavored leaves and some with regular ones. 

The way in which they ground up their flower also differed, varying from a specific type of scissor to hand separation or to their favorite grinder. All of these components combined into their specific style of joint and rolling technique. This made the way they consumed joints unique and added to the specificity of the joint rolling community. 

Nowadays, this aspect of the culture is shifting to a more standardized form of pre-rolls that are generated from various different automated machines. These pre-rolls are all either cones or straight rolls and come evenly weighed out, typically in half-gram or gram sizes. 

What does science say?

Since legalization brought standardization to the industry, especially to pre-rolls, it was only a matter of time before a lab figured out a way to test the vapor coming off the joints to see what traits made for a more potent joint. In a 2020 article published in The Cannabis Scientist titled “The Science Behind The Perfect Joint,” Delic Labs, a Canadian testing lab, ran a study looking at what traits increased the potency of a joint.

They describe a joint as a sort of crude vaporizer since the heavy source is the burn site on the front of the joint. In fact, the tip of the joint simply acts as a heat source, generating hot air that passes through the joint, vaporizing THC and terpenes on the way back through the inhalation. 

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In this study, they analyzed, via high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), the THC potency of vapor from joints composed of different particle sizes. They set up a device that captured the inhalation off of a lit joint. In the article, they explain that “a joint is simply a crude vaporizer. The burn site or cherry at the front of the joint acts as a heat source that generates hot air, which in turn passes back through the joint, vaporizing the THC and the terpenes.”

Once they analyzed their data, they found that the main factor affecting a joint’s potency was the grind size. Flower that was ground into smaller particles produced a more potent individual inhalation. However, a more coarse particle size produced an overall higher amount of THC due to the particle size slowing down the speed of the burn. 

perfect joint
Are you getting the most from your joints? Photo: Canva

These results can now quantify what traits make for a stronger joint, giving consumers the best high for their buck. These traits will also eventually become a marketing tool for the big licensed producers as they offer different grind sizes for their pre-rolls, giving consumers the choice of how they want their pre-rolls to burn and smoke. 

Where, then, does this leave the original joint rolling culture and the veteran rollers? 

I believe it leaves us in a great place. Certainly, we are very much a niche these days, as fewer and fewer consumers take the time to learn and favor buying ready-made pre-rolls. Yet there will always be those of us who favor rolling our own joints.

*This article was submitted by a guest contributor. The author is solely responsible for its contents.

Harry Resin Harry Resin is a long-time cannabis cultivator, breeder, and writer who spent two decades in Amsterdam honing his craft. He has been featured in High Times, GQ, and several other publications.