Rolling papers - Why what they're made of matters

Published May 12, 2023 09:00 a.m. ET
Unsplash / Jeff W 

When you smoke cannabis rolling papers play an integral role in the quality of the experience. They’re the mode of delivery that allows you to enjoy the herb, and they also have a significant influence on the way a roll tastes and burns.

Seasoned consumers know that no two types of rolling papers are made equally, which is why most have a preferred brand and material, but few recognize the benefits and drawbacks of certain papers nor do they fully understand the risk of unknowingly inhaling harmful additives or toxins along the way.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common materials that are used in the making of rolling papers including rice, hemp, wood pulp, flax, and Esparto. We’ll also cover some of the most toxic ingredients that can be found in certain types of rolling papers.

Rice rolling papers

Rice rolling papers are made using rice straw as a base material which is a highly renewable resource and that’s good from an environmental standpoint. They’re also super thin, almost transparent, and offer a slow even burn that makes joints last longer. Rice papers produce minimal ash, so they aren’t as messy, and they’re virtually tasteless so they’re unlikely to alter the taste of your favorite flower.

Hemp rolling papers

Hemp rolling papers are made from the fibrous stalks of hemp plants, making them an eco-friendly and sustainable choice. They are a little bit thicker than rice papers, but still offer a slow and even burn. Hemp papers do have a slightly earthy flavor, which can complement the taste of your herbs quite nicely, but it’s also something that some consumers don’t particularly enjoy so how you feel about this small difference is entirely dependent on your personal preference. They're also strong so less likely to tear and sticky ensuring a good grip that won’t unwrap.

Wood pulp rolling papers

Wood pulp rolling papers are made using the pulp of trees as a base material, and they're one of the most common types of rolling papers on the market today. These papers are thicker than rice-based alternatives, and they can burn a little bit faster, which can lead to a harsher smoking experience if you’re one to take deep puffs. They're also more likely to produce ash, which means that you may need to clean your smoking device more frequently, and they’re more likely to make a mess.

Flax rolling papers

Flax rolling papers are made using the fibers of flax plants, which is a highly sustainable crop and a great choice if you’re environmentally conscious. They're also thin, burn slowly and evenly, and they produce very little ash which means less mess and less frequent cleaning of your bong or pipe. Flax papers are also easy to roll with, which is why they’re such a popular choice among smokers.

Esparto rolling papers


Esparto rolling papers are made using the leaves of esparto grass as a base material, which is native to the Mediterranean region. They're also thin and burn relatively slowly and evenly, but they can be challenging to find in certain areas so they’re not always accessible. Esparto papers are also not as durable as other alternatives on the market today, so they may not be the best choice for anyone who is new to rolling.

Toxic ingredients to watch out for

Unfortunately, smoking in and of itself isn’t exactly the best choice for your lungs, and not all rolling papers are free from harmful additives and toxins which can make an already less-than-ideal preferred method of consumption even worse for your health.

Some rolling papers may contain traces of things like heavy metals, GMO fibers, artificial dyes, potassium nitrate, bleach, and calcium carbonate. These ingredients can be hazardous, so it’s best to avoid buying rolling papers that contain them whenever possible.

Heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, can be found in certain types of rolling papers, and these ingredients can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled. Unfortunately, they can be harmful to your health especially after prolonged exposure.

GMO fibers may also be used in some rolling papers, which can be harmful to the environment and may lead to health problems after prolonged use. Artificial dyes can be toxic as well, as they may cause allergic reactions or other health issues.

Potassium nitrate is an ingredient that is sometimes used to treat rolling papers, even though it can be bad for you especially when it's burned. Bleach and calcium carbonate may also be used in the process of making rolling papers, and these compounds  can be harmful to both the environment and your health.

When you shop for rolling papers, be sure to look for brands that use high-quality materials and avoid those that may contain harmful additives. It's also essential to use rolling papers that ensure a smooth and even burn. By choosing the right ones, you can enhance the flavor and quality of your smoke while also reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins.

So the next time you buy a pack take some time to research your options to find one you can trust. Your health and your smoking experience will thank you!

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