How often do you think about rolling papers?
In the grand scheme of the cannabis equation, rolling papers — the building block material we rely on for joints, be they beginner or crossjoint — goes largely unconsidered. In some ways, consumers may think of the rolling paper product category as a forgone conclusion. After all, even before cannabis was made legal in states across the U.S., one could still find packs of Rizlas or RAW cones at the nearest gas station or convenience store.
Then came the legal market, and with it, a slew of new categories targeting demographics ranging from bath bomb lovers to hardcore concentrate heads. As the market increased, rolling paper options expanded in kind. In conjunction with his Cookies line of merchandise and cannabis businesses, the rapper-slash-entrepreneur Berner is now one of several famous faces who have chosen to release a signature line of papers.
Be they an evolution of the medium or a clever alternative to a traditional business card, rolling papers are undoubtedly an integral, if relatively benign, facet of cannabis culture and, by extension, the industry as a whole.
It should thus come as no surprise that alarm bells are sounding in the wake of a new story from L.A. Weekly detailing rolling papers testing positive for elevated levels of pesticides.
As L.A. Weekly’s Jimi Divine reports, “in the process of testing some prerolls that were filled with cannabis that [had] previously tested clean, SC Labs verified positive results for the pesticide compound chlorpyrifos at three to four times the action level set by the Bureau of Cannabis Control.”
For those who read no further, the conclusion might be that tainted papers are now sitting on dispensary shelves. In reality, the issue is far more complex. Part of the problem stems from the standards set by the state of California in terms of what an “allowable” level of pesticides should be. There’s also the ratio of cannabis to paper, which can lead to differing results as a one gram preroll will have more flower matter to offset the total chlorpyrifos levels when compared with its half-gram sibling.
Speaking with L.A. Weekly, SC Labs president and founder Josh Wurzer suggested that upcoming heavy metal testing his company has planned for prerolls — one of the bestselling categories in the legal market today — may lead to even more significant results.
“The metals [are] potentially an issue as well,” Wurzer said, “and maybe even a bigger issue, because that’s something you’re more likely to find naturally in a lot [of] these sources for the paper.”
Even if inconsistencies in testing can partially explain elevated levels of chlorpyrifos, SC Labs’ findings should inspire companies to more closely monitor the quality of the papers they use. That may be a tough sell for companies already overtaxed with regulatory requirements, but if safety remains the reward for legalization, it’s importance must remain paramount at every step.
Beyond the immediate safety danger a potentially tainted batch of rolling papers would pose, there’s also the fallout in public opinion such an incident would undoubtedly invite.
It may not be fair to force the cannabis industry to operate under the assumption that any wrong move it makes may become a fatal error, but it’s hard to suggest the stakes are much lower. In this case, the tainted papers were a fairly isolated incident, but Wurzer told L.A. Weekly that repeat occurrences remain a possibility.
“It doesn’t appear to be super widespread,” Wurzer said, “and in general we don’t fail a ton of prerolls, but it just kind of goes to show that these producers need to be cognizant of their inputs and [that] quality control for some of these paper manufacturers is lacking. You can’t just take it for granted that you don’t really have to pay attention to your supplier because a bad batch or two of papers slips under your nose and you could fail a whole cannabis batch.”
Proof of concept when it comes to the safety of cannabis cannot afford to be undercut by tainted papers, which ultimately puts the burden on manufacturers to get it right. Let’s hope they do.