Updated on December 7, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
We recently received a question on social media from a new medical cannabis patient. The patient wondered why pre-rolls were less expensive sometimes than the whole flower. And she asked if that meant pre-rolls were a lower quality in general. She was concerned about whether pre-rolls would provide the same pain relief effects.
The patient explained that she was a senior. And while she favored smokable cannabis, she found rolling blunts to be complicated. She had arthritis and commented that even when she was in college, she never mastered rolling a good joint. Cones were a little easier, but still hard for her to pack, given tremors in her hands. She liked the idea and convenience of buying pre-rolls from her local dispensary.
We reached out and asked a few dispensary owners to confirm. Are pre-rolls made with lower quality marijuana? Do they pack the same punch as a fresh whole flower? We wanted to learn where the common misconception about pre-rolls came from.
Smokable Cannabis Remains the Top Selling Product at Dispensaries
In states where smokable or whole flower medical marijuana is available, it is the top-selling cannabis product. For states where smokable cannabis is not yet available for legalized use by medical cardholders, they are requesting it—and hoping the legislation changes in their state soon, to allow growers to retail it.
Most states allow for smokable flowers. Some states like Texas, have banned smokable cannabis. Low-THC cannabis is the only option for patients in the Lone Star state. Texas is so against smoking any kind of cannabis that it has banned smokable hemp products too. Hemp cigarettes are growing in popularity as a step-down to smoking tobacco and nicotine addiction. You can even purchase quality hemp ‘cigarettes’ on Amazon.
With 739 different cannabis strains to choose from, vaporizing marijuana in a pipe is usually the first choice for patients. There is also the option of cannabis oil cartridges. There is less odor (compared to raw smoking cannabis), but still a slight smell from a vape, depending on the type of cartridge you buy.
If you want a vape’s convenience, but you prefer the smell and flavor of whole flower cannabis, you can try a new accessory. And if you are one of those people who tend to inhale too much (and end up coughing after your first draw), you may want to try a weed vaporizer instead. Many of the quality weed vaporizers also have childproof locking mechanisms.
How Are Pre-Rolled Cannabis Products Made?
Throughout the day in your average medical marijuana dispensary, Bud Tenders are moving cannabis containers back and forth. They have to lift them out of the case or shelf to dispense a patient’s quantity. Or fill an online order with several different strains.
As the cannabis moves in containers, a percentage of it becomes crumbled, falls away, and accumulates at the container’s bottom. Dispensaries don’t like to keep containers with shake at the bottom of them. It looks a little messy, and they do not want any of the shake to go to waste.
At the end of each day, one or more Bud Tenders on duty will remove the shake from the container’s bottom. They will not mix strains, however. Shake gets stored in an airtight and labeled container.
When enough shake of a specific strain has accumulated, the manufacturing or ‘back office’ of the dispensary will remove it. The shake can be used to create a variety of different products, including pre-rolled marijuana joints.
Some of the other uses of shake include creating baked edibles. Dried shake can also be used to create topical creams for pain relief.
Are Pre-Rolls from a Dispensary Licked?
Okay, we know that is kind of a weird question, but we’ve been asked about that. We don’t want to think that any dispensary would lick the end of a pre-roll, twist it, and then put it in a package for sale to a consumer. Ever. And that would be a quick way for a dispensary to lose their business license.
You will be relieved to know that dispensaries use machines like this one. It automatically fills the cone with an exact amount of dried and ground cannabis (for consistency in volume). Then the device automatically twists and closes each joint hygienically.
Check this pre-roll commercial machine featured by the NY Post. It can ‘roll’ 100 joints in three minutes. Acres Cannabis in Las Vegas claims to have sold a record of 5,000 joints in 48 hours. But then, it is recreational, and it is the city that never sleeps. If you happen to be visiting Las Vegas, check out their gourmet edibles.
What is “Shake” Cannabis, and Why is it Discounted at Dispensaries?
If you have purchased medical cannabis and provided it to you in a zip-lock type bag or container, you already know what is at its bottom. As cannabis moves around, little pieces of the bud fall off. Remove the bud, and you’ve got shake.
Two reasons perpetuate the myth that “shake” is lower quality or lower potency cannabis. The first reason is that shake falls off of dry cannabis. And some people who use marijuana hate dried weed. Predominantly because dry weed has a faint smell and flavor when vaporized. And that diminishes the experience somewhat if you are discerning about your cannabis.
The second reason is that it is discounted. In every medical dispensary that sells whole flower cannabis, you will likely see some “shake” on sale. Naturally, you may assume that it’s less expensive because it is “not as good.” But the reason is the saleability. We discussed that many people prefer green or fresh marijuana (instead of a dried variety).
Dispensaries discount it because it moves more slowly than the green herb. That’s it! Mystery solved.
What is interesting is that the myth of “shake” being substandard persists. Pre-rolled cannabis joints for sale at your local dispensary get manufactured from “shake,” and it is a fictitious character assassination of both “shake” and pre-rolls. You can purchase substandard buds too. Look at the CBD and THC content and choose the right potency for your needs.
What About Seeds and Stems in pre-rolls
Do you ever get seeds and stems in the shake? The answer depends on the dispensary. Some use a sifter to remove stems and seeds. Others don’t complete that extra step, and so you may find some stems and seeds inside your loose shake.
Are stems and seeds harmful to smoke? No, not at all. They are a little inconvenient to handroll, but you can use your grinder to reduce the shake to a finer grind. However, marijuana seeds and stems contain little THC. And they “snap and pop” when ignited, so it can make smoking your home-packed joint a little weird.
Some people will not smoke stems no matter what. From a chemical perspective, the stem of the cannabis plant is higher in cellulose. Which means it burns at a higher temperature. And that makes the temperature of the smoke increase. It is a “hotter inhale” than smoking whole flower.
If you have purchased shake and it has stems and seeds, you may want to pick them out before further grinding your cannabis for your bowl or joints. If you are going to a reputable medical cannabis dispensary, you will not find seed or stems in your pre-rolled marijuana joints. They get filtered before being sold.
A Final Word About Marijuana Shake
As you are browsing online for your cannabis products, occasionally, you will see the ‘deal of a lifetime.’ Up to two ounces in a container or bag of shake, at an unbelievable price. Ask if it has been screen filtered to remove seeds and stems.
If you are a medical marijuana user and you prefer a smokable flower, shake can help you significantly economize your monthly spending. And since shake is created naturally from all strains that your medical dispensary has in stock, you will be able to choose your favorite bud at a lower price.