Editor's note: We're counting down the most popular Latest Word posts of 2013. This one came in at No. 6. Read it as originally published.
September 14, 2012: Now and then, companies send us medical marijuana-related products ranging from vaporizers to board games to books. We showcase them in our quasi-regular product review section, Stoner MacGyver.
This week, it's a Stoner Mac special: The top seven countdown to the best rolling papers.
A few months ago, Steve Elliot, a friend at Toke of the Town, our pot-smoking sister blog, unearthed his thirty-year-old collection of vintage rolling paper boxes for a photo blog. The selection was huge, and things haven't changed much today, with dozens of rolling paper companies out there. It got us thinking: When it's time to spin one up, which popular papers hit the mark? Stoner Mac's grades are below.
Number 7: Zig-Zag The tried and true wood-pulp classic made in France. The image of the man on the package is synonymous with cannabis smoking; these have to be the most common brand wrapping up joints across the USA. Doubt it? Ask around at your next concert for a paper and see how many people pull out a flattened orange paper box.
For their longevity and brand recognition though, your average pack of Zig-Zags are among the thickest papers out there. You might as well roll up your herb with printer paper.
Number 6: Randy's The brand has got more slick packaging today than back in the 1970s. But this has always been a paper for the pot puffer, and it may be one of the first specifically marketed to cannabis users. The key to this paper's popularity is in the small metal wire glued into the bottom edge of the paper opposite the gum. Not only does it help in rolling by keeping the paper in a pouch position, but as the paper burns the wire exposes and becomes a built-in roach clip. Far out, man!
But nostalgia doesn't a good rolling paper make. Like Zig-Zags, these papers are thick and made with wood pulp.The added fold keeping the wire in doesn't help minimize things, either. And let's face it: The biggest strike is that you're smoking metal. Nevertheless, they still survive as a brand -- kept alive mostly by old timers and high schoolers still smoking buds down to the lip-burning end.
Continue for more of our top seven countdown to the best rolling papers. Number 5: Clear papers (various brands) These things were the rage about seven or eight years ago, and I understand why: It's cool to see the herb you're smoking through the joint. They burn pretty slowly as well, mostly due to their thickness and the physical makeup of cellulose. And who doesn't get a kick out of freaking out your friends by telling them you're smoking plastic?
But something about the moist, hot air going over the glycerine-like paper when lit would always make the end of the joint heat up and then feel slimy by the end. That, and it was in no way stealth to be lighting up a lime green stick of herb.
Number 4: Club A great paper with horrible, sticky gum (if they have gum at all). I always saw Club as a lower-quality version of Bambu. Clubs worked great when it was the only thing your college girlfriend had in her box of weed paraphernalia, but I wasn't about to rush out to the store to buy a pack. As I said, the gum hardly ever held up, and by halfway through the joint, you were patching the thing back together. Even worse, some packs were gum-free. Continue for more of our top seven countdown to the best rolling papers. Number 3: Bambu Almost as famous as Zig-Zag man, the pinstripe packaging and baseball lettering of Bambu is instantly recognizable for all but the most novice tokers. Bambu has a leg up on Zig-Zag in our book, mostly for the extreme thinness of the papers themselves. But it's variety that really sets them apart.
Sure, Zig-Zags come in various sizes as well. But Bambu offered the "Big Bambu," which was perfect for rolling Jamaican-sized cones of schwag back when I was a teenage puffer. There was even the mega-sized Big Bambu made famous for lining a Cheech and Chong comedy album back in the day (and yes, you could smoke it). The papers were the go-to for twisting up something special, and even Biggie Smalls knew it ("Smokin' weed in Bambu, sippin' on private stock"). In recent years, Bambu has put out a hemp line dubbed "Pure Hemp" that burns with the same Bambu evenness, plus flavored papers.
Number 2: Elements I know that for some of you, this is the top-of-the-line paper. It's made from rice and is so thin you wonder if it can hold the gram of herb you just threw in it. But it does, and the papers burn so slowly and perfectly that they easily could be the top paper on this list -- and rightfully so. They come in a range of sizes, from standard one-and-a-quarter inch to a foot-long giant-sized pack of papers. And if that isn't big enough, they're also available in a three-meter roll. All of Elements paper boxes come with a magnetic closure that is somewhat excessive, but definitely cool.
But I'm personally not a huge fan of the rice papers simply for the ease of rolling. Something about the stiffness of the paper, despite how razor-thin it is. Feel free to pass one my way, though.
Continue to read our choice for top rolling paper. Number 1: RAW RAW is only about five years old, but these Spanish-made papers have already gone to the top of the game. It just doesn't get much better than these silk thread-thin, un-dyed, natural papers. I get borderline sad when the head shop up the street runs out of the King-Size papers with tips. These are also the only papers I'll travel with, and I've spread the word of RAW to puffers in Jamaica, New Zealand and Australia, all of whom took to the papers immediately.
Yes, they do resemble a skinny blunt when rolled up -- but there's no tobacco in this whatsoever, and I have yet to find a paper that burns more evenly (mostly due to the criss-cross pattern in the paper's watermark). More importantly, they burn lightly without adding any noticeable taste to your herb.
In the last few years, RAW has also put out an organic line that is not only natural, but a completely vegan-friendly, non-GMO hemp-paper option, so that even the most uber-earth conscious among us can medicate with peace of mind. Like Elements, RAW papers come in all the sizes you could need -- including the nine-foot roll that allows you to twist them as long as you want.
We can't guarantee all products sent in will be reviewed here at Stoner MacGyver, but if you've got something you think is the greatest invention since sliced pot-bread, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.