Cannabis pre-roll sales rose nearly 50% in major recreational markets last year, contradicting expectations that the commonly shared product would suffer during a global pandemic caused by a respiratory virus.
Pre-rolls have become the second fastest growing product category as cannabis users purchase quality products and enjoy the convenience of prepackaged goods.
Pre-roll is the industry term for a professionally rolled marijuana cigarette, also known as a joint.
Data from Seattle-based cannabis analysis firm Headset shows pre-roll sales in the recreational markets of California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon (medicinal and adult) and Washington state increased 47.1% from 640 . $ 1 million in 2019 to $ 941.6 million in 2020.
This outperformed the entire marijuana market, which grew 39.4% over the same period. Only flowers that grew 54% gained more weight than pre-rolls.
According to Headset, pre-rolls had a market share of 10% of total sales in 2020, down from 9.5% in 2019.
LeafLink cannabis wholesale market, with offices in Los Angeles and New York, reports that pre-roll sales have increased nationally.
Sales in this product category increased by 144% from January 202 to January 2021 compared to the previous year.
As of January 2021, pre-rolls accounted for 7.94% of the total LeafLink market share, up 1.7 percentage points in market share year over year.
Why has the product category developed so well? There are several explanations, including the following pre-rolls:
- A great way for consumers to experiment with varieties of flowers.
- No longer always sold in 1 gram packs. Half a gram or smaller “mini” pre-rolls are becoming more common and will not be shared during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Easy to use for new entrants.
- Not just ships dumping inferior shake and trim as more and more companies fill them with high quality flowers.
Narmin Jarrous, director of development at Exclusive Brands, a vertically integrated cannabis company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said she has seen “a huge 45% increase in pre-roll sales since last year”.
This surprised Jarrous because she viewed pre-rolls as products to be shared, which may not have been a popular activity during a pandemic.
But new consumers choose pre-rolls for their convenience.
“All those people who don’t know how to roll a joint, this is the perfect product for them,” she said.
Pre-rolls can also be a great way for consumers to try a new strain and, if that works, come back for a higher amount, such as an eighth or more.
“It’s less engagement,” said Jarrous. “It’s like buying a piece of cake instead of buying a whole cake.”
During the pandemic, if people are budget conscious, the product can have good value.
Exclusive Brands sells pre-rolls for $ 10 to $ 12 a gram, including some mini-joints.
“People have financial problems,” Jarrous said, “and they still need access to their medication. Sometimes the most convenient and acceptable way to do this is to pre-roll for $ 10.”
Jarrous said that the pre-rolls at Exclusive Brands contain neither shake nor trim and the trend is towards higher quality flowers.
“Cannabis smokers evolve and are not fooled,” she added.
At Belushi’s Farm in southern Oregon, founder Jim Belushi said pre-rolls account for about 35% of his company’s sales.
“Since the pandemic, our joint sales have increased nearly 22% since that time last year,” he added.
Despite the significant percentage of the company’s sales, the labor cost of making and packaging the joints accounts for about 75% of Belushi’s payroll, he said.
According to Belushi, the company rolled a quarter of a million joints in 2020.
Part of the process is automated but it does not use trimming and workers must grind and separate flowers for the pre-rolls.
“Every single joint is handled carefully,” he added.
One of the company’s trademarks is a six-pack with quarter-gram connections.
Each pre-roll is small enough that it can be consumed by a single person, Belushi said.
The product is selling well enough that the company hopes to expand to a handful of other states across the country soon.
At Rebelle, a cannabis retailer in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Chief Commercial Officer Penelope Nam-Stephen said pre-rolls account for about 10% of their sales.
The full-gram pre-roll is the biggest deal in its category, selling Rebelle for around $ 16.
It’s a little cheaper than the smaller pre-rolls, but according to Nam-Stephen, mini-joints are popular with their customers. Two half a gram of joints cost about $ 20.
“They’re easy for people to have parallel smoking sessions,” said Nam-Stephen. “You can have one and I can have one and you don’t have to share.”
The retailer also offers pre-rolls with an approach like that of craft brewery flights, which pack five 1-gram joints of different varieties together for $ 60.
“It gives people the opportunity to taste a whole range of varieties,” said Nam-Stephen. If a customer likes a certain variety, they can buy it in larger quantities.
Charlie Langston, executive director of Maine vertically integrated cannabis company Wellness Connection, said pre-roll sales for the Portland-based company have doubled in the past two years.
He attributes the success of this category to the ease of use of the products, both for new entrants and for people who have previously used cannabis and are returning to the product.
“The pre-roll category is very attractive to newer consumers as they are familiar with this format,” he said. “It’s just the comfort factor.”
Langston agreed with many of the above assessments:
- Maine consumers love to try new varieties through pre-rolls.
- Mini joints are becoming increasingly popular.
- High quality flowers are more the rule than the exception.
With 40 million sightseer visits a year in normal times in a state known as Vacationland, Langston found that Maine’s “tourists don’t usually travel with their favorite pipe or whatever.”
Bart Schaneman can be reached at [email protected].