SILVERTHORNE — Walk into any dispensary in Colorado, and you are likely to find one-gram joints for sale. Along with jars of flower, edibles and concentrates, the pre-rolls have become a staple for pot shops across the state.
From mini to massive
At $10-$15, pre-rolls certainly offer customers value and convenience, but as a smokable product — particularly for one or two people — it’s a lot to handle in one sitting.
“We thought it would be really great to have something portable that had just enough for you and a few friends,” Andrew Salini, chief operating officer at High Country Healing, said in a recent interview.
In February, Salini was smoking with a few friends when one of them rolled a smaller joint — a mini joint, if you will. The trio passed it around, and Salini marveled at how something that looked so small was able to satisfy the group.
Immediately Salini began working with his team to create smaller pre-rolled mini joints to sell in his retail stores. Within weeks they had designed a quarter-gram joint, created a logo and purchased small tins to sell their new product in. By early March, the Mini J — featured in The Cannabist’s Smoker Supply Kit for hiking — hit the shelves at the flagship HCH in Silverthorne.
“You look at it, and there is definitely doubt initially,” Salini said. “But once you try it, you realize it’s plenty. It’s all you need.”
Several regular customers made most of the purchases the first week, and every one of them came back the next week asking for more, the staff said. Within a month, the product was a hit, with customers coming from surrounding counties just to pick up the Mini Js. As of mid-October, Mini J sales were far outpacing one-gram pre-roll sales, according to Salini.
He expects the trend to continue into the winter ski season.
“Not everyone wants to smoke a gram. It’s a little intense,” Joe Lindsey, director of customer relations at HCH, said in a recent interview. “They see these Mini Js and they think, ‘That’s just right for me.’ ”
Summit County resident Thea Smith has her medical marijuana card to regulate pain and anxiety. She has used both the one-gram pre-rolls and the Mini Js and likes the benefits of a smaller-serving joint.
“It allows you to regulate yourself a little bit,” Smith said.
Smith says if she begins experiencing pain or anxiety, she will often smoke a Mini J first.
“It gives me time to recover and see where I am,” Smith said.
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The downsizing of cannabis portions is not a new concept for the rapidly evolving marijuana industry. To address safety concerns regarding wildly popular marijuana edibles, Colorado regulators rolled out new rules in February requiring manufacturers to individually wrap edibles or demark products in increments of 10 milligrams (or fewer) of psychoactive component THC.
It’s been an about-face for the industry that, in the early months of legalization, was in a race to make the strongest edible. Now businesses are getting creative with single-portioned offerings like the “Rookie Cookie,” made by the Growing Kitchen, and the Dixie One drink, made by Dixie Elixirs. These products have helped cater to the booming cannabis tourism industry, which is estimated to make up 40 percent of the Denver-area recreational pot business, according to a July 2014 state-commissioned market study.
In ski towns like Silverthorne, located within resort-heavy Summit County, out-of-state visitors are estimated to account for 90 percent of cannabis sales, according to the state study. Much like the smaller-portioned edibles, the Mini Js have been a huge hit with tourists. Not only are they a smaller portion size, but customers — many of whom can’t smoke legally in their home state or country — get to sample more high-quality strains during their visit.
High Country Healing offers 15-16 top-shelf strains daily, and all of them are available for sale as a Mini J, which run $6 each (tax included). Customers can purchase six different strains for $33 and get a free carrying tin, or 12 for $60.
“From an economical standpoint, you can save money by buying a smaller product, can taste more variety and you don’t have to relight it,” Salini said. “Overall, it’s a better experience.”