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Joint Rolling: To Crutch or Not to Crutch, That is the Question



Cannabis markets are finally coming around to the fact that picture-perfect weed with sky-high THC totals is still mids if it doesn’t have any flavor.

Though there are more ways than ever to consume cannabis these days, most terp-tuned connoisseurs will tell you that the best way to fully experience the true expression of a cultivar’s flavors and effects is to take it back to the old school and just roll a joint.

This simple reality was evidenced at the final Emerald Cup Flower Judges meeting this past March in Ukiah, California, where a couple dozen of the brightest minds in cannabis converged to select the best buds in this year’s competition. There were no bongs or vaporizers or handheld electronic doodads on that table. Just jar after jar of nuclear-grade weed, notepads, rolling papers, lighters, and ashtrays.

Emerald Cup Judges meeting 2022

Watching these OGs roll up joint after joint and seeing their different styles and touches while doing so made me realize that it is a deeply personal ceremony for many folks, each step thoughtfully performed in their own unique ways.

I also noticed that some of the judges preferred to implement a paper or glass mouthpiece – or a “crutch” – when rolling a joint, while others more traditionally ran the weed from tip to tip.

I reached out to two of those esteemed Emerald Cup Flower Judges, Swami Chaitanya of Swami Select and Bill Levers of Beard Bros Pharms, to get their take on this tech hoping to discover if a crutch carries a joint or if just the tip is the way to blaze.

The Swami Joint is a Thing to Behold

Swami Joint - Ganjier
Swami Joint (left), Nikka T Joint (center), Derek Gilman Joint (right)

Swami Chaitanya is the co-founder and lead farmer at Swami Select, a licensed and regulated craft cannabis farm located in Mendocino County, California, where he is regeneratively cultivating his plants in native soil under the “Sun, Moon, and Stars”. Swami has had the honor of being an Emerald Cup Flower Judge for all 18 years that the competition has been held and graciously guides younger generations of Emerald Cup Judges and cannabis aficionados worldwide.

As respected as Swami is in the grassroots of cannabis culture, his hand-rolled Swami Joints are just as revered.

Swami says, “The thing about rolling, in general, is that a rolled joint paper is always fresh. No bowl to clean, no dirty bong water affecting the taste, and no synthetic terpenes added to the bud. It’s the real thing with no adulteration and no residues.”

Clack-clacking his grinder lid against its chamber to free up some ready-to-roll bud produces a telltale sound likely familiar to many joint rollers which Swami laughingly refers to as the “Mendo Mating Call”.

Swami has seen it all when it comes to cannabis having traveled the world only to wind up in the epicenter of cannabis culture in the Emerald Triangle. He has spent many years, raised many crops, and smoked many joints in those Mendo hills refining his tastes. “In judging for the Emerald Cup many years ago,” says Swami, “I found that when I had to smoke 20 one-gram ‘stubby’ joints per day for several weeks in order to sample all the entries, they made my throat harsh. So I switched to Elements papers and the problem went away. Elements, as long as they stay dry, can also take a lot of rough handling when rolling, which I do when I pack the joint.”

But does Swami use a crutch or glass tip when he rolls a joint?

Swami Chaitanya rolling a joint - Beard Bros Media
Swami Chaitanya of Swami Select rolling up an infamous “Swami Joint”… with no crutch

Swami expounds, “I found that the paper changed the flavor of the joint, especially as the cherry got closer to the mouthpiece end. The oils and resins liberated by the burning of the flower collect in the final inch to 3/4 inch of the joint, and many times those last two hits are the most flavorful of the whole experience. That hit is kind of a summation and aggregate of all the flavors one identified in the original aroma assessment of the flower. When there is a paper crutch, those oils gather on the paper, not on the flower itself. This changes the flavor and makes it rancid. One of my Ganjier students did an experiment where he rolled two joints of the same flower, one with and one without a paper crutch, and declared he could taste the difference and the one with no crutch tasted better all the way through.”

Well, there you have it. Case closed, right?

Well, not exactly. Even Mr. Chaitanya is quick to confess, “In the end, it is just an old Hippie thing. We never rolled with tips back then, and I find it difficult to roll with a crutch the few times I tried it.”

Ok, well is it a matter of ‘different tokes for different folks’?

If a Beard Bros Joint is Not Lit at Your Cannabis Event, Your Cannabis Event is Not Lit

Knowing that Bill at Beard Bros can twist one up with the best of them, and knowing that he tends to crutch his joints, he was next on my hit list.

Though 2022 marked Bill Levers’ first time as an official Emerald Cup Flower Judge, that selection was based on decades of experience in growing, consuming, and marketing high-grade weed. As long as I have known him though, I have never seen him bust out a bong or pop out a pipe. This man smokes joints. Joints with a crutch for a mouthpiece.


“I don’t remember the last time I rolled a joint without a tip. And I would only do it if I didn’t have a tip – either glass or cardboard. Yes, a cardboard crutch may slightly change the taste, but I just personally like having a little distance in my joint between my mouth and the weed,” says Bill.

His brother and fellow Beard Bros Pharms co-founder, Jeff Levers, is also a fan of using a glass mouthpiece every time he rolls up a blunt wrap.

Jeff's blunts are not for the timid
Jeff’s blunts are not for the timid

Jeff also points out that with the rising popularity of high-end pre-rolls – like hash-infused variations now crowding the market – glass tips are almost becoming standard issue for any brand that wants to make its mark.

Glass tips also seem as though they could mitigate the negative effects that smokers like Swami have experienced using paper or cardboard tips or crutches… though I don’t suspect he’ll be changing his ways anytime soon.

Nor should he.

Glass tips or crutches add rigidity to the mouth of a joint and can keep bits of weed from getting on your teeth and tongue. When passing a joint or blunt among friends, there is nothing worse than having that doink come back to you all soggy on the suck-side and a glass tip can keep your spliff safe from all but the moistest of lips.

Swami is the type of dude to roll up one of those bombers and enjoy every.last.toke to himself.

Bill and Jeff might be passing their creation to a circle full of movers and shakers.

They have each found a joint rolling technique that suits their needs and if that isn’t cannabis culture, I don’t know what is.

Swami Chaitanya

Bonus “Tip” From Swami:

With Elements, I always lick the back side of the paper at the final stage of rolling. I found that when I licked the glue side I actually licked the glue off and the joint would come apart half way through the smoking.

The reason I roll such “fatties” is first because that is my “dose” and second because I want to pack in the most amount of flower to the least amount of paper. This helps it burn evenly and gives the most flavor per hit. The opposite is a New York “pinner” joint, where one is mostly smoking paper.

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