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The Birth of the Rolling Paper Is The Birth of the Joint

An Excerpt From The Book...

How We Roll: The Art and Culture of Joints, Blunts, and Spliffs

Written by Noah Rubin and published by Chronicle books, this handy, visual, and giftable guide to twisting-one-up is available for preorder on now. Rolling out to booksellers everywhere in October.


How We Roll is the ultimate book of real joint knowledge, and there is nothing more ultimate than the story of the birth of the joint. In this section of the book, author Noah Rubin connects with RAW paper CEO Josh Kesselman to dive deep on the nuances of how rolling paper developed through the ages. As people have sought out cleaner, smarter ways to roll, the rolling paper has risen to prominence. After all, it answers the age-old question that we have all asked ourselves at one time or another, namely, "How can I smoke this really yummy asap?" Once you digest this little taste of history you can roll up knowing more about the many chapters of human evolution that contributed to the heady act you are about to enjoy. So if you haven't already, light up some Dad Grass cause you're gonna wanna make sure you stay smokin'!


The Birth of the Rolling Paper Is The Birth of the Joint

“You have to study the past, and learn from it, otherwise you’re doomed to repeat other people’s mistakes,” says Josh Kesselman, CEO of RAW rolling papers. Josh has built a very public personality around sharing information about history, rolling, and other smoking-related intel. He even produces his RAW-brand papers in a traditional manner in the birthplace of rolling paper: Alcoy, Spain.

Before he digs too deep, he wants to make one thing very clear: “I think Columbus is a fucking piece of shit and I don’t want to come across in any way as someone who is pro-Columbus,” he says. “I think that guy is a true maniac.” The reason we have no choice but to discuss Columbus, of course, is that to unpack the origins of rolling papers, we have to start with smoking’s voyage to Europe, and that voyage started with Columbus.

“Native people had been smoking for perhaps thousands of years before Columbus came to the new world,” says Josh. “He landed and was given cigars as a gift. He saw people smoking cigars, and he brought cigars with him back to Spain.” And once the flow of tobacco began, it never ceased. Its popularity started with the upper classes who could afford it as a luxury. Josh explains, “The aristocrats would throw these juiced-up resinated remnants of tobacco and the peasants would scoop up the leftover cigars from the ground, open them up, and reroll them in newspaper. That was all anybody had back then.”

In order to enjoy these scraps, peasants were unknowingly inhaling some nasty stuff, as many ingredients in the newspaper ink of that era contained harmful heavy metals. At the time, Seville was the tobacco head- quarters of Spain, as decreed by the king, but as the tobacco habit spread, that evolved as well. According to Josh, when smoking out of newspapers made its way to Alcoy, Spain, “the people in Alcoy took one look at what’s in that paper and they refused to do it. They turned around and made the world’s first rolling paper, which was a bright white bleached paper that was designed for purity. It would have been made out of hemp like most paper was back then.”

In Alcoy, their innovative attitude toward the possibilities for rolling paper stemmed from years of tradition. Alcoy had already been one of the world’s capitals for paper making. Moorish conquest (and the Moors’ penchant for paper producing) led them to Alcoy for its abundant supply of running water that was needed to power the early paper-making process. In addition, the climate was comparatively dry, so once the paper was produced, it could quickly air-dry and then be sold.

Dad Grass-How We Roll-Noah Rubin-Joint


The proliferation of paper around Alcoy and the rest of Spain caused immense competition and copycat behavior among producers. So much so that when Spain opened its first trademark offices the majority of the first filings were all to protect rolling paper trademarks. In addition to this legal innovation, Josh adds, “People were copying each other to such a large extent that each maker wanted to put their mark on it, which began the habit of watermark-ing”—a tradition that still exists to this day on quality papers.

Alcoy was home to other rolling paper innovations, too, namely the rolling paper pack. In the early days of rolling paper, the paper itself came in giant sheets that were folded up numerous times until they were a manageable size. Smokers of the day would have to unfold the paper and tear off an individual portion and then roll their smoke. This was an inconvenience and its days were numbered. “A Dominican monk in the Alcoy region saw this and wanted to help his parishioners,” says Josh. With holy intentions, “he cut the sheets and then put them into a little piece of paper. That was the first rolling paper pack.”

With the evolution of rolling papers well underway, there is a logical next question to ask: With all this rolling paper innovation around, does that mean Alcoy was also the first place where somebody rolled a joint? According to Josh, the answer is an emphatic yes. “We tend to always want to give an invention to a single person, but in reality, there’s probably a hundred of them,” Josh responds. “My guess would be that a factory worker in Alcoy [rolled the first joint]. They were making the first rolling paper and there was so much hemp growing in Spain at the time that they were smoking the shit out of it, no question.”

The birthplace of rolling papers, and (very likely) the first place someone smoked
a joint, is a big legacy. It’s no wonder Josh has decided to base the manufacturing of his RAW-brand papers in Alcoy with the people who have made papers for centuries. “In Alcoy, you’re smacked in the face with history; it’s a reminder that you’re not gonna be here that long, and a lot of people did this before you,” Josh reflects. With that in mind, ideas and legacy come into focus. When asked about his own perspective on creating the RAW product, Josh says, “You’re not gonna make great papers with slave labor. It’s got to connect people to their humanity, through love and community and art. I put that back in with passion.”

 How We Roll-Noah Rubin-Where Are My Joints

About the Book
Celebrate one of the most foundational and varied skills of the cannabis connoisseur, with How We Roll: The Art and Culture of Joints, Blunts, and Spliffs. This handy, visual, and giftable guide to twisting-one-up offers rolling techniques, do's and don'ts, quizzes and charts, and illuminating interviews in one lively illustrated reference. Practiced potheads and perennial puffers alike will find something new and exciting in these pages written by the former editor-in-chief of Snoop Dogg’s media platform, Merry Jane.

From the classic joint to The Scorpion, The Braid, The Holy Cross, The Tulip, and other unique approaches, How We Roll employs clever illustrations and clear instructions to take you higher. Featuring interviews with notable cannabis lovers like Wiz Khalifa, Dawn Richard, Wayne Coyne, Laganja Estranja, and Tommy Chong, insight into rolling culture around the world, and tips and tricks for rolling an impressive J, How We Roll is the go-to guide to rolling deep.

About the Author
Noah Rubin is the editor of Snoop Dogg's hit cookbook From Crook to Cook and the former editor-in-chief of Snoop's media platform, Merry Jane. Before Merry Jane, he was editor-in-chief of Nas's media platform/production house Mass Appeal. In addition to his writing and editorial work, Rubin has an extensive music background. His credits include Grammy-winning A&R work for global EDM phenomenon Flume and production on two highly regarded albums for Wu-Tang Clan. He is also the former VP of Music at Decon Records (now Mass Appeal Records), home to artists like Run the Jewels, Pusha T, and the Hood Internet.

About Chronicle Books
Founded in 1967 in San Francisco, Chronicle Books is one of the world’s most admired publishers and distributors of illustrated books, gifts, and games for all ages. Its highly acclaimed list spans art, photography, food, lifestyle, pop culture, humor, self-help, wellness, children’s books, and stationery, among other categories. Chronicle is the home of numerous award-winning authors, bestselling series, and trend-setting titles. Chronicle Books is committed to partnering with artists and writers who represent the diversity of our world and to maintaining an inclusive and equitable working environment for its employees and business partners. For more information visit


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