Alen Nguyen

A Looming Pre-Roll Shortage Could Be On The Horizon

A Looming Pre-Roll Shortage Could Be On The Horizon

At one point in time, every toker had to learn how to roll the ol’ fashion way: by hand. It was either that or the pencil roll which one could credit for opening the doors for the market of pre-roll cones. They’re one of the many excellent introductions to the world of regulated cannabis, where outdated products sketchy dime bags are extinct. Unfortunately, there’s a chance that the pre-rolled cone could face a similar (realistically temporary) doomed fate as the demand for pre-rolls peaks. During an interview with High Times, Alen Nguyen, CEO of MainStem, a platform focusing on supply chain management, explained how there would be an inevitable shortage of pre-roll cones in the foreseeable future. 

It begins with manufacturing, which Nguyen said happens in “less than 10” factories in Indonesia and the rest in India. While rolling paper manufacturing happens all across Europe (mostly in Spain) and Asia, Indonesia has become the center for cone production. Automation is the driving force behind creating rolling papers, though human labor is critical for creating pre-rolled cones for joints because they need delicate handling – literally with human hands – to be created and maintain structure. 

According to Hemper CEO Bryan Gruber, the history of pre-roll cones dates back 20-30 years to “this Dutch guy who opened one of the first facilities in Indonesia.” Since then, it’s remained a central spot for cone production due to the low cost of labor in the country compared to other regions. However, a few recent factors have resulted in manufacturers seeking other locations to open up shop. The COVID-19 pandemic led to factory closures and shipping delays. Along with rigid unionization laws and the numerous labor stoppages, most paper production companies are looking at places like India for relocation.

Hara Supply, owned under Hemper’s umbrella, claims nearly a fifth of the world’s cone supply. Gerber said that Hara has been producing pre-rolls out of India, where labor is also inexpensive. Unlike Indonesia, the COVID-19 rules haven’t affected production in India, though the reason for the shortage isn’t limited to simply production. There’s also the issue of shipping which has affected practically every industry. Hara Supply might have the leg-up on their competitors relying on Indonesian labor, but the delays with global shipping play a pivotal role in the impending cone shortage.

Pre-rolled cones have grown in popularity over the years, as a study by Custom Cones USA and Headset confirmed. Between 2019 and 2020, sales for pre-rolled joints were booming. The 59% growth put sales from $704 million to $1.12 billion.

Businesses rely on the supply-and-demand model, which will reflect the prices in headshops in the coming months. Some brands might not be hit by the shortage as hard as others. However, the fortunate few who keep cones available on shelves will undoubtedly see price hikes on pre-rolled joints at dispensaries or stuff-your-own joints.

Pre-rolls might end up being hard to come by, but it’s never too late to learn how to roll by hand. 

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