Article by Phil Wong, High! Canada
We bumped into Michael O’Malley at the LIFT Conference, the owner and operator of Curved Papers!
Michael what do you think of this year’s show and what do you think of the latest legislation announcement for cannabis in Canada?
Li if the best show we’ve done in Canada since we opened the company up here in 2015. In 2017 there is a heightened dialog because of the Trudeau government’s forward movement toward legalization. It’s like in The States, where a lot of the shows have been “biggest ever” since the November 8th elections, where California and others joined the pioneer states and voted in legal adult use.
I have always wanted to ask you why Curved Papers?
Curved Papers solve a classic centuries old problem in RYO (the Roll-Your-Own sector), if you don’t keep your edges parallel, the front corner doesn’t tuck, it goes up, producing a familiar mess and hassle at one end or the other of your joint. I learned this problem by seeing the original old school solution, cut corners. Cut corners came out with the little one-cigarette rolling machines that came out from Zig-Zag in the 1970’s. Curved Papers are a ten-mes beer solution to the problem of corners not tucking. With Curved Papers, you just roll straight up the middle every me without a hitch. Those lile rolling machines are sll around, and they are one of the best ways to demonstrate how easy Curved Papers are to roll. Truly easy to roll!
How did you get your start in the business?
I used to call them “Mike O’Malley Designer Rolling Papers” and made them with a scissors, to the delight of many friends at pares. Then things conspired to bring this, one of my many inventions, to the front of my mind. My kids grew up and went to college, which was very expensive, and so I was searching through my list of ideas (always keep track of your good ideas), for a real winner. With the changing legal environment around marijuana, the easy to roll curved edge jumped to the top of the list. I started to research rolling papers and found that no one had ever come out with curved edge rolling papers, and decided to make a go of it. The surprise was how great an opportunity it has turned out to be. Everyone sll rolls joints, and everyone loves the curved edge.
What are some of the challenges you faced when you first started off in the cannabis business?
The biggest challenge was that since no one had ever done it, I had to do it. The big rolling papers companies are, well, really big, and conservative, and though they found the idea fascinating, they were not about to retool their football field full of computer-driven machinery to make them. In fact, it’s complicated, and only four companies could even do cut corners, a non-trivial variation from the rectangle that sufficed for the first 300 years of RYO.
Other than that, the biggest challenge has been the evolution in a really dumb direction of joint rolling. Old school people roll cylindrical joints and cigarettes without a p quickly and easily. Millennials’ do as well. But the intervening generations, the ones for whom they invented basketball hoops that could be lowered, fell into a really incomprehensible style of rolling which is still popular, where they start with a “krutch” and the joint winds up coneshaped, which makes no sense. The fact that some people think of a p or crutch is a filter of any kind is bewildering. You don’t see any tobacco rollers calling them a filter. They don’t filter anything. There are actually companies that just make tips. Little pieces of cardboard that don’t do anything. And people buy them! Also, the cone shape. Where’s that at? Do you think it looks like a spliff? It doesn’t. They are like the big plastic fake cell phones that people used to carry when cellphones first came out, so that it looked like they had a cell phone. That was a thing. Cones just makes a wasteful pile of weed way out there where you light it. I guess it was pushed out by companies that sold prerolled cones; you don’t have to roll, you just pack them. Conehead is bonehead. LOL. Cones make no sense, unless they are pre-rolled. Nonetheless, people who roll this way crazy way still love Curved Papers, and use them with tips to roll joints that have that silly shape. It’s all right with me. That’s cool.
I do agree rolling is kind of a lost art! So where is Curved Papers located?
We are a New York State company. I was born in Brooklyn, and I live in Long Island and have the company there. We started the company in Toronto, though. I was living with friends in Cabbagetown and made the first 2400 booklets there on their dining room table with a bunch of graduate students from Ryerson, and a wonderful architecture student from Waterloo. We cut them out in Mississauga, at our factory near the airport. That was a great start, but our margins were too tight, and we couldn’t cut in any distributors. We couldn’t really sell enough and make money. In my world travels, I met a consultant for a cigar company in The Dominican Republic, and they were able to take over manufacturing for us, and helped up engineer a solution that has brought our margins up to the level where we can be real players in the competitive RYO world.
Wow that’s crazy! Must be nice to visit your factory every so often! And what’s next for Curved Papers?
Here at Lift we are debuting our new LIGHTS and KING SLIM styles, ultra-light unbleached papers which burn beautifully, as do our original beautiful French papers, which are simply called CURVED PAPERS. We’ve still got some of the limited edition CURVED CANADA papers we made when Trudeau got elected in October. Man, if that hadn’t happened before Trump got elected, along with California going, I shudder to think of where we would be with legalization. I don’t think they can put the genie back in the bole now. I think Trump is sick of Jeff Sessions already, and that they’re all going to get kicked out prey soon because of Russia gate, and the associated cover-ups, and the world will snap back and spring forward in a good direction. At the end of the summer, we will be coming out with organic hemp papers at the two sizes we have, 1-1/4s and king size slim. We have some crazy disruptive ideas for other product offerings coming down the pike. We’ve got e-commerce on our websites for the consumers in the US and Canada, and wholesale sites for retailers and distribution partners. It’s been a long strange trip, but green lights are everywhere and right now the sky is the limit for Curved Papers.