Ah, joints. Amidst a medical revolution obsessed with creating healthier, more discreet cannabis products and accessories, it’s still not uncommon to find someone who prefers the good ‘ol, smelly, wasteful practice of smoking a doob to any dab pen or edible; rarer still to find a cannabis user who would pass up the opportunity to take a toke. Despite being a time honoured tradition many people still take the act of rolling a joint for granted; some would rather pass off the responsibility while others become so complacent in their ability that they never seek to improve.
And then you have the National Joint League competitors.
Let me get all your questions out of the way; Yes, these are joints. Yes, you can smoke them.
Now in its seventh season, the National Joint League (@national_joint_league & website) is arguably the most important joint rolling competition of all time. Regardless of the name, the Instagram-based contest has expanded its regions to include competitors from all over North America and is quickly rebuilding the eighty-thousand follower fanbase it had prior to a recent account ban. Despite being an open event, creating a submission is such a feat that only a dozen or so entries are received each season.
The best of the best? Ironically I think the only people who would disagree would be the NJL rollers, including myself. Not unlike pay-per-view wrestling, we’re inspired twice a year put on a grand show where the people can cheer us on and we can show off everything we’ve rehearsed. The rest of the time we’re more like chess grandmasters spamming practice games in the park. That’s what a lot of people overlook about the league. It’s not about who has the belt; it’s about knowing you’re ranked among the highest level of opponent and adapting to current trends and metagames.
Thus, National Joint League represents a group of rollers for whom there is no skill ceiling, no complacency, no best. These are artists who can innovate well beyond the tulips and crosses that your buddy could roll in high school; who can improve on that pearled cone your dealer insisted was perfect. How do they do it? What makes them different from every other roller out there? I find the two qualities all rollers share are patience and dedication. It takes a special kind of person to sit down and hammer out a creative roll as they typically take a few hours or even days to create. On top of that, NJL members often spend their free time doing things like memorizing the gs/m on every brand of rolling paper, taking cuttings from different strains of tobacco to find the best blunt material, trying to find the perfect mix of water and acacia powder. Sometimes we’re just paying close attention to the ways others are rolling just to see if there’s anything we can pick up. Where others might see a pregnant or poorly rolled joint, a creative roller is more likely to find a shape we can use on our next project; to us the only ‘bad’ joint is one you can’t smoke.
Even the NJL rollers get these ‘bad’ joints once in awhile. I’ll never forget the time NJL contributor @rollgameonpoint sent the rest of us pics from a lounge session. You see, all vape lounges have this box behind the counter of papers the servers have collected from tables when cleaning up over the years. It’s a well-kept secret among creative rollers that these boxes are treasure chests of rare and out of print papers that are impossible to find in headshops. So RG finds these black papers in one of these boxes and immediately rolls up. Coloured papers are precious to creative rollers so finding a black one was an especially desirable find since up until this point the darkest known colour of paper were the dark brown licorice flavoured ones. I was desperate to know the brand, and a quick google search revealed that he was actually smoking a japanese acne wipe.
He later admitted that he wasn’t able to finish the joint; but I always thought the anecdote was a prime example of the kind of dedication it takes to roll creatively. And I hope to share more of those examples over the coming weeks as I bring you up to speed on the rollers of the NJL and attempt the first critical dissection of joint art and artists.