Hemp-Based Rolling Papers Gain Popularity

Departments - Smart Start: End Product

Companies are using pulped hemp bast to create rolling papers for smokable products like hemp, state-legal cannabis and tobacco.

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September 13, 2021

Republic Brands launched OCB organic hemp papers in the U.S. in 2009.
Courtesy of Republic Brands

Editor's Note: This story was updated Sept. 17 with a correction. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that VIBES launched as a brand in 2021.

Hemp can be put in a receptacle to smoke. But in recent years, it’s also become popular as a receptacle to smoke.

Organic rolling papers represent one of the many uses of industrial hemp, as manufacturers are now pulping hemp bast fiber into thin sheets of paper to create a smooth-burning smoke.

“Organic hemp has a very high tensile strength, which means that the ability of that paper to not tear and to have even and clean burning makes it ideal for rolling paper usage,” says Paul Marobella, president and chief marketing officer at rolling company Republic Brands.

In July, Republic Brands announced it had changed its U.S. company name from Republic Tobacco. The company, which has a portfolio including traditional tobacco rolling paper staples such as JOB, OCB and E-Z Wider, now also markets into legal smokable hemp and legal cannabis markets—or what Marobella calls other forms of “legal leaf.”

“How our brands are used and how our products are used once we sell them is out of our control, but we do believe that it’s either for tobacco or legal herbal use only,” Marobella says.

Cookies founder Berner and Greenlane launched VIBES in 2018 and its organic hemp line in 2021.
Courtesy of Vibes

Republic Brands acquired JOB and OCB from the French Bolloré family in 2000, Marobella says. The company launched OCB organic hemp papers in the U.S. in 2009 and JOB organic hemp papers in the U.S. in 2017, following those two brands’ historical manufacture and sale of rolling papers for a combined 240-plus years. This fall, Republic plans to release organic hemp rolling papers and cones under the E-Z Wider banner, Marobella says. (Republic also produces TOP, JOKER and Abadie rolling papers, all of which Marobella says undergo the same production processes as each other but are watermarked, packaged and branded differently before sale.)

The hemp for Republic’s papers is grown through a farmer collective in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France with no pesticides and natural precipitation instead of irrigation, Marobella says. Then, he adds, Republic (known as Republic Group in Spain and Republic Technologies throughout the rest of the world) processes the hemp fibers, using no chemicals, at its own pulp mill.

“We monitor in the mill the quality of the paper pulp,” Marobella says. “So, from moisture content to impurity levels to color to thinness, all the aspects of making sure we have the highest-quality organic hemp is monitored using our proprietary methods and our mills.”

The company prints its rolling paper booklets on recycled cardboard and sources nearly all raw materials for the papers themselves within 500 kilometers of its factories, Marobella says. One material sourced from outside those perimeters is the acacia gum that is used as a seal, which Marobella says is farmed in Kenya. (There, he says, Republic partners with Seedballs Kenya to reseed forest.)

Rolling paper company VIBES is also getting into organic hemp rolling papers, albeit from a different angle. VIBES was launched in 2018 by Berner, a rapper and co-founder of the Cookies cannabis product line, alongside cannabis equipment provider Greenlane. The company’s website states that the products are not supposed to be used for tobacco, “only legal smoking herbs.”

Matthew Paul, general manager of VIBES, says Berner began working in the cannabis industry at the age of 18, dishing out product as a budtender at San Francisco’s Hemp Center. “Combining Berner’s vision with his over 20 years of being an arbiter of taste within our emerging industry, VIBES was created to address the need for a brand built for the demands of today’s consumers and their material,” Paul says.

VIBES put out its first hemp rolling paper line in its launch year, 2018. In 2021, the company released its organic hemp rolling paper collection, manufactured and packaged in-house using plant material grown in northern France. It sources the long fibers of hemp bast from raw material processors in France and creates a pulp for its papers. The company’s product line also includes rolling papers made from hemp fiber, flax and wood pulp.

Paul highlights the versatility of hemp raw material and its natural connection to cannabis connoisseurs, adding, “Cannabis and hemp indeed have a very close relationship, and we do believe that the two industries should be working closely with each other by collectively pushing forward the wonder and benefits of the hemp plant.”

Patrick Williams is the managing editor for Hemp Grower magazine.