The Hidden Danger of Smoking Pot – Contaminated Rolling Papers and Blunt Wraps

We’ve all know about the normal risks associated with smoking any plant material, and that is the carcinogens released when the cannabis combusts from heat exposure. Most of us are willing to take that risk, considering that overall, smoking weed is much safer than cigarettes. However, there is a hidden danger that many people don’t think about… what’s in your rolling papers and blunt wraps?

According to a recent study conducted by SC Labs, a whole lot of contaminants. The top-rated lab in California spent the last couple months testing papers (regular and cellulose), cones, and blunt wraps from 118 different brands sold on Amazon and in local smoke shops… the results were very telling.

Nearly one in ten of the samples failed under California’s purity standards used when testing cannabis. Mainly, it’s blunt wraps and cellulose papers we need to keep an eye on as the majority of them were contaminated; most of the regular papers and cones passed.

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About the Test

The lab ran the papers and wraps for contaminants such as heavy metals and pesticides, both of which came up strong in most of the samples. Flavored blunt wraps, for example, contained roughly 7 times the “safe” limit of the pesticide cypermethrin. And the cellulose papers were even worse, with some brands – such as aLeda Cellulose Rolling Papers – had 120 times the state’s legal limit for lead. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, there is no safe level of lead exposure.

Josh Wurzer, study author and president of SC Labs said, “Heavy metals look to be the bigger issue than pesticides,” and “cellulose papers were the dirtiest” of the rolling papers they tested. Wurzer also said his “cellulose paper survey size was too small” and he planned to do a subsequent study with even more brands.

Although unsettling, it’s no surprise that papers and wraps are coming back contaminated. Since they’re made of plant material, these toxins are pulled into the plant from the soil, then remain present in high concentrations when the plant material is processed into papers and wraps. Since cannabis is held to such strict standards in legal states, California in particular, it is typically grown in what’s referred to as virgin soil – soil that has never been cultivated before.  

Despite being a $1.2 billion dollar industry, the production of blunt wraps and rolling papers has very little regulation. Paper manufacturers are required to list their ingredients, but since they generally don’t test for contaminants, those obviously aren’t listed anywhere on the label.

How it Began

Pesticides being sprayed over a large crop

Back in July, SC Labs got wind of numerous pre-rolled joints that tested positive for the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is a Category 1 pesticide, meaning that no levels are considered safe and detecting it in any quantity in a product intended for consumption is a definitive failure. Quality control checks have found a total of 7,229 batches deemed unsafe under California’s stringent standards. Out of 137,922 batches tested, 2,185 failed for pesticides and 811 for heavy metals.

Consumption of these toxins have many health risks, so safety thresholds are set very low. The dangers of actually burning and inhaling these compounds remains an unknown area of concern. In total, 70 rolling papers, 25 pre-rolled cones, and 20 wraps and three cellulose-based rolling papers were scanned using Gas and liquid chromatography machines. They failed for four metals—lead; cadmium; arsenic; mercury—plus 66 pesticides and 5 mycotoxins (small peptides found in rattlesnake venom).

Final Thoughts

There are many, many faults with the legal cannabis market, and California is no stranger to industry drawbacks. But one thing that legalization helps with, undoubtedly, is cleaning up the cannabis industry to produce safer, healthier products.

When questioned about whether California’s testing requirements were too strict without reason, Wuzrer quickly replied, “California got it right with their regulations by having us test products in final form.” He pointed out the irony of states that don’t do this, referencing Oregon. “Oils that are clean are then added to cartridges and now test positive for heavy metals,” he said.  

“This is something that cannabis and paper manufacturers should be aware of,” Wurzer added. “If those paper manufacturers are selling to people in the cannabis industry who use their papers then they need to pay more attention to their quality control.”

To learn more about the contaminated rolling papers and blunt wraps, check out ‘Rolling Papers Tested for Heavy Metals and Pesticides’, the full SC Labs report, on Leafly.

Thank you for stopping by CBD FLOWERS, your hub for all things cannabis-related. Make sure to subscribe to the CBD Flowers Weekly Newsletter for more articles like this one.

Alexandra Hicks
Alexandra is the managing editor and lead writer at She has always been interested in alternative and natural remedies, and the versatility of cannabis as a healing plant is something that greatly appeals to her. It's for this reason that she decided to work as a cannabis industry journalist and editor, to help spread accurate information about the benefits of this plant.


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