A Deep Dive Into the California Pre-Roll Market

pre-roll

Racking in a whopping $423 million in recreational marijuana sales in 2022, the California cannabis market is the largest in the U.S. As the first state to legalize medical marijuana, and then to soon follow with adult-use legalization, California has a long history of production and distribution. 

Pre-Rolls are Prospering

As more states continue to follow suit with their own legalization processes, RollPros has taken note of the booming pre-roll market in California. Pre-roll cannabis products have been steadily increasing in popularity over the past few years. 

According to Headset data, pre-rolls are the third largest product category in the U.S. after flower and vapes. From 2022 to 2023, pre-roll sales grew 13%, capturing 15% of total cannabis sales. 

Kyle Loucks, Founder and CEO of RollPros, says part of the reason that pre-rolls are so popular is because they are a generational consumption method. “Old-school heads that came up in the 60’s and 70’s are comfortable smoking a joint. It’s a tried, tested, and timeless experience. Now, the younger generations that may have started on vapes are discovering that, too,” he says. 

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Pre-rolls are also easy to transport and require no prep time. While they may not have the hype that some other categories have, like beverages, they are a convenient form of consumption — which is ultimately the winning factor.

Image credit: RollPros.

California Pre-Roll Market by the Numbers

RollPros’ market data found that from July through September 2023, pre-rolls brought in $222.5 million in revenue for California. Infused pre-roll sales totaled $132.6 million during that same time frame, while standard pre-roll sales totaled $89.9 million. 

“With standard pre-rolls you are limited to plant genetics,” Loucks explains. “But infused pre-rolls provide never-ending opportunities for brands to create something truly unique in the market. They can combine the right extract or concentrate with the right flower to create a very specific terp profile, taste, aroma or effect that no other product has. It’s not always going to work, but when you find a combo that really resonates with the consumer and stands out; that’s like dynamite!”

Consumer Preferences

While smokers have always looked for convenience when it comes to purchasing pre-rolls, Loucks mentions that lately, quality has also been on their mind. This means cannabis brands can’t just throw a product into the market and expect it to do well. There’s a lot of competition out there, so the end product needs to be worthy of a sale. 

RollPros has the numbers to back this up. Of all inhalable users, 43% smoked a pre-roll within the last six months. However, only 12% of users preferred pre-rolls, according to their data. But that number seems to be changing. 

The 12% that prefer pre-rolls represent a 1.9 point jump from the three months prior to July 2023. If that trajectory continues, RollPros predicts that pre-rolls will likely have a larger preference share than both pipes and bongs within the next six months. 

What’s driving this pre-roll trend is the increase in higher quality products that consumers actually enjoy. And with better and more consistent manufacturing methods now widely in use throughout North America, a high quality pre-roll is now a more scalable option. 

The Future of the Pre-Rolls Market

Brands that stand for something and can build trust with consumers by delivering a quality product along with consistent experiences will float to the top, according to Loucks. And those that lack direction, identity and customer connection will drown. 

“Consumers are becoming more educated and are becoming better armed at spotting the difference,” explains Loucks. “Joint smokers will continue to sample strains, brands and subcategories during this growth period in the pre-roll game, and the race is on to earn their loyalty!”