Cigarillos and marijuana

The Christian County Sheriff's Office shared a photograph on its social media channels showing items confiscated as evidence in an arrest. They included fruit-flavored cigarillos and a substance deputies say is marijuana.

If you’ve ever been inside a convenience store in your lifetime, you’ve seen them. 

I watched from my place in line at a cash register in Ozark as a young man and a young woman pushed their limit on transactions. They were allowed three separate transactions before they had to yield to the next person in line. Each time they purchased one cigarillo, a tobacco product often packaged in brightly-colored foil.

“The white grape,” the man insisted.

Each time he would buy a single white grape cigarillo, swipe his debit card, then ask for the maximum-allowable $20 cash back, according to store policy.

I was puzzled as to why this couple bought white grape cigarillos at a cost of less than $2 apiece, then got $20 cash three times in a row. Why not just get your smokes and then go to an ATM? And what’s the deal with white grape? Why did the guy insist that they had to be white grape flavor?

I must admit, I do not smoke and have not attempted to smoke a cigar—or anything else for that matter—in about a decade. I relayed to story to a friend of  mine who is a smoker, and asked him about why this couple seemed to need white grape cigarillos so badly. He laughed at me.

“Blunts, my brother,” he shared through his laughs.

Ah-ha. They weren’t going to smoke the tobacco. They were going to use the paper to roll “blunts” with marijuana. That’s what the cash was for. 

But why white grape?

In furthering my research for this column, I performed Google searches for “white grape cigarillo blunt” and “white grape rolling paper use,” and started to get frustrated. I even typed “why do people prefer white grape cigarillos for marijuana?” into the search engine, which I knew wasn’t going to get me anywhere. If the people who do IT for our newspaper company can read this, I hope they enjoyed my search history.

I finally found something useful, though it didn’t exactly answer my question completely. Peer-reviewed research by Dr. Daniel P. Giovenco, Erin J. Miller, Dr. M. Jane Lewis and Dr. Cristine D. Delnevo appears on the website for the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health. The title begins with a quote, “They’re pretty much made for blunts.”

Alright, now we’re getting somewhere.

The team conducted 40 “semi-structured telephone interviews” with a sample of young adult cigar and cigarillo smokers, so it was a small sample group, but a useful sampling.

“It is well-documented that users of cigarillos and other mass market cigars often empty the products’ tobacco and replace the contents with marijuana; the result is colloquially called a ‘blunt,’” the researchers wrote. “Though blunt use was not a criterion for study inclusion, half of the interviewees voluntarily disclosed that they primarily use cigarillos for blunt-making.”

I then learned that marijuana use, especially the marijuana use tied to the rolling paper from white grape cigarillos, does not discriminate based on race, ethnic background or socioeconomic status, according to smokers.

“It doesn’t matter the color of their skin, nationality. For the most part, anyone buying those cigarillos are not gonna smoke that tobacco out of there. It’s for weed,” one participant told a researcher.

“These companies know what we’re using it for. They have to,” another participant said.

After several tense moments of reading, I found the link to white grape flavor. Apparently, when the rolling paper from the cigarillos is rolled for a second time with marijuana, smokers lick the edge of the paper for an adhesive effect. The flavoring improves their taste experience. The researchers still couldn’t explain why white grape, specifically, is an apparent flavor of choice.

“Fruit-flavored cigarillos, especially grape and white grape, were highly preferred,” the report states.

The researchers wrote that cigars are exempt from federal rules about flavorings, packaging, and marketing strategies seemingly aimed at youth, unlike cigarettes.

“Moreover, the wide array of cigar packaging styles, including single sticks, inexpensive multipacks, and brightly-colored, resealable foil pouches contribute to the profitability of the cigar market, according to industry sources,” the study reads.

Here is some more straight dope for parents of teenagers: if you happen to notice your child is smoking cigarillos from brightly-colored wrappers, you may want to have a talk with them. I suppose the nature of that talk will depend greatly on your views on marijuana use, but keep in mind, recreational marijuana use is still illegal in Missouri. It’s also against federal law. 

As long as the state’s marijuana laws are what they are, I will remain patient when I’m standing in line at the gas station. The white grape cigarillo business doesn’t appear to be slowing.

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