Pre-roll tech: A top marijuana CTO explains how to roll over 5 million joints in a year by Oscar Pascual on SFgate.com
As cannabis smoking accessories become more advanced and hi-tech, there’s nothing that beats a well-rolled joint.
The success of Wagner Dimas, Inc. is living proof. The company, co-founded by CTO Mitchell Wagner, developed a platform that led to the manufacturing of over 5 million pre-filled joints and cones in 2017 — by far the most made in California, and perhaps the world.
Wagner Dimas’ platform has been licensed in California to the company Herban Engineers, which uses the technology to produce and package pre-rolls for over 30 top brands, cultivators and dispensaries across California, including Speciale, the brand exclusively featuring 2107 Emerald Cup winning best overall flower strain, and best cbd strain.
The massive success behind their platform is the reason why Wagner will be featured to speak at a tech panel for the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco February 1-2.
In anticipation of the event, Wagner was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the current and future landscape of cannabis pre-rolls.
Smell the Truth: What makes a good pre-roll?
Mitchell Wagner: A good pre-roll looks clean and functions properly. Everyone’s preference is a little different, so we make a wide variety with different consumers’ tolerance and taste in mind. Different sizes, shapes and potency. Universally though, we start with the right range of humidity and a proper flower grind. It has to have the right thin paper and be evenly compressed. Not too loose so it will run and draw too much air, but not too tight so it doesn’t breathe. Most of all, it contains good flower.
StT: It seems like cannabis products are rapidly becoming more advanced by the day. What is it that makes people always come back to an old fashioned rolled joint?
Wagner: Cannabis flower is pretty amazing by itself. There’s nothing quite like the real thing, and many tech fads and advancements won’t stick. Pre-rolls are just another flower format that works great and that people are used to, almost nostalgic about. Like hugging an old friend. In my opinion, vape pens tend to provide a weaker sensation and edibles can be unpredictable with a delayed effect. Smoke straight from flower has a broader chemical range than when it’s refined, and that makes a difference in the sensation. Convenience plays a big role too. It’s nice to have only a lighter and a pre-roll. You don’t have to plug it in, and it’s a lot more simple than lugging around a bag, papers, a grinder, pipes, or the myriad of other accessories people use.
StT: What separates your technology from what’s available in the marketplace?
Wagner: Vibratory machines are the industry standard for small scale production, but they fail when it comes to even compression. When you dissect that process you find some big flaws. Tobacco machines are designed for a completely different material, so they’re pretty useless when it comes to cannabis. We’ve patented our platform and it’s uniquely designed to meet the market demands of the future. We’ve bought, tried and studied every other method of pre-roll production known to humanity. Everyone falls short somewhere. Our systems produce an evenly compressed pre-roll at speeds faster than all pre-roll manufacturing methods. There is a lot more to the manufacturing than just rolling up some flower, so we’re focused on building whole factories instead of single machines. We’re really working on a different volume scale from everything else available out there.
StT: What products other than pre-rolls are you working on?
Wagner: Most things we work on are pre-roll related. We like to stay in our lane and focus on what we’re good at. We work a lot on increasing product variety and making pre-rolls faster while maintaining quality. Our pre-roll platform is our cornerstone, and we look at ways to enhance that first. But, there are a lot of holes in cannabis tech that need to be filled. We have 6 full-time engineers who are really creative, so I like to feed them fresh problems to solve. If we see a big problem in the business that needs to be solved, we’ll explore the solutions. We invest heavily in strategic failure so we can gain tech knowledge about what works, and what doesn’t. If we can devise a patentable solution it’s a bonus. We’ve found 2 big ones so far, and have 9 more inventions at various stages in our pipeline. All of which are top secret of course.
StT: Is there a legal market in a state or country that you’re particularly excited about?
Wagner: California is our first priority, but it’s the most advanced and competitive market and it’s huge. But, I’d say Canada is looking like an exciting market if it goes adult use in July. They’ve already gained some big advantages with their ability to raise funds on the public markets. Also, their ability to export could have a big impact on how cannabis is consumed around the world. Im also excited our equipment was recently approved in Nevada, so we’re excited to get going there. I love an excuse to visit Vegas and pre-rolls work great for tourists. We’ve had a lot of conversations with folks in other markets too, but we’re trying to prioritize and grow organically. We’ll have a busy 2018 raising capital, setting up new factories, and forming strategic partnerships in the best municipalities where we’re welcome.
StT: Are there any specific topics you’re looking forward to discussing at ICBC?
Wagner: I love to talk about the latest in tech in general. I always hope to learn a thing or two, and ICBC is great for that. I’ve been to all the local ICBCs and I’m proud that over the years I could navigate my way onto to a panel. It’s been a lot of work and like to share a few important things I’ve learned along the way with a whole lot of trial and error. I’d like to help attendees maximize the value of their crops with packaged goods and find easy ways to add efficiencies to their own operations. I think another good topic is how cultivators and retailers are going to combat the pending wholesale price drop of flower. As the market floods with buds from large scale grows, a race to the bottom emerges. The sizes of some of the operations coming online this year are staggering. I’m curious to hear everyone’s opinion on how that will shake up the business. We’re seeing it play now in Washington state and looks like a bloodbath for stand-alone cultivators. I think it is a natural progression towards efficiency, and our solution is a transition to consumer packaged goods that work off entirely different margins.
StT: What’s in store for the future of the pre-roll segment?
Wagner: A whole lot of growth. I think that’s true for most consumer packaged goods within the space. We’ve seen strong market share growth within pre-rolls, especially in adult use markets. I also think consolidation is inevitable in any manufacturing segment with large demand. We have a pretty inclusive approach, and encourage that in our licensing partners. The tech offers more pre-rolls than most brands can distribute, so it makes sense for local partners to manufacture for other brands with their own flower and distribution channels. It’s inevitably more efficient and inexpensive to run on larger economies of scale with production, so contract manufacturing will be the standard for most brands. Those who build powerful brands that can meet demand and grow, will be success stories.