WELCOME TO CANNABUZZ, the Mercury's new weekly column about cannabis and how we use, grow, and make money from it. In the coming weeks, we'll talk about Oregon's upcoming ballot measure, how to travel with jazz tobacco, the possibilities of curing cancer with it, and the latest developments in emerging legal recreational markets. But before we get to that, let's start at the very beginning: how to twist up the perfect joint.

Even experienced smokers never properly learn how to roll the perfect jay. It takes some doing, but with enough practice, it can be mastered. If you're truly remedial, grind up some oregano and experiment with that first. (Don't smoke it, just roll it.)

So: First things first. Stop tearing your weed apart with your fingers and invest in a bud grinder. Metal grinders are better than plastic. Separate the bud from the stem (obviously), and then grind it to the consistency of coffee grounds. Pick out any stem splinters, as they'll tear through joint paper and taste god-awful. A decent-size joint takes 1 to 1.5 grams—about enough bud to cover the surface of a quarter. If there are a bunch of seeds in your pot, get better pot.

All props to old-school Zig-Zags, but their thickness and material content impart a noticeable taste and heaviness. Get a rice paper, such as Elements. They're thinner, lighter, and burn cleaner, with virtually no ash.

Roll your joint on top of something—a record album, perhaps—that'll capture the falling excess that might spill from the ends. Take your rolling paper between your thumbs and forefingers, with the gummed edge facing you. Place your cannabis in, and then even out the bud. Leave a quarter inch of empty space at one end for a filter.

You want an evenly packed joint that's tight enough to maintain its shape, but not so tight that you can't get a drag off it. Avoid a lumpy middle, as it won't burn evenly. If this is the part that leaves you in frustrated tears, take a dollar bill and place the rolling paper on top of the bill, the paper matching the height of the bill. You can use the bill to roll the joint so you don't have to struggle with the paper on its own. This is a great way to learn without tearing and wasting papers—or weed.

Filters give a smoother draw, and allow all the good stuff to burn completely, instead of dealing with a sticky, clogged, spit-riddled pinched end. (It's called a "roach" for a reason.) You can purchase cigarette-style filters, but it's often easier to just use a small piece of paper. Tear off part of a business card, or buy a pack of perforated tips of cardstock-thickness that are perfectly cut for papers. Roll it up and place into the end of the joint that you left space in.

Roll the joint so the paper overlaps just a bit, and lick the gummed edge. If you want a conical shape that tapers from fat to skinny, turn your paper so it's slightly on the diagonal. (This is a semi-advanced move, but it's quickly mastered with practice.) Twist the non-filtered end to a point, trimming any excess. And this is crucial: Wait a few minutes for the gum to dry.

Now, light the joint. Puff, puff, pass. It's not a talking stick—hit it and quit it.

And no, I don't know what you were just saying, man.