Cody Crosby has taken the simple act of rolling a joint and elevated it to an art form. The 28-year-old Canadian, who posts his work to Instagram and Facebook under the name Codyvangogh, is a dishwasher by day, but his true passion lies in creating "designer cannabis products"—he's fashioned smokable versions of Elsa from Frozen and the Powerpuff Girls, as well as cats, dogs, and dinosaurs, among other things.
Recently, Crosby talked to VICE about his evolution from average pot smoker to joint roller extraordinaire, and how he hopes to have his products on the legal market one day.
VICE: When did you first start rolling joints?
Cody Crosby: It was probably when I was 17, when I first started smoking weed. The guy who got me to do it, one of the first things that he ingrained into me was that it's important to know how to roll a joint yourself, that you're not always trying to get somebody else to do it. I was pretty good at it back then. But I didn't really start rolling, like, crazy things or creatively until about eight months ago. Before that, though, I was always trying to raise the bar rolling cross joints and that sort of thing. I love learning new ways to roll.
How did you go from rolling regular joints to all these crazy designs?
I guess the first time that I rolled one, there was a girl at my work who was leaving and so we were going to have a small party afterwards. I was going to roll something special for it. So I started rolling a cross joint and put a tulip at the top and kind of realized that that looked like a person, And I had these blue papers that matched the dress of the girl that was leaving, so I added the blue papers on as kind of a dress to the joint and put a little bun in the hair. And then I guess the reason I kept up with it is largely just 'cause a lot of new cannabis products are designed to be quick, efficient, discreet—that kind of thing. You don't really get to enjoy the smoking experience. I was always really fond of just sitting in a circle with my friends passing around a joint, so this kind of takes it back to that. So the first one was just kind of on a whim, and then I just kept up with it to encourage people to keep having sessions with me.
So do you actually sell your joints, or just smoke them with your friends?
I would like to sell them. I really want to do it properly through dispensaries. I've got boxes ready, everything like that. But the big thing is, you need [to be licensed under the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations] to sell them in Canada, and so I'm anxious to get that. I checked [with Health Canada] about a month ago. They said they weren't giving them out at the moment, but hopefully with legalization coming up, that'll be a thing again. Like, for close friends and stuff, I roll a few for birthdays and things, and then sometimes people will give me their weed to roll and pay me to do that. But I'm really trying to work my way into a position where I can make them available to anybody who wants them.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
I try to avoid doing, like, stoner things, really. I think you gotta try and make it appeal to everybody, and I would like to get non-stoners interested, and maybe people who still think of weed as on the same level of cocaine or heroin, to maybe convince them that it's not so crazy, that there's some cool things that you can do with it and that it can be a lot of fun. Also, I try to roll things that will get people asking questions. I think the ship in the bottle one is a really good example of that. I don't really explain how I do it or anything, I just kind of throw it out there and leave it up to their imagination. I always try to take it a step further, kind of get people asking questions, and just trying to appeal to them more than just a stoner audience.
I've lately been looking for new ways to make my joints more interactive. Many of them lately have included props that are removed before smoking so you can keep as a reminder of the sesh, like the hats and swords you see on a few of them. The ship in a bottle requires you to break the bottle, and the interaction with the extendable joints is pretty self-explanatory. More recently I tried to roll a recorder and that was one of my biggest failures because I finished it all and it looked really good but no sound came out.
What's your favorite roll that you've done?
My favorite one is probably, I think actually the Best Buds Forever, it's a tip trick, but I think that was the first one that really took off. I'm also kind of proud of the Tyrannosaurus. One thing I have a big problem with is, like, getting pictures of the joints actually burning, and we got some really good photos of that one after a lot of people criticized that it wouldn't smoke. I love rolling Disney princesses. Some of those haven't turned out to be my best work, but it's just one of my favorite things to roll.
Usually, that's where I'll experiment with a lot of things, or I won't always know what I'm going to do when I start it so I have to figure things out. It lets me play with color a lot too. There's not a lot of variation in the types of colored papers you can get so you're rather limited in your palettes. So it just lets me try out a lot of papers and get a feel for what they'll look like when they're rolled up, that kind of thing.
How do you paint your joints?
I'm always trying to find new ways to add color to them, but I also want to do it safely without too many health concerns. Food coloring seemed like a good way to do that, and I looked into it a bit and I couldn't… There's really no research on what happens when you smoke food coloring. But I baptized a few basic joints in food coloring and didn't notice any problems, so I started coloring them with that. People didn't respond especially well to that so I've tried to avoid food coloring more recently and stick to using the colored papers. The big colored papers are Juicy Jay's, the flavored ones, especially the watermelon and cotton candy papers that are blue and red. You can also get licorice papers, which are brown. It's not an enormous palette, so often I'm looking for things that I can roll in those colors. And more recently, I've been trying to make things kind of like, statue-esque, without as much color. Yeah, color is one of the toughest things to do safely.
How burnable are your joints? I was looking at some of them and thinking, "How's that even going to light?"
Usually, I put a filter in at one end so you can hold it and typically just light it at the other end, opposite the filter. A lot of the characters, you have to light their heads last if you want it to burn evenly, things like that. So there's a few tricks that you learn over time. For the most part, I'd say they're all burnable. You'll have the odd one, like, one of the arms didn't go but the rest was fine, that kind of thing. But usually for the amount that actually gets burned, you'll get really high off them. I'd say they're about 80 percent effective.
How much weed is in one of your joints?
I'd say the average is typically about five to seven grams? I always try to get as low as possible 'cause, I mean, even the two-gram joints are more than enough for most people. So usually they're shared in big sessions. I've made them up to almost a full ounce, I think was the largest one. But for the most part I try to get them smaller, and sometimes that just comes with doing the same design over time. Like when I do people, the first person that I did was the 28-gram one. I've gotten them down, experimented with doing three-gram ones and things like that. More often than not I'd say they average five to seven grams.
How long does it take for you to roll one?
The first ones took about eight hours. There's a line of cats and dogs and stuff, I spent weeks refining those. Those are just little minimalist ones so I can roll those in about 40 minutes. And those are kind of the ones where if I get my MMPR, I'd sell it just because I can whip them out quickly, and then sell some of the more expensive designs for more money. But yeah, typically I would say it's about eight hours. I've spent up to 40 hours, I think was the longest one? That was the Joan of Arc one, and that was the first one where I experimented a lot, where I really started taking it seriously, and that was the one where it kind of turned from a… More of just a pastime into an actual… I mean, I don't like to call it a full-time job because I'm not making money off it, but I have been working full-time lately just rolling and trying to get followers and that kind of thing on the Instagram page.
How many papers does it take to roll an average design?
Oh, uh, it's quite a few. I go through, I would say probably about $40 worth of papers a month, and that includes ones that come in packs of 500 for about $10, just to give you an example. So it is hundreds of papers every time. Whenever I use colors, those papers tend to be a little more expensive, so I'll usually roll something a few times in normal papers before I roll it in the colored papers. But yeah, I would say in a joint, there's probably about 20 papers, and then I probably used another 100 papers just trying to get the design ready or even just cutting off stickies to use on the joint. The rest of the paper gets recycled. I usually have a big cup next to me, like one of the extra-large Tim Hortons cups, that I can just dump all the excess paper into and that'll fill up by the end of a roll. So it's probably close to 100 papers every roll.
How long does it take for one of these joints to burn, since there's so much weed and paper in it?
Quite a while, I'd say about 45 minutes is pretty typical. We've had a few that have gone longer, like an hour and a half was the biggest one.
Do you have any tips for everyone on how to roll regular joints?
There's a few tricks you can master. If you just want to improve at small joints, you need to learn how to plumb and backflip your rolls. Plumbing is just basically where you roll it around a stick and then you wrap a paper around the stick as well so you have a tube going through, and that creates a hollow path for the smoke to get through. It makes it much tastier and it stops resin buildup around the tip. The joint burns evenly whereas a lot of joints, if you roll them normally, the last 15 minutes, you're just burning the roach, you know what I mean? The other thing you can do is backflipping the roll, which is actually, you roll it backwards, like sticky side out, and then just lick over the paper so that it sticks to the sticky and burn off the excess. And what that does is it gets rid of an excess paper so you're smoking more weed and less paper. If you combine those two, then basically you're going to get the most flavor and the least amount of paper out of it.
What are your thoughts on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promising to legalize weed?
Obviously, legalization would be great. My biggest concern right now is the laws tend to favor medicinal use, whereas what I do is very much recreational. There's not too much medicinal about the joints that I roll. And while I think that there are a lot of great medicinal uses for weed, I think that it's a bit silly that a lot of people are sort of admitting to problems they don't have or maybe aren't as serious as they need treatment for it. And I think that's a bit dehumanizing, especially just to get weed. So I really hope the new laws do make room for recreational use and do kind of favor recreational consumers. Other than that, I'm really looking forward to legalization and I hope I can actually be a part of the marijuana industry when it is legal, and maybe sell these things within it.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Follow Jackie Hong on Twitter.