A Lawsuit Against RAW Papers Called Out Deceptive Business Practices


May 25 2023, Published 2:32 p.m. ET

Packaging and claims about charitable contributions were central to a RAW papers lawsuit, bringing the company to back up the claims it makes in advertising. RAW manufactures rolling papers designed for use in smoking tobacco and cannabis. The company has had to clarify its claims about the origins of the organic hemp in its papers — here are the reasons for the RAW lawsuit.

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RAW Rolling Papers, which was founded in 1995, was taken to court in 2023 due to allegedly deceptive marketing and promotional practices. The Lansing City Pulse reported that an Illinois federal court ordered RAW to stop making any false claims about the company, the origins of its products, and its charitable contributions.

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What did the RAW papers lawsuit allege?

RAW Rolling Papers is a company that makes rolling papers for cannabis and tobacco use. The packaging on its products had been stamped to indicate the papers were made in a part of Spain known as the birthplace of rolling papers. Product labeling stated that they were made in Alcoy, Spain.

The company's claims about its charitable organization and donations also came under fire with the lawsuit. The company had referred to a charitable organization called The Raw Foundation, but in the December 2022 court ruling no such organization related to RAW Rolling Papers was found to exist.

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How did RAW rolling papers start?

In a 2021 Forbes interview, founder Josh Kesselman spoke of his belief in the importance of creating always-improving products that are better than the best in the market. That's where he got the inspiration to create natural, unbleached rolling papers — because no one else on the market was doing that yet.

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The hip-hop world started to notice RAW around 2008, and he said that the products grew popular through word of mouth, or what he called "smoke circles" in which people would smoke together and share their favorite products.

Kesselman said in that interview that having a profitable company was important so they could "keep inventing and creating, and giving to charity for that matter." He also claimed, "We've given away millions of dollars to charity," and spoke of partnerships with Water Is Life International, Trees for the Future, Wine To Water, and CarbonFund.org.

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Here's how the RAW papers lawsuit played out.

In February of 2023, Benzinga reported that HBI International, the distributor of RAW Rolling Papers, was given an injunction against making certain claims about the company products. Rival Republic Brands had filed a federal lawsuit, and the court found that HBI "engaged in unfair competition and violated the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act through its packaging and promotional activities."

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RAW had made claims that Republic Brands' OCB papers were knockoffs of RAW organic hemp rolling papers. Now, RAW must stop making claims about other brands it distributes including Elements, DLX, Skunk, Pay-Pay, and Juicy Jays. For instance, the company cannot use the "Alcoy stamp" for the origins of its papers after May 31, 2023.

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RAW has clarified claims about its charitable giving and its product origins.

Now, RAW has clarified where its rolling papers come from. Its Organic Hemp rolling paper booklets are made in Benimarfull, a village in the Alicante Province of Spain, using unbleached certified organic hemp from southern France. The paper rolls go on to further processing in Spain.

As for the charity aspect of the RAW lawsuit, as of May 2023, the company uses the organization RAW Giving to make contributions to various charitable causes. RAW says it has given over $2.5 million in direct cash contributions. In-kind contributions totaled over $186,000. Importantly, the company no longer claims to have its own charity, but says it funnels donations to established charitable organizations.

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