Benson Arbor

From flower-only to pre-roll royalty

The Backstory

Cannabis has always been Noah Levine’s happy place. Living on an idyllic farm on the Oregon side of the Siskiyou Mountains, Noah and his wife and two young children worked hard to make their grow operation something truly special. 

More than just a profit oriented agricultural space, the farm is an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Noah’s wife Liv walks the farm taking notes for the next harvest. The children play in the stream that runs through the property or play with the cows and chickens lazing in their generous pens. Their farm dog Benson romps among the rows of trees as Noah makes sure they’re on track for harvest. It’s a peaceful, wonderful scene where a family business is thriving.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Noah Levine was part of the first wave of the cannabis green rush.

He had been growing and selling flower since back in 2008, starting out in California’s medical world before moving to Oregon in 2013 to continue growing flower for medical use.

The brand quickly became known for their seriously enormous trees (that’s where the arbor came from!). Growing bigger, bolder, and better flower, Noah and his team were proud to make a product that earned them a cult following among connoisseurs of high quality cannabis.

As the state moved towards full legalization, Benson Arbor pivoted towards recreational cannabis. Their first product hit the market at the end of 2017, and with their passion for cannabis cultivation and established network of dispensaries, it should have been smooth sailing.

With the Blackbird, I found that I could make joints that hit really well but also had integrity.


The Problem

There was one issue: the cutthroat nature of the Oregon cannabis market was killing them! Calling it a place where “investors came to lose their money,” Noah said that in his experience Oregon might have the most challenging cannabis market in the world, with an “insane” failure rate. He knew he needed more than premium flower to stand out.

The answer, thought Noah, was pre-rolls.

Well, it would be the answer, if he could get over his pre-roll prejudice. Noah had stayed away from pre-rolls as he began building Benson Arbor. Too often, they were a way “…For people to hide crap inside of a pretty package,” taking advantage of the consumer by tricking them into paying a premium for an inferior product.

Still, he knew that pre-rolls were a majorly untapped source of potential revenue. The Benson Arbor team had been packaging up their B buds and trim together to sell to extract processors, but quickly realized they were leaving money on the table. Pre-rolls offer the highest margin for B buds, and Noah began to wonder if he could find a way to build a better pre-roll. Surely starting off with the highest quality flower would give him a leg up?

But their initial efforts only confirmed his fears. He had an outside company produce some pre-rolls that were acceptable, but not a product he would smoke himself. 

If it wasn’t good enough for Noah, it wasn’t good enough for his customers. He went back to the drawing board and purchased a partially automated knockbox machine in March 2021. The setup and airflow didn’t meet his standards, and neither did the build quality. When he reached out to customer support, he found that they weren’t helpful at all. He knew there had to be something better out there.

For other brands considering making the switch, Noah says that working with RollPros means, “…Their product can be distinguished from the sea of cones, because there are just so many cones out there. So having a form factor that is unique and different right away gives you an advantage.”


The Solution

When some aggressive and persistent googling landed Noah on the RollPros Blackbird website it felt like kismet. He had considered every option for creating pre-rolls, and loved that the machine rolled a joint instead of packing a cone. The technology seemed more aligned to the way he’d want a joint he enjoyed to be created.

He tested the Blackbird out by rolling a quarter pound of Benson Arbor’s finest flower into “hundreds” of joints which he smoked—anything in the name of quality control!

The difference was immediately apparent. “It was clear that these pre-rolls performed better,” said Noah. “They just had superior airflow going through them, so you’re able to actually take deep draws. With a typical overpacked cone it’s almost like you’re smoking a cigar, filling your mouth rather than your lungs because they are so hard to draw. With the Blackbird, I found that I could make joints that hit really well but also had integrity.”

Offering the premium smoking experience he was craving, Noah found that his Blackbird pre-rolls held their shape and didn’t fall apart over time like other pre-rolls had. It was the solution he had been searching for.

Over the past two years of owning the Blackbird, Noah says that the impact of using the machine has been “dramatic.” “It’s dramatic for the business. We’re selling far more pre-rolls than we are flower,” he enthused.

Noah and his partner love the way their Blackbird allows them to create the kind of premium pre-roll that lives up to their own standards, showcasing the flower they’re so proud of.

Pre-roll machine
RollPros machines create straight-rolled joints with better air flow, and allow you to roll with higher moisture than you can get away with when packing cones. Moister flower means stickier, danker pre-rolls consumers will return to again and again. Noah loves how the Blackbird, “…Gives you a more flavorful experience, and that’s the whole point of these things!”

Above all, he emphasized the importance of treating your machine right. “The key is training operators,” he said. “As they get better and better at dialing it in, their production numbers will go up. We consider ourselves a true artisan, craft brand. The Blackbird, combined with one of our well-trained operators, allows us to create high-quality, artisan products that show off both our flower and our skill.”

The Results

As Benson Arbor continues to come up with new SKUs, new joint options, and new collabs, Noah believes that they have the potential to be the top selling pre-roll brand in the state of Oregon. When they started out they were competing with over 300 brands, and in under two years they now hover amongst the top 3, by revenue. They hold a 3% share of the pre-roll sales in the state, which is especially impressive considering only 5 other brands hold 3%, while no brand holds more than 4%. 

At the time of this writing, Benson Arbor’s .6g pre-roll 12 pack is the 5th best selling pre-roll product (of any subcategory) in the Oregon market.

With high quality flower, skilled operators, and a little hands-on experimentation with the end results, the Blackbird has become the secret to Benson Arbor’s success. “In this category we went from zero to hero in less than 2 years,” said Noah. “We could not have done that without the Blackbird.”

As we move deeper into 2023, Noah Levine can often be seen surveying his farm with pride. For him, business is about family, providing for his children’s future, and creating something meaningful that has longevity. Thankfully, business is good.

Ready to talk about how the Blackbird can transform your business?