Get a good, clean, workable surface. I prefer a large, thin book placed on my lap. Take some marijuana and tear or cut it up into pieces as small as you can reasonably make them. I usually use my fingers, because they're always on hand, but scissors are actually best because less of the precious THC-gunk will rub off and get lost on them. Stop when you think you have enough. You can always break up more later.

Take out a rolling paper and lay it down on the surface with the glue side furthest away from you (with the adhesive strip facing you). I prefer size 1 1/4 rolling paper, because you get good sized joints. The fold in the middle of the paper makes it rest on one half or another. Rest it on the half with the glue, sticky side up, and pile on your broken up weed, near the fold.

Once you have enough on the paper, pick it up and let the weed rest in the fold. If the weed is all over the place, then tame it down into an orderly little line by poking at it and so forth. Take the paper and weed by both hands with the thumbs on your side and the fingers away from you. Squeeze a little bit and start sliding the joint between your thumb and fingers so that the weed rolls into a nicely compacted line. Don't worry too much about it falling out the sides; just pick it up and put it back in any areas that seem too thin. The weed will soon get even and tight enough that this won't happen anymore.

If you find that your joint is too loose, you can take a pen or pencil and sit it on top of the line of weed as you compact and roll it. This can make a joint that's way too tight if you're not careful, though.

Once the weed is even and has the right density, roll the line of weed to near the bottom of the paper (away from the glue) so that you have a nice little open cylinder of marijuana with the adhesive part of the paper sticking up at the back.

Now comes the hard part.

You can either lick the glue before or after rolling it all up. These days I prefer licking after rolling, because I can usually get a nicer looking, more even joint that way. Licking it before rolling can be easier, though, because everything holds together better as you roll. If you're licking before the roll, just lick the glue to the edges, and roll the thing up. It will be tricky to get everything to hold together properly as you roll; the weed has a tendency to slide around a lot. A little saliva on the paper covering the marijuana at the bottom will make a bond just strong enough to hold the line of weed in place relative to the paper. Too much saliva can weaken the paper and make it fall apart, though, so be cautious.

As you roll, make sure that everything rolls up nice and secure. You don't want to give the paper any more slack than is necessary, or else the joint will be too loose. On the other hand, you don't want the joint too tight or else you won't be able to get a good draw from it.

If you're rolling dry and licking afterwards, you roll it up completely and then, while still holding it all together with your fingers, (since it won't stick together by itself) you lick the outside of the rolled joint at the seam. Your saliva soaks through to the adhesive from the other side of the paper, so you may need to lick it more thoroughly than otherwise.

Once you have it rolled up, take a look at both ends and decide which is going to have the filter. Depending on how filled up each end is, you may want to add (or take away) some weed now to get everything just right. Tweezers are good for this if things are too small for your fingers to deal with accurately. You can also take one end between your lips and suck in bits of weed into the other end like a straw. Take the end that is filled up the most and twist it off. Lick the twist to activate the glue and make everything secure.

Now it's time to make the filter out of some card stock. A business card works best. I recommend not using the rollie package for this because then the rest of the rollies in the package are more susceptible to moisture damage and so forth. Cut or fold-and-tear-off a strip running the width of the business card. The width of this strip is going to be the length of the filter, equal to the space between the edge of the weed and the edge of the paper (about half a centimetre or less).

Roll up this strip into a coil shape, and tear off some of the end if you think it's going to be too big. There should be some spring in the coil, so that when you insert it into the joint it expands a little to fit snugly in place. I find that if you uncoil and then recoil it, it can get some more spring. When it's the right diameter for the joint, compact it a bit so that it goes in easily, then let it expand to fill the space. You can help it along by spreading it with tweezers or a nail file or something like that. If it turns out to be too big, just tear off some of the strip to make a smaller coil.

If it's way too small and you don't want to make another filter, you can tear off the end of another rolling paper to use as a bandage. By rolling this around the filter end with a good dose of saliva, you can make it as tight as your filter needs it to be in order to stay in place. There's nothing more annoying that having the filter fall out of the joint you're smoking.

Now the only thing left to do is baptize it. This is accomplished by taking the whole joint into your mouth and covering it with a little saliva. This process is half ritual and half function. It signifies that a new joint has been born, and it also makes everything stick together a little better, making it more sturdy in general.

By now you should have a fully functional marijuana cigarette. If you don't, then something must have gone wrong. Don't feel too bad, though: the first few joints you roll will invariably turn out badly. The good news is that you'll learn quickly. Rolling a joint is all about dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and being perceptive and sensitive to what's going on. As such, the only way to get better is to practice. Roll a joint, tear it up, roll another with the same weed, and repeat until you're good at it. No matter how good you are, though, you'll always have the odd botched job.

I find now that rolling a joint when I'm sober is about as challenging as loading a pez dispenser when I'm really stoned. And rolling a joint when I'm really stoned is harder than just about anything, especially when I'm huddled in an empty pool late at night in below-freezing temperatures with high winds. Luckily a joint doesn't have to be perfect to be smokeable.