Higher Ground: Marijuana by the numbers

Dec 7, 2016 at 1:00 am

"Let's smoke a number," an old friend used to say. I'm not sure where the euphemism "number" to refer to a joint came from. Probably from the same place that the other numerous more colorful names for marijuana popped up — someone's attempt to hide what they are doing to the authorities. It would be a lot harder to have your secrets revealed if you're talking about "numbers" rather than "joints." I couldn't tell you how many, but we smoked a lot of numbers back in the day.

Numbers permeate the world of marijuana. I was in a hospital once talking to a guy who had been a nurse in the Navy. He made a mistake in converting grams to pounds regarding a medical issue. I corrected him, and he asked me if I was a physicist. No, but I had learned how to do the conversions because I was involved with marijuana. Any user worth their smoke knows that there are 28 grams in an ounce (actually 28.3) and 454 grams in a pound (actually 453.6). Because of the worldwide nature of the pot business, stoners have been merrily converting back and forth with the metric system while the rest of America is acting like Homer Simpson when it comes to the cross-section grams and ounces — "D'oh."

Go into a dispensary and you are working with grams until you at least get to the eighth of an ounce (3.5 grams) measure. Folks get very exact about that half gram when it comes to weighing the product for sales. Even when only dealing with ounces people are pretty good about figuring out their halves, quarters, eighths, and sixteenths. It's enough to make your old math teachers cry with joy if they were to see their students figure out fractions with such ease after struggling with them during classes.

Everywhere you go around this issue it's a numbers game. Patients are allowed to have up to 12 plants and 2.5 ounces of usable bud. Police are certainly fascinated with how much you have if you end up in a situation with them. Although police seem to be challenged with getting the numbers straight when they bust someone they label a dealer. Somehow miniscule amounts of marijuana are said to have street value way beyond what most marijuana users would calculate.

Numbers dominate the discussions about marijuana legalization and its effects. So here we go with more of the numbers that help define the world of marijuana around here:


This is the number of years marijuana prohibition has been in effect, a relatively small number next to the thousands of years it has been used. Anti-marijuana laws had been creeping across the nation due to fear of the use and spread of it by Mexicans. In 1937 the Marihuana Tax Act created a prohibition across the country. Anyone selling marijuana had to have a tax stamp, but the government wasn't granting tax stamps for marijuana. When that law was declared unconstitutional in 1969 it was replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in 1970.


That's approximately how many signatures were on the petitions the MI Legalize group turned in to get the question on the 2016 state ballot. The petition was rejected because the sate said the signatures were not collected in the 180-day window that a new spring 2016 law mandated for petition initiatives. However, MI Legalize is gearing up for another run that Jeffrey Hank expects will likely collect 375,000 signatures.


According to a report released a couple of weeks ago by the state's Office of the Auditor General, that's the number of registered medical marijuana patients in Michigan as of Sept. 30 2015.


That's the number of registered caregivers from the same auditor general report.

$6.4 million

That's how much the state collected in revenues from certification applicants in 2015.

$7.1 billion

That's the size of the legal marijuana market in 2016, according to a report by New Frontier and ArcView Market Research and reported on Forbes. The amount represents a 26 percent growth over 2015.

54 percent

That's the percentage of voting age Americans who believe marijuana should be legal for adult recreation, use according to a Quinnipiac poll released in June.


That's the number of Michigan cities that have voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults. Ann Arbor started it up back in 1972 with their famous $5 ticket for the civil offense. The most recent municipalities to decriminalize were Keego Harbor and Portage in 2015. A handful more cities have made marijuana a lowest law enforcement priority for their police departments.


The number of open and operating caregiver centers in Detroit as of Oct. 21, according to a report distributed by the office of Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones.


That's the approximate number of adults arrested for marijuana use or possession each year in Michigan.


The number of states that have voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults.

1 in 5

That's the proportion of U.S. citizens who live in states where recreational marijuana is legal.


That's the number of states that have broad medical marijuana laws that allow possession and use of marijuana flowers and extracts.


That's the schedule number for marijuana by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Schedule 1 drugs, which include heroin and LSD, are said to have no accepted medical use and have a high potential for abuse. However, the federal government holds a patent for the use of cannabinoids (THX, CBD) as antioxidants. In order for wide scientific research into the medical effects of marijuana, it has to be changed to at least a Schedule 2 drug.


That number is how many more times African-Americans are likely to be arrested for possession or use than white people, although percentage of use is approximately equal between the two ethnic groups.


That's for how many joints you can get from an ounce of marijuana. The number actually depends on the size of the joints, and how many stems and seeds are in the ounce. Various amounts reported by users are from 15 per ounce for fatties to 48 per ounce for pins. I usually calculate about 30 average-sized joints per ounce.