Measuring a supply of marijuana can be tricky, and if done incorrectly, can be quite expensive. In regulated markets such as California, the measurement of marijuana is not such a difficult affair, but in other jurisdictions, it is far more important. Legal penalties are based on the total weight of the product.
So How Many Grams are There?
The short answer is that there are 28.34 grams in an ounce of marijuana, but it can only be accurately measured with tools. In one eight of an ounce, there are exactly 3.54 grams, though this figure is always rounded down by the distributors to 3.5 grams, which is now the standard. This rounding down is often done at every level, though regular consumers have no idea.
In the same way that banking fees gradually eats into consumer finances, this rounding down gradually reduces the total marijuana supplied to the end user. One eight is the typical terminology people use when going to marijuana dispensaries and is arguably one of the most commonly agreed on terms globally.
However, there is now a wide range of terms and lingo associated with marijuana measurement, so it can get confusing for first-time users.
Difficulties in Marijuana Measurement
One problem in measuring marijuana without a scale is that different strains of weed have different densities, so there is no way to judge the weight without the appropriate tools. Some nugs will be very light and puffy looking, while others will be heavy and sense.
This depends not only on the particular strain but also on the way that the marijuana was grown and cultivated, as well as how old it is and how it was packaged. Regardless, even for experienced marijuana handlers, it is impossible to accurately judge marijuana density from looks alone.
There are also a number of other considerations as opposed to weight alone. THC content can often be as important as the total weight, as this is the compound that gives the kick to the marijuana, generating its psychoactive effects. Some people will eagerly take a cut on the total weight for high THC strains with a good reputation.
Different Measurement Systems
Another confusing aspect of marijuana is that an ounce is a unit from the Imperial (American) system of measurement, while a gram is a unit from the Metric System. The two terms most common to marijuana measurement are from two different weight systems.
Both Americans and Europeans will be able to meet in the middle and agree to use the term “one eight”. Other common terms include one-sixteenth” (1.75 grams) and one quarter (7 grams). Typical users will only buy this amount, and serious wholesalers will purchase a pound or even a kilo of marijuana (1000 grams). An ounce of marijuana is also a significant amount, though residents of some legalized US states will make this purchase.
On top of different measurement systems and difficulties in measurement, there is also quite a difference in terminology. A “fifty” bag refers to a bag that costs $50 and is expected to contain 3.5 grams of marijuana. A “dub” is $20 worth of marijuana and isn't really related to measurement. It’s often no more than 3.5 grams of low-quality weed. A “nickel” bag is worth $5. Generally, 3.5 grams of marijuana should cost $50, and this is the standard.
You can work off this to gauge how much you should be paying. While its impossible to establish the exact amount you are being given, over time you should know enough to figure out if you are being ripped off or not.
Over time, marijuana users will gain more familiarity with the slang and lingo associated with the purchase of the product. The safest way forward in the meantime is to establish a relationship with the seller or visit a dispensary.
How to measure Marijuana
Measuring marijuana requires a scale. The scale itself has to be accurate, as some scales may be slightly off or not set up correctly by the user (typically these are low-quality electronic scales). Kitchen scales are not accurate enough for the measurement of marijuana, though many people use this for rough measurements.
There are some old school techniques such as using a penny and a ruler (a penny being exactly 2.5 grams), but this is not a viable option long-term and is not 100% accurate, much like the eye test.
Measuring marijuana is the same as measuring any other edible product. Purchase a high-quality electronic scale and place the bag on it (the weight of the bag itself is usually negligible).
Bonus Question - How Many Joints in a Gram?
For regular marijuana users, a more pertinent question is how much weed is being used daily. Studies have put different averages on the amount of marijuana in a single joint. Some estimate reaches as far as 0.6 grams in a joint, others point to a lower figure of 0.29 grams. According to The United States Office of National Drug Control Policy, there are 0.5 grams.
However, the latest and perhaps most reliable estimate comes from RAND Corporation. They got their answer from over 40 communities, over 11 years, and from 10,000 transactions. The average was 0.32 grams in a single joint from real data. This translates to 7 joints per one eight/3.5 gram bag.
However, the reality is that there is no real “average”. Sometimes people will put in extra marijuana, sometimes they might have less. It also depends on other factors such as whether it is a medical prescription, if the person is trying to save on the supply, the strength of the strain itself, if it is a blunt or not, etc. Certain sociological groups are also more likely to smoke more or less marijuana as proven in a large number of quantitative studies.