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Scaling hashish with euro coin

October 2006 —

I accidentally bought an ounce of hash in a Euro-zone country that is not The Netherlands (where the use of cannabis is tolerated.)

I had intended to take a much-smaller amount, but didn't communicate effectively.

I said I'd take it. He said I'd have to. You learn who your friends are....

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Upon closer inspection, the quantity was clearly not a full ounce. That's probably not remarkable; but it became an item of discussion later, with a friend.

"Joe" pressed the point later in the evening. He insisted that it was no ounce.

And, he persisted....

At first, for a while — after indulging his inevitable commentary over the deal — I decided and said that — as is my wont — I didn't want to talk about smoke whilst we were smoking.

But somehow as the conversation proceeded, the subject lingered, returned, — and became interesting discussion.

And we started to think of this as a puzzle.... Could we weigh this chunk of hash, whole, before dividing it? .... It would require an apparatus.... A method.... It was a chance to elaborate something, to fabricate a physical device from a few basic principles and bits of incidental material.

But even if we could manufacture a workable scaling device, how could we use it?... We'd need something that weighs close to an ounce. (Of course, we'd really need gradients of an ounce, in order to ask and answer the question of how much [if so] the quantity was short....)


I had been telling another friend, for some reason, the other day, about a peculiarity of American money.

American notes — "bills," we call them — are one gram in weight. The nickel is five. This is anomalous, because we don't use the metric system in the States.

In any case — the two currency weights being consequent, you can use them to approximate an ounce, which is approximately 28 grams.


In my head, I was designing an armature scale mechanism of bowed stiff wire (I had a piece, and I knew where it was.)

But we had no idea how we'd use it.


"Divide a pint into 16 equal parts wouldn't work..." [which came out of my mouth] was arguably the worst idea. Joe was in the kitchen, wondering what weighs an ounce. Nothing, of course.

Then I got this: We can find out how much the euro coins weigh.

That's it.

I went upstairs. I searched "weight euro coin," and came upon the European Central Bank's page about the measurements of EU coin. There they all were, in all their dimensions including their heft, accurate to 1/100th gram.

We had our standard. I wrote the list of weights on a piece of paper upon a clipboard.


I gathered some few bits I'd need for making a scale — the wire, the plier, a scissor, a piece of cardpaper, some dental floss.... I brought them down.

I handed the sheet of stats to Joe, whose mind is more astute at mathematics than is my own. He understood and accepted his mission, which was to find a combination nearest possible to 28 grams. (28.3495 g = 1 oz.)

I bent the pliable bit of thick wire into an arch. I bent the tips to level, then hooked each of them sideways, cut squares of cardpaper and taped these as platforms on the ends of the wire. I tied some dental-floss at the middle of the apparatus.

I went back upstairs to grab my bowl of coin and a support-bar for the scale. I got two equal glasses from the kitchen. I tied the dental-floss to the middle of the support-bar stick, and set this atop, bridging the glasses.

Joe told me that nine 2-cent pieces at 3.06 grams weigh 27.54 grams, and that that was the closest to our mark that he could find.

So we taped nine of them together, and carefully set each load on each side of the armature.

We had to remove two of the coins before we found a good approximation of equivalence.

Seven is .77 of nine — so the most generous estimation would be that what sat before us was less than 80% of an ounce.


But I needed to bring an eighth-of-an-ounce to another friend. (I'd intended to buy a quarter, and split it with him.)

Knowing that 1/8-ounce is about 3.5 grams, I asked Joe to find our closest equivalence to 7. (Our minimal weights were 2.30 and 3.06, leaving us with no good approximation of 3.5. With a good 7, we could then halve it on the scale.)

After a few moments of mathematical study, Joe produced a ten-cent and a two-cent, whose combination would bring us in at 7.16.

Close enough for the work we were doing.

And that was us finished* with the business.

• You can't legally buy an ounce of cannabis in Holland, either. The law tolerates five grams in possession — but even that is not legal — it's just not illegal.)


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* I did have to mention the weight of the hash to the fellow who'd sold me the amount. I never pursued recourse, naturally. I'd accepted the deal, in person.

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