[PL is unable to post this week. Here's his most read post of all time. We don't know why. If you have an opinion, let us know. Seriously. We don't know why this is so popular. Perhaps we're all closet economists. Or closet potheads.]
I was debating drug policy with a friend over the weekend, Les Faulheit. Les is an economist of sorts, facile with numbers and figures I’m unable to discern (thus leading to my present nadir, bullshitting for a living). We got into a heated disagreement over the government’s drug policy. We agreed the War on Drugs was a failed Frankenstein of senseless Puritan meddling (as any rational American recognizes), but we nearly came to fisticuffs over how drugs could conceivably be “stopped” utilizing available market instrumentalities.
After three or four, or six or seven, Sierra Nevadas and a glass of Knob Creek, I bleated my uncreative theory. “The government’s doing the only thing it really can. Sure. It’s dumb and backward, but fuck it. You stop the supply. That’s all you can do.”
“Bullshit. You don’t know jack about dope, and that’s always been your downfall.”
“What the fuck are you talking abowww–”
“If you’d have smoked more dope, you’d never have done what you did with yourself… You’d have known better.”
“How else do you stop supply?”
“The only way to stop drug supply is with more supply… at least with dope.”
“More dope leads to less dope?”
“Exactly,” Les snapped.
“You have shit for brains.” The only retort I could manage before the inevitable coughing fit. (Few are creative in those moments.)
“Stupid ambulance chaser… I’m not talking about just giving more drugs to people using drugs. I’m talking about exhausting the supply chain.”
“If the government could do that, they would have.”
“You’re naïve for a shyster. The government likes drugs. Everyone likes drugs. But that’s beside the point. Even if they actually wanted to stop drugs, they don’t understand the dynamics of dope supply and use. The government doesn’t understand the Law of Diminishing Sacks. Only bakers who’ve been bitten by it understand how it works.”
I gulped my beer and stared as he explained…
“Dope’s harvested what? Three, four, five times a year? There’s only so much of the stuff. If the government let that all in, if it flooded the market, bakers would exhaust each harvest in an amazingly short time. The market’d dry up in weeks until the next harvest. By holding back distribution, the government ensures more prolonged use.”
“Huh?” I could keeping staring at the beer, confused, bewildered, embarrassed… Was I missing something painfully obvious?
“Dope doesn’t follow the laws of supply and demand. The Law of Diminishing Sacks defies it… works in exact reverse.”
I started playing a game of Fight Night, Round Three and pretended not to be listening. I was shamed, dejected, insulted… another idiot lawyer debating what he clearly didn’t know.
The next morning I got the below email. Les claims he gave a lecture on this at Boise State in March of 2002. I can’t verify the credibility of that claim, but in any event, here it is.
The Law of Diminishing Sacks
Faulheit, Les (2004), Humboldt County Community College Press
Among seasoned marijuana enthusiasts, there is an accepted and irrefutable phenomenon which defies the conventionally known laws of supply and demand. All marijuana satchels, regardless of size, exhaust at the same time. No matter how large the sack of ganja purchased, it will be smoked to a pile of resin at the same time as any smaller sack. This phenomenon, known as the Law of Diminishing Sacks, has baffled and cruelly victimized bakers from time immemorial.1
In the example graphed above, Baker A buys 1 ounce of high grade kind bud and Baker B buys ½ ounce of the same pot. Baker A and Baker B have similar tastes and preferences (providing for identical utility curves):
- They both live with or near a similar number of other bakers;
- They both have access to various forms of consumption paraphernalia; and
- They both have equal amounts of time to consume at their discretion.
Although laws of supply and demand would appear to dictate Baker A would enjoy his sack for twice as long as Baker B, the Law of Diminishing Sacks reveals that Baker A and Baker B will both fully consume their bags of marijuana at the same time.
The graph displays the change of sack size over time (the delta) is the rate of consumption. The early phase of sack utilization has the highest rate of consumption (i.e. the steepest part of the curve) and Baker A, with the larger sack, has an even higher rate of consumption than Baker B. As the sack size diminishes the rate of consumption slows. Thus, within a matter of days, despite the great divergence in initial supply, both bakers find themselves with the same remaining sack.
In his groundbreaking analysis, Baking Habits of Large Sack Holders (1992), Pierson Philip von Funnk, Phd., explained the forces behind this aberrant result, observing that during the initial period of liberal consumption, Baker A and Baker B exhibit common characteristics:
- Elevated sense of euphoria at seemingly inexhaustible supply;
- Willingness to “pack it up” more frequently and for more people;
- Diminishing marginal return of “bake” (increased tolerance);
- Use of bigger bowls, including highly inefficient “party bowls”; and
- Less efficient distribution methods (joints/ bongs rather than bowls/ bats).
F. Hans Burnham’s seminal treatise, A Regression Analysis of Sack Size and Consumption Patterns (1998), took the next step, describing the correlation between sack size and frequency and volume of baking, finding a “multiplier effect” resulting from having a large versus a small sack. This explains Baker A’s steeper curve and higher rate of consumption.
So what does this mean? How should the average baker interpret this data, if at all? Can the average baker avoid the Law’s application?
In the author’s opinion, the Law cannot be avoided through any conceivable corrective measure. It is simply an unchangeable fact that an uptick in supply will be met by an uptick in consumption, thus negating any perceived supply-lengthening benefit from increased supply purchase.2
As both Baker A’s and Baker B’s sacks dwindle, both gear downward into a period of conservative consumption. At this point both Baker A and Baker B have a similar sack size, the higher rate of consumption having caught up to Baker A’s fatter sack. Soon thereafter, the curve flattens, as both Baker A and Baker B smoke less frequently and less intensely. In fact, Von Funnk discovers startling adjustments in implementation procedures as both bakers turn to bowls, and then bats, to conserve. In his controversial 1997 work, Resin Is Your Friend, Von Funnk also claims to have discovered social changes amongst bakers impacting their sack depletion rate:
“The baker with a mere corner sack remaining and no hope of replacement supply in the short term will actively seek out other bakers under the guise of needing to borrow video games, return previously loaned items or ‘have a few beers’ in the hope of having this other baker bake him.”
Von Funnk has even gone one step further, suggesting the existence of certain “predatory bakers” who, finding their own supply dwindling, will seek to initiate “group bakes” (gatherings of several bakers holding severely depleted sacks) at the homes of bakers with large sacks to exhaust those bakers’ substantial supplies. Von Funnk claims this practice “targets the baker with the closest connection to the most immediate wholesale supplier,” forcing him to initiate another “group buy” on behalf of himself and the other bakers in his immediate baking network.3 The author believes this theory credible, as the baker holding the largest sack is almost always best connected to the wholesaler in any given baking community.
Burnham’s follow-up, I’ll Even Smoke Schwag (2002), refutes Von Funnk’s findings, arguing bakers do not engage in coordinated efforts to maximize personal supply, and roundly dismissing the notion of “predatory bakers.” Burnham claims that as bakers’ supplies dwindle, a random form of “game theory” develops, with bakers furiously seeking out any other bakers who are holding. Panic ensues. All supplies are diminished. Hoarding begins as expected reciprocity (the commonly observed “I’ll pack the first, you pack the second” practice) is forgotten. This state persists until all sacks are exhausted, each within days or hours of each other, and a group purchase is once again initiated.
Extensive fieldwork with numerous teams of researchers has proven the Law to be universally valid in all baking communities. In the most recent studies, no measure of correlation was obtained between the type of marijuana and the rate of consumption. The author believes type of marijuana is not a statistically significant variable, the Law of Diminishing Sacks applying uniformly to both seedy/stemmy dirt weed and $500/oz White Widow.4
The author’s sole recommendation at this juncture is reasoned, conservative purchase on the lower side of what others in the purchaser’s baking community have bought. This ensures against adverse economic consequences resulting from consistent overspending and the socially untoward behaviors of the so-called “predatory bakers.”
1 1967 to present. ^
2 Observed in cocaine circles as the “until it’s gone” effect. Blades, J., Sucking Water Up the Nose Afterward Does Not Extend the High (1996). ^
3 This study necessarily excludes data regarding repeat small batch retail purchasers or those utilizing delivery services. Data on the habits of those purchasers has been detailed extensively in Dime Baggers Bazaar, A Brief History of Washington Square, McBruck (1998) and Ordering In; Should You Have Your Own Scale?, Carter (2000). ^