Testing Sewage To Determine Cannabis Consumption


Statistics Canada wants to track the consumption of cannabis to a macro level and what’s the best way to do this? By looking at what we’re flushing down the toilet. 




The agency has begun drug screenings in Vancouver, Surrey, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax who have all willingly opted to share samples from wastewater treatment plants with StatsCan. Accounting for one-quarter of Canada’s population of 36 million, that’s a decent sample size from which to start determining things like how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is present in the wastewater and maybe eventually how much cannabis Canadians consume by measuring the THC levels of sewage.

The latter takes sophisticated study as it depends on many different factors, including whether the marijuana was eaten, smoked, or vaped, plus the tolerance and other biological and metabolic differences among individuals.  

Sewage is the information superhighway under all of our feet, and European wastewater sample tests are run on an annual basis and are how we know that Barcelona is the cocaine capital of the continent—965.2mg each day for every thousand residents.




ASU doctoral students and staff are right now using wastewater from Tempe, Arizona to get a better idea of the prevalence of opioid drug use in the city. Their slogan, “Sewage doesn’t lie” says a lot about how much clout researchers give to the data-filled material that flows underfoot. 

Consider it like the world’s biggest piss test, but it’s all going to be anonymous. So, maybe it’s more like those maps that show us the most Google’d phrase in some regions of the country. 

But, whatever your perspective, the findings are going to be a fascinating look at the real level of consumption and how it corresponds to the legal versus illegal cannabis market.

June 15, 2018

by Parker Wallace

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Parker is a cannabis enthusiast to the core who shares a keen interest in listening to what others have to say and understanding what’s important to them. Those who know Parker know that his passion for health and wellness runs deep, and his love of Canada even deeper!


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