It is actually not that uncommon of a practice to test human sewage to determine the amounts of a drug the public as a whole is consuming. They have been doing it in Europe for a long time to test for things like cocaine use. While the cannabis news to test water treatment plants in Canada may be a little unsettling to think about, it is one of their lawmakers’ necessities for Canada to move forward with its plans for marijuana legalization nationwide.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on providing an adult-use cannabis program to Canada which has been met some challenges. Our northern neighbors were expecting for the commercial sales of marijuana this summer however policymakers have slowed the process and now the country simply hopes that it will be made available to them sometime this year.
Six cities have agreed to contribute samples from the place where all drains congregate — their wastewater treatment plants. Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Alberta; Vancouver and Surrey in British Columbia; and Halifax, Nova Scotia, will participate. All told, the network would capture data on drug use from about a quarter of Canada’s total 36 million inhabitants.
Regardless of what happens with marijuana legislation in Ottawa, Statistics Canada has already begun testing sewage for signs of drugs. Canada joins several countries in Europe that sample wastewater for drugs annually. New Zealand has been collecting data from sewage since last year, and Australia tests nearly half of its population’s wastewater for substance use.
Statistics Canada’s main goal is to get an unbiased read of how legalization affects cannabis use. “There are things like surveys and whatnot where people report frequency of use, but the consumption numbers weren’t quite as reliable as we would like them to be,” says Anthony Peluso, an assistant director of Statistics Canada. Eventually the testing may be expanded to 25 cities, he says.