Statistics Canada sifting through sewage to gauge pot consumption

Agency says sales data tracks legal marijuana but this will track illicit sales too

The federal government is taking a somewhat noxious approach to studying just how much pot Canadians are consuming: researching our sewage.

Statistics Canada will spend up to $600,000 a year for a contractor to regularly test waste water from 15 to 20 municipalities across the country for traces of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and other drugs.

The survey could be the best way to collect precise data on the amount of pot Canadians consume, according to Anthony Peluso, an assistant director at Statistics Canada.

“We want to have a good indication of actual consumption numbers,” said Peluso. “Sometimes we do get quantities, but we’re not sure.”

READ: B.C. government marijuana stores will compete with private sellers

Peluso said that by using the same methodology from sewage analysis surveys in Europe that have proven accurate in the past, Statistics Canada believes it will be able to fill some of its information gap that way.

After cannabis is metabolized by the body, traces of THC are left behind in human waste. Samples of waste water from sewage treatment plants can then be collected and tested for the substance.

The waste water would be collected over the course of one week every month for at least one year with the possibility of expanding to three if the results are useful, according to Statistics Canada’s contract proposal.

Six municipalities covering a combined population of nearly eight million people are already on board with the survey. But Statistics Canada would not say which municipalities have signed on.

Peluso indicated that the survey may also help the federal government track pot purchased on the black market even after the drug is legalized in July.

“It is possible that if we’re able to get the consumption numbers and figure out what legal sales are, we might be able to get some estimate of illegal consumption as well,” he said.

That’s because the waste water tests will show how much marijuana is actually consumed, while legal sales data will only show how much pot is bought on the official market.

The technology used to track marijuana consumption in waste water can also be used to detect other drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines. Peluso said Statistics Canada is planning on taking advantage of that data as well.

“The methodology is there. It handles cannabis and it handles everything else for roughly the same price,” he said. “You’d be a fool to say no from a statistical point of view.”

DATTA Engineering Inc., a civil engineering and infrastructure firm based in Ottawa, has already indicated interest in the contract.

Bidding for the contract closes Feb. 26.

Levi Garber, The Canadian Press


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Rossland woman, 64, completes marathon bike ride across Asia

Brenda Trenholme completed the 13,000-kilometre trek last week

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

Pot is legal – but there are still a lot of rules, and breaking some could leave you in jail

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Ocean ‘blob’ returns to B.C.’s North Coast

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

Most Read