With Canada on the cusp of a country-wide legalization of marijuana, the federal government is looking into ways to adequately quantify the amount that is being consumed by its prospective customers. However, with no real system in place, Canada is looking to get creative in order to gauge their market. So creative, in fact, that the Canadian government plans to test sewage for traces of cannabis in order to get a better feel for the upcoming recreational weed market.
Canada Gets Creative
According to the Financial Post, Statistics Canada is willing to spend up to $60o,000 a year for a private contractor that will regularly test the water throughout the country for traces of THC, the psychoactive component found in all marijuana.
While this practice might seem somewhat perplexing, Anthony Peluso, an assistant director at Statistics Canada claims the procedure is common in Europe and has proven to be accurate in past instances. He believes the practice is the best way of deciphering common cannabis usage throughout the country.
“We want to have a good indication of actual consumption numbers,” said Peluso. “Sometimes we do get quantities, but we’re not sure.”
After cannabis is metabolized in the human body, traces of THC are embedded in waste (hence, urine-based drug tests). The sewage water would then be collected by the contractor throughout the course of one week out of the month.
According to the contract proposal, this practice would go on for a whole year. If the methodology yields accurate results, Statistics Canada would be willing to extend the contract to three years.
Currently, there are six municipalities willing to give the procedure a shot. DATTA Engineering Inc., an Ottowa- based civil engineering and infrastructure firm, has already expressed interest in working with Statistics Canada, although no formal contract offers have been made.
Final Hit: Canadian Government Plans To Test Sewage For Traces of Cannabis
According to Peluso, another advantage of testing the sewage could be deciphering the amount of illegal consumption, in addition to legal sales tracking, upon the plant’s recreational inception this 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.
While legal sales data can accurately quantify dispensary sales, the data from sewage will indicate usage amongst black market users as well. Ideally, the government could then calculate the difference between legal sales and overall consumption, and get a better gauge on the prevalence of black market cannabis.
While several provinces in Canada plan to make their cannabis competitive in price, pundits are doubtful they can frequently squash the black market.
Perhaps getting a more accurate measurement of illicit consumption could provide the federal government with a better understanding the impact of legalization on black market sales.
Additionally, the procedure could also test for harder drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines, for little to no extra cost.
“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.”