Canada Will Test Mass Cannabis Consumption through Sewage

Statistics Canada is prepared to conduct much more accurate cannabis consumption measurements by monitoring sewage samples of up to a quarter of Canada’s entire population. The metabolite, 11-Nor-9-carboxy- 9-tetrahydrocannnabinol, or THC-COOH, is the same giveaway molecule that parole officers, pre-employment drug testers and others are searching for in our bloodstreams and urine.

The organization will monitor the cannabis consumption in major cities, tracking the cannabis usage of one-quarter of Canada’s population of 36 million. The new system could replace surveys, which are somewhat inaccurate. “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,” Anthony Peluso, an assistant director of Statistics Canada, told NPR.

Six cities—Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, Surrey and Halifax, have all agreed to provide samples from their wastewater treatment facilities. Eventually, 25 cities will conduct the sewage testing.

Canada may have gotten the idea from Australia, which screens half of the entire nation’s wasterwater for drug usage. New Zealand has begun the same practice. In Italy, toxicologists tested its wastewater for cocaine usage in 2005. This was the most telling and accurate measurement system yet, that had been developed for testing overall drug usage.

If you think this hasn’t been done before in the United States, you’re wrong.

A study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, measured cannabis consumption in Washington State using wastewater samples.

Anyone who has taken a urinalysis knows that the human body flushes out cannabis metabolites. Unfortunately, thanks to variations in our metabolisms, THC-COOH levels are highly subjective and can stay in our systems for 2-3 weeks or more. Another problem is that people don’t necessarily relieve themselves in the same area that they consume or purchase cannabis.

It will definitely be interesting to see how this plan pans out, just before the Canadian Parliament implements its recreational cannabis system.

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