OTTAWA–Canadian government agencies Statistics Canada has begun a program to conduct large-scale testing of sewage to gather annual data on, among other things, cannabis usage.
FinancialPost.com said the sewage survey ‘was like a drug test on eight million people.”
Testing will be contracted out at a projected annual budget of $600,000. Towns that have agreed to participate in the survey include Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Alberta; Vancouver and Surrey, in British Columbia; and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Statistics Canada Assistant Director Anthony Peluso told NPR that up to 25 cities may eventually be included in the survey.
Peluso said that besides being able to estimate overall cannabis (and other drugs) consumption for test populations, the data might even be used to determine the ratio of legal cannabis being consumed, as well as what average percentage of a tested population consumed illegal cannabis. Some critics cast doubt on the ability of wastewater analysis to accurately deduce levels of drug use in large populations, or by region.
Canada joins several countries that annually test wastewater for various drugs, including cannabis. China, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, England, and multiple European cities test wastewater for various data, including drug use. Researchers in American cities have rarely conducted wastewater research, though testing could become more commonplace. Some opponents cite privacy issues as an argument against large-scale testing for drugs.