Finally, We Know How Much Weed and Coke Is in Your City's Pee

A new Stats Can study looked at five major Canadian cities to tell us how much cannabis, cocaine, meth and opioids we've used post-legalization.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

We already had plenty of reason to doubt Vancouver’s status as Canada’s reigning cannabis capital, but a new study of weed markers in sewage has put the dispute to rest.

Congratulations Montreal and Halifax, a new Statistics Canada pilot study released today says you’re peeing out way more weed byproducts than other major cities.

Stats Can began measuring chemical markers for meth, cocaine, opioids and weed across five provinces in the spring following legalization. The idea is to capture an average snapshot of drug use among 8 million Canadians.


After a year of measuring all the drugs we’re flushing down the toilet, the feds published a breakdown of drug use in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. And it turns out everything we think we know about Canadian drug culture might be wrong?

Montreal and Halifax reported 2.5 to 3.8 times more estimated weed use than Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton. Halifax squeezed out a weed-pee victory with 936 grams of it per one million people, followed by Montreal with 833 grams.

Vancouver had the least cannabis markers in its sewers out of all the major cities included in the study, and frankly the province’s shitty legal dispensary rollout is no excuse. Stats Can found weed levels varied pretty drastically, peaking in May, June and December 2018.

Vancouver, once seen as the epicentre for weed activism, is actually the cocaine capital of Canada, though coke levels were pretty steady across all of the cities at an average of 425 grams per million people. Less surprisingly, the wastewater data suggests cocaine levels go up on average in the summer.

Edmonton, meanwhile, had the highest meth levels (534 grams), followed closely by Vancouver (490 grams). Halifax has the least meth in its sewers at only 14 grams per million people, according to the pilot study.

Edmonton also tested the highest for the opioid codeine, while Vancouver had the highest “morphine load” of any other city.

Similar studies have been happening in Europe for years, and have regularly crowned London the UK’s cocaine capital. Researchers say it’s one of the more accurate ways to test “total societal drug use.”

However, the researchers admit there are limits to the amount of info you can get testing sewage for drugs. The population coverage at each test site varies quite a bit, which means Stats Can could be testing in spots where drug users aren’t living.

So for anyone still aiming to redeem Vancouver’s BC bud cred, here’s hoping they only tested in Yaletown.

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