Washington Marijuana Legalization has Curbed Black Market Says 3 Year Long... Wastewater Analysis Study

11 months ago

In what may at first sound like a genuine WTH moment - and article title - some reason seems to be found too. And why else would it otherwise become an article topic for alibi, right?

Or maybe it just is yet another study which serves our zealotism and we can not resist reporting about, not less so because the temptation to make “proverbial excrements and spinning blades” puns is one we must challenge ourselves to resist here at Alibi HQ. But before I digress in preamble again, back to the study.

Researchers at the University of Puget Sound and Washington have concluded that legalization of marijuana in Washington has moved consumption from black market products to legal weed.


To analyse the shift in the market, the researchers rolled up their sleeves — and as researchers usually do put on gloves, probably multiple pairs even — and started to dig through everyone’s shit analyse everyone’s pee and poo. While the team may not have literally analysed everyone’s excrements, they did analyse for a period of almost 3 years, between summer 2014 and winter 2016, the sewage waste waters from two water treatment plants, combining a population of around 200,000 citizens.

As bleeding edge science may have it, apparently the researchers were able to use the THC levels discovered in the wastewater and correlated these with an increase in sales, and also THC, after the legalization of recreational use in Washington.

“Given that wastewater represents a total population measure, these findings suggest that many established users switched from the illegal to the legal market”

“This is the strongest statement possible regarding displacement of the illegal market, given limitations regarding knowledge of the excretion rates of different forms of cannabis, which limit matching sales to wastewater system users, and the wastewater stability of THC-COOH.”

Over the observed period the researchers observed an increase of 9% per quarter in THC, while sales data register 60 to 70% increase per quarter.

While the conclusion of the research team seems rather simplistic and the claim that the black market has suffered may be rather frivolous, there is no doubt that this study will contribute to the #legalize-it zealotism of activists. In fact, it may even contribute to convince states, and councils, who were still on the fence and didn’t yet.

We know from other states that black markets generally have not suffered and still remain popular destinations for tokers. Whether this is due to price, stigma, or still lesser access in to legal weed locally is often not defined. Historically black markets are also rather agile and will also competitively improve in quality if the local conditions require such.

What is great about the study though is that it is an accessible field to researchers across the world and one which they can easily tap in — no pun intended — but at the same time it also raises different questions of “mass surveillance” potential and whether law enforcement agencies could use such data to crack down on areas with higher consumption.

The study, which was part of international study across the world, highlighted exactly that potential.

“We are part of an international study… with 60-80 other cities around the world. And according to wastewater, the Puget Sound area has the highest cannabis use per capita, even over Amsterdam.”
— Dr. Burgard, Study Lead

While wastewater is anonymized data without privacy issues, it is an easy method for mass observation of specific areas. Which in today’s divisive society — with often too authoritative police squads — can only open more cans of worms than one could possibly find in one of the most [in]famous toilets known.

Meanwhile, never one too proud for a little bit of zealotism, here at Alibi HQ we are now going to celebrate the publication of the excrements study and light up a nice toke to celebrate our pothead friends in Washington. May they continue to love their THC as much as do! 🤘 

Tags: #news #washington #legalize-it #study #black-market

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