New DEA report shows labs are testing less seized cannabis

Nov 21, 2023

According to the findings of a new report released by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, cannabis remains one of the top five most commonly identified drugs in testing analyses. However, it also demonstrated that drug analysis labs have significantly reduced testing of seized cannabis as the legalization movement continues across the U.S.

The National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) Drug 2022 Annual Report includes drug testing data collected during 2022 which was compiled from drug cases across the U.S. by federal, state, and local forensic labs, and compiles the data to report illegal drug use and trafficking trends.

“NFLIS-Drug includes information on the specific substance and the characteristics of drug evidence, such as purity, quantity, and drug combinations,” the report reads. “These data are used to support drug scheduling decisions and to inform drug policy and drug enforcement initiatives nationally and in local communities around the country.” NFLIS began publishing data on illegal drug reports in 2001.

Specifically, the study analyzed test results from 648,738 drug cases that were received by state or local testing labs in the U.S., mainly including drugs seized by law enforcement. The findings showed that methamphetamine was the drug with the highest number of reports (341,049), followed by cocaine (169,972), fentanyl (163,201), cannabis/THC (146,631), and heroin (41,227)—the combination of which totaled 73% of all drug reports. Compared to data from previous years, methamphetamine detection frequency decreased since 2021, while cocaine data remained the same through 2022, and fentanyl significantly increased starting from 2014 to 2022.

In addition, the report showed that cannabis/THC detection decreased in 2022 compared to previous data, as well as a significant decline in cannabis seizures at checkpoints overall since 2016.

According to some advocates, the results of this analysis support the notion that cannabis legalization is contributing significantly to a reduced illicit cannabis market.

However, the illegal cannabis industry remains present in the U.S., with recent reports of illegal trafficking to Canada in Mexico. In June 2023, a driver unknowingly traveled through a U.S./Canadian border while transporting 400 pounds of cannabis. Subsequently, in August 2023, more than 2,000 pounds of cannabis were detected in frozen waffles at the border of Canada. Finally, in October 2023, two tons of cannabis were discovered in a truck at the border of the U.S. and Mexico, with a total value of approximately $10 million.