Getting the munchies: marijuana legalization unsurprisingly increases junk food sales

A new study shows that the proverbial ‘munchies’, that insatiable craving for junk food that takes hold of someone when they get stoned, has a measurable and significant effect on the economy, particularly when marijuana is legalized. Researchers at the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University have shown, in a study published in the journal Social Science Research Network, that the legalization of recreational marijuana leads to a parallel increase in junk food sales. More specifically, sales of potato chips, cookies, and ice cream experienced increases over the past decade in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, the first three states to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

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Although ironically modern cannabis culture often emphasizes the wellness aspect of marijuana, any old stoner would be completely unsurprised that sales of chips went up 5.3 percent, cookies by 4.1 percent, and ice cream by 3.1 percent. “These might seem like small numbers,” said one of the study leads, University of Connecticut assistant professor of economics Michele Baggio. “But they’re statistically significant and economically significant as well.” Although ice cream and chip purchases reduced slightly in the following months, cookies did not. And not only did sales in these three categories increase, but they also began increasing as soon as legal pot became available. “The increase in sales starts at the time that legislation becomes effective,” said the researchers. The trend was consistent over these three states. Other states that have subsequently legalized recreational marijuana were not included because not enough data was available yet.

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“I’m not an advocate for legalization or not,” Baggio says. “I’m just interested in whether there are unintended consequences to the policy.”

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