In areas where recreational cannabis has been legalized, sales of “junk” foods such as ice cream, cookies and chips have gone up, according to research from Georgia State University and the university of Connecticut in the December 2020 issue of Economics & Human Biology.
The economist researchers Alberto Chong and Michele Baggio say they have enough data to indicate it is a causal relationship.
In this first-of-its-kind study, it was shown that states where cannabis laws were lax had higher sales of high fat and sugar processed foods. Specifically, in counties located in marijuana legal states, monthly sales increased by 3.1 percent for ice cream, 4.1 for cookies, and 5.3 percent for chips.
To conduct their study, Chong and Baggio relied on differences in the timing of the legalization of recreational marijuana across states. They also compared retail food purchases for a subsample of marijuana-legal and marijuana illegal contiguous counties that had shared borders.
In addition, they tested the robustness of the findings by applying placebo tests and, in particular, applying a synthetic control method, that appeared to confirm the findings.
“You think marijuana does no harm — that’s pretty much the consensus today,” said Alberto Chong (from Georgia State University) in an interview with The Academic Times. “But there are unintended consequences, and one of them is the fact that you really get very hungry and you start eating crap.”
The researchers added that while the tendency to binge on junk food after smoking a joint may be a stoner stereotype, their findings have real implications for public policy at a time when more than 40 percent of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Governments should consider the effects of marijuana on food consumption when considering whether to legalize recreational use of the drug, the researchers added.