Study: Cannabis Legalization Increases Junk Food Sales

A recent study found that adult-use cannabis legalization may lead to increased junk food sales.

Full story after the jump.

Adult-use cannabis legalization leads to increased junk food sales, according to a study published in the December 2020 issue of Economics & Human Biology journal. The study found junk food sales rose 6.3% in terms of sales and 5.1% by volume following adult-use reforms.

Georgia State University economist Alberto Chong, one of the study’s authors, said that while the “consensus today” is that cannabis “does no harm,” there are “unintended consequences” to the reforms “and one of them is the fact that you really get very hungry and you start eating crap,” he said in an interview with the Academic Times.

Chong, along with co-author Michele Baggio of the University of Connecticut, used county-by-county population data from Colorado, Oregon, and Washington – the first states to legalize cannabis for adult use – as well as Nielsen Retail Scanner data from 2006 to 2016 for convenience store, drugstore, and grocery store junk food sales. The researchers controlled for demographic factors such as race, the average age of the population, unemployment rate, and education.

“Specifically, in counties located in [recreational marijuana legal] states monthly sales of high calorie food increased by 3.2% when measured by sales and 4.5% when measured by volume when using our preferred identification strategy.” – “Recreational marijuana laws and junk food consumption,” Economics & Human Biology, Dec. 2020

A 2019 working paper of the study found legal cannabis increased ice cream sales by 3.1%, cookies by 4.1%, and potato chips by 5.3%, according to the report.

Chong and Baggio are also the authors of a 2017 report – again using retail scanner data – that found monthly alcohol sales in counties where cannabis is legalized fell, cumulatively, 15%.

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