The laws related to marijuana have drastically changed over the past few years in the United States. These shifts have exerted both positive and negative effects on the population making it important for the scientific community to monitor these changes and measure their impact on people.
A recent study has attempted to assess one such influence. The authors set out to measure the impact of cannabis-induced munchies.
Smoking marijuana has been known to urge people to consume a high-sugar, high-fat diet later. There are a few neuroscience-based theories that support this trope, but it seems like there is little evidence that supports it.
The closest thing to evidence, in this case, is a study that established a link between laws regulating medical marijuana and a reduction in body weight.
Recently, two researchers decided to check the patterns in the purchasing activity of these items in order to search for clues as to their existence. This work was carried out by Michele Baggio, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Connecticut.
The findings of this study have been published in the journal named Social Science Research Network.
The authors attempted to explain why they embarked on this study saying how important it is to understand the direct impact of using cannabis in addition to checking for any behavior spillovers and their effects.
More specifically, the researchers set out to check the effects of recreational marijuana laws, also known as the RMLs on food consumption. They took the retail data from over 2000 different counties of the U.S. spread across 48 different states between the years 2006 and 2016. The data was collected from the drug, convenience, mass distribution, and grocery stores.
RMLs came into action at different times giving the investigators a chance to assess their impact on food sales in states that legalized their use and those which remained unaffected.
Because the researchers used direct sales data, the findings of this study are considered to be robust. Previous studies only relied on self-reported good intake which increased the likelihood of mistakes.
The researchers particularly focused on the purchase of cookies, ice cream and chips in all RML and non-RML states before and after it came into effect.
The Munchie Effect
As the researchers expected, there was an increase in the sales of high-calorie foods right after the RML came into action. More specifically, after the recreational marijuana was legalized, the researchers observed a 3.1 percent increase in the purchase of ice cream, 4.1 percent in cookies, and 5.3 percent increment in the purchases of chips
Although the purchases of chips and ice cream declined in months, the cookie purchases remained high.
Therefore, the researchers concluded that the legalization of recreational marijuana led to increased purchase of junk food.
While these numbers may appear to be small, they are statistically significant and economically important as well. The effect was found to be consistent across all the states that had approved RML.