Furthering the mystery of the cannabis-induced munchies, adults with safe, reliable access to legal recreational-cannabis spend more money on cookies, ice cream, and chips than their counterparts, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University reviewed high-calorie-food sales-data from states that have legalized cannabis, and a correlation was observed.
The retail-data analysis covered more than 2,000 counties over a period of a decade, from 2006 to 2016. Only states that could provide at least 18 months of sales-data for the period after a legalization amendment was enacted were included in the data review. Purchase trends from grocery, convenience, drug, and mass distribution stores were included in the analysis.
Michele Baggio, assistant professor of economics at the University of Connecticut, partnered with Alberto Chong, a professor at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, to conduct the data review. Most of the data was contributed by the Nielsen Retail Scanner database.
The Data Review
Immediately following legalization, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington reported an increase in the purchase of junk foods, specifically those of cookies, ice cream, and chips, according to the study.
Chip purchases increased by 5.3 percent. Cookie sales grew by 4.1 percent, and a 3.1 percent increase was observed in the sale of ice cream. While cookie sales maintained steady growth, there was a slight dip in ice cream and chip sales for a short time after legalization. Ultimately, an increase was observed overall.
“The increase in sales starts at the time the legislation becomes effective,” according to the study published in the Social Science Research Network.
Legalization amendments were approved by voters in Colorado and Washington state in 2012. The legal retail market in Colorado was first to explode, while the Washington market took a little longer to kick off. In 2015, Oregon joined the ranks of Colorado and Washington in the legalization of recreational cannabis.
“These might seem like small numbers, but they’re statistically significant and economically significant as well,” said Baggio.
The brands which saw the most increase in product sales were not reported in the study.
Originally intending to study the effect of legal cannabis on obesity rates, Baggio and Chong focused only on sales trends this time instead. Baggio said he plans to continue searching for links between legalization and obesity as well as other trends correlating with cannabis policy reform.
“I’m just interested in whether there are unintended consequences to the policy,” he said.
Why does cannabis sometimes stimulate a hunger response?
While the source of cannabis-induced munchies remains mostly a mystery, a 2014 study published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that it begins with an enhanced sense of smell.
According to the study, the sensitivity of receptors in the olfactory bulb of rats and humans increases with the administration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most prevalent psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. This increased sensitivity to certain smells may translate into an increased craving for certain foods.
While THC is known to stimulate a hunger response, tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is known to illicit the opposite response. Cannabis strains high in THCV are advertised as the go-to phenotypes for those trying to lose weight or at least avoid the munchies.
After the 2012 election, which saw Colorado become the first state to legalize marijuana, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said he probably would have reversed the vote if he had a magic wand.
But with the perspective of a few years post-legalization, today he says he’d put that wand “back in the drawer.”
“I’m not quite there to say this is a great success, but the old system was awful,” Hickenlooper said at a forum hosted by the Economic Club of Chicago on Wednesday.
What’s more, “the things that we most feared—a spike in teenage consumption, a spike in overall consumption, people driving while high—we haven’t seen them,” he said.
“We had a little increase in teenage consumption, but then it went down. We do think that some of the teenage consumers are using it a little more frequently than they were five years ago before legalization. We have in many ways seen no demographic where there’s an increase in consumption, with one exception: senior citizens. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.”
Hickenlooper, who’s been floated as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, described the challenges his administration faced when Colorado voters approved an adult-use legalization measure. Elected officials and advisors were opposed to it, he said, and plus, “it’s no fun to be in conflict with federal law.”
But he pushed forward with implementation, recruiting the “smartest people” he could find to figure out the best approach to regulation and taxation. And Illinois, which recently elected pro-legalization J.B. Pritzker for governor, will likely be better off if they pursue reform because they can learn from the successes and failures of Colorado’s system, Hickenlooper said.
“Ultimately, I haven’t come to a final conclusion yet, but I think it’s looking like this is going to be—for all of the flaws and challenges we have—a better system than what we had. You guys are going to benefit, I think, having let us make a bunch of the mistakes and deal with it, I think you’re going to be able to have a much better system if indeed that is the direction that the state wants to go.”
Asked what advice he’d give to Pritzker if Illinois does elect to fully legalize cannabis, Hickenlooper offered three tips: 1) don’t overtax marijuana, or else the illicit marketplace will persist, 2) get data from law enforcement on the presence of cannabis metabolites in the blood after highway fatalities to establish “good baselines” for comparison and 3) set limits on THC concentrations in edibles.
“What they’re selling now, they tell me it’s 10-to-12 times more intense than what allegedly I smoked in high school,” Hickenlooper said, pausing before conceding, “I smoked pot in high school and I inhaled, but it was a fraction of the intensity of what these kids are getting now.”
For good reason, there was a lot of excitement among marijuana reform advocates after Tuesday’s election. Three states passed measures legalizing cannabis for medical or adult use, after all. But there were also a few smaller cannabis-related measures on state and local ballots that haven’t received quite as much attention.
Here’s what you might have missed:
In Colorado, a measure to change the definition of industrial hemp under the state constitution passed, 61-39 percent. There were some concerns that, should the federal government legalize hemp—as it seems poised to do—the state’s existing definition would be inconsistent with the federal definition, which could put Colorado hemp farmers at a disadvantage. Now Colorado’s definition will have the “same meaning as it is defined in federal law or as the term is defined in Colorado statute.”
Almost 90 percent of voters in Chicago said they want tax revenue from perhaps soon-to-be-legal cannabis sales to go toward public schools in the city and mental health services. The question was advisory in nature, so it won’t actually change the law—but it does signal that people have strong feelings about where marijuana tax revenue should go.
Los Angeles voters rejected a measure that would have established a public bank in the city, 58-42 percent. The measure was designed to mitigate some of the difficulties that cannabis businesses face when dealing with traditional financial institutions, as well as provide financing for affordable housing initiatives.
A ballot measure that would have allowed Los Angeles to establish a public bank, in part to service the cannabis industry — backed by centrists and socialists alike — failed by quite a large margin. https://t.co/Dl6Vyz9Hdvpic.twitter.com/IwkzwA9GiM
And more than 90 cities and counties across California voted on measures to change the way that marijuana is taxed, licensed and regulated in their jurisdictions. For example, voters in Malibu, California, approved a measure that allows cannabis delivery services and impose a new tax on gross receipts for non-medical marijuana sales.
Colorado can do a lot more to make its legal marijuana market more open, transparent and equitable, a coalition of criminal justice reform advocacy groups said in a recent letter outlining regulatory recommendations.
The coalition, led by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), put forward 12 recommendations—ranging from the revocation of an industry-specific vertical integration requirement to the establishment of a micro-licensing program. The proposals were submitted to the state’s Department of Regulatory Affairs.
“Since Colorado became the first state to legally regulate marijuana, the national conversation has shifted from whether we’ll legalize to how we should do it,” Art Way, DPA Colorado state director, said in a press release.
“Colorado can do much more to address the lasting impacts of decades of mass criminalization. Given the current lack of diversity in Colorado’s legal marijuana market, we urgently need to follow the lead of other states and cities that are implementing policies to reduce barriers to entry in the industry.”
While one of the main objectives of cannabis reform has been to resolve the socioeconomic and racial injustices brought about by the war on drugs, excess regulations of Colorado’s legal system has created a new set of barriers—particularly financial—for communities that have been most impacted by prohibitionist policies, the coalition said.
With that said, the coalition is promoting a series of reforms in order to address concerns about “who can work in the industry” and “how the industry itself is regulated.”
Signees on the recommendation letter include DPA, Black Lives Matter 5280, Cannability Foundation, Cannabis Consumers Coalition, Cannabis Global Initiative, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Colorado Latino Forum, Denver NORML, Denver Relief Consulting, kindColorado, Minority Cannabis Business Association, NAACP of CO, MT and WY, Sensible Colorado, Servicios de la Raza and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
You can read the full recommendation letter below.
Legalization has attracted a growing number of older Americans to use marijuana, but little is known about how exactly this demographic is approaching cannabis in the 21st century.
A new study published this month in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society attempts to fill in that knowledge gap, surveying Colorado residents over 65 to learn how older generations use and obtain cannabis in a fully legal state.
About 350 people completed the surveys, and of those, 32 percent reported using marijuana at least once in their lifetime. Sixteen percent of respondents were considered “current” consumers because they reported using marijuana in the years since Colorado legalized for adult-use in 2012. Those individuals were asked a series of follow up questions about things like frequency of use and how they obtained cannabis.
The responses painted an interesting picture about how full legalization seems to ease access to cannabis for medical use.
Most respondents said that marijuana was a helpful treatment option for anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, pain and appetite stimulation, among other ailments. But while 26 percent said they had a recommendation for medical cannabis, 67 percent “obtained marijuana recreationally.”
“Although some respondents had a prescription for marijuana, most purchased it without a prescription for a variety of medical conditions common to primary care (pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia), the study authors wrote. “Thus, in states with recreationally available marijuana, older adults may be using marijuana in addition to their prescribed regimens, so it is important to inquire about marijuana use regardless of age.”
Other takeaways from the study: older Americans seem to gravitate toward edibles (42 percent), compared to smoking cannabis (29 percent). Lotions and oils were also favorites among respondents.
In terms of medical uses, the “most common symptom targeted was pain (64 percent), followed by sleep (38 percent), anxiety (24 percent), depression (22 percent), and appetite stimulation (18 percent).” And almost half of current marijuana consumers included in the survey said cannabis “targeted multiple symptoms.”
“This is a population that, in many cases, had firsthand experience with cannabis during their young adulthood, and have now returned to cannabis in older age,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in a press release. “Seniors are turning to cannabis as a potential option to provide symptomatic relief while potentially avoiding the dramatic side-effects associated with other medications and improving their quality of life.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (R) made a similar observation in an April interview.
“We haven’t seen a big spike in consumption,” Hickenlooper told Rolling Stone. “The only increase in consumption is among senior citizens, which we think is either Baby Boomers coming home to roost or arthritis and the aches and pains of growing older—people finding that marijuana is better pain solution than opioids or other things.”
Of course, the study’s limitations have to be taken into consideration. The sample size is relatively small and, as the study authors acknowledge, there could be response bias because the surveys were completed on a voluntary basis.
“As recreational marijuana becomes more available in the United States, it will be increasingly important to understand the specific dose and route of marijuana used, as well as short- and long-term health effects,” the study concluded.
“Thus, steps toward further understanding should include directed focus groups of active marijuana users and randomized clinic trials comparing marijuana with usual care for the most commonly targeted symptoms and conditions.”
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below: