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.
Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels
Weight loss and cannabis are rarely used in the same sentence, due to the onslaught of insatiable munchies that follow after consumption. However, as scientists learn more about the plant’s unique compounds, new discoveries suggest that the two may be closely related.
Researchers have painstakingly isolated a cannabinoid that acts very differently from THC and CBD, called tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). Like the cannabis terpene Humulene (isomer of B-caryophyllene), this dietary compound comes with appetite-suppressing and energetic properties.
Weight Loss, Diabetes and PTSD
In the family of cannabis compounds, THCV is the rebellious sibling that doesn’t like to play by the rules of the household. As mentioned earlier, the compound is capable of curbing hunger for individuals looking to shed some extra weight. It also contains properties that reduce insulin resistance, making it suitable for patients diagnosed with diabetes. This was confirmed in a 2013 study conducted by a team of scientists at the University of Buckingham. During the study, researchers administered regulated, oral doses of THCV to groups of genetically obese and dietary-induced mice. The results showed that the compound was able to improve insulin signaling and sensitivity in the animals.
The revolutionary cannabinoid is non-psychoactive at small doses. When high doses of the compound are consumed, it changes behavior and stimulates the brain in the same way THC does – but the high doesn’t last as long. For people who are sensitive to the effects of THC, THCV is extremely beneficial. According to Steep Hill, a California-based cannabis science and technology firm, it can curtail panic attacks, anxiety and stress without numbing one’s emotions. Taking this into consideration, patients suffering from PTSD and depression may find THCV to be advantageous.
This effect is also beneficial for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s and medical conditions that reduce motor control. For individuals concerned about the crippling effects of osteoporosis, Scientists believe that THCV increases bone growth. Like its other siblings, specifically CBD, the cannabinoid contains anti-inflammatory properties.
Where Can I Find THCV-potent Strains?
THCV-potent cannabis strains are hard to come by, since the plant is known to naturally produce only small amounts of the compound. To reap the full benefit of the cannabinoid, the herb must be specially cultivated or engineered (extracted). One of the first companies to isolate and produce THCV for mass consumption is Teewinot Life Sciences, an international biopharmaceutical firm that focuses on developing “pharmaceutically pure” cannabinoids.
“Our technology removes the negative factors from the plant,”said Jeff Korentur, Teewinot Chief Executive Officer. “We produce the same cannabinoid, just replicated outside the plant. It is identical in every way.”
said Jeff Korentur, Teewinot Chief Executive Officer.
“We produce the same cannabinoid, just replicated outside the plant. It is identical in every way.”
For individuals without access to pharmaceutical-grade THCV (note: most people!), there are strains out there that offer concentrated amounts of THCV, such as Doug’s Varin, Durban Poison and Pineapple Purps. If these life-changing strains aren’t available in your area, the next best option would be to stick to cannabis sativa variants with African origins. THCV also contributes to the plant’s pungent smell, which can serve as an indicator that the strain contains generous levels of the compound.