Study Shows Connection Between Legal Pot and Rise in Junk Food

Smoking pot might have affected Colorado's eating habits, according to a study.
Smoking pot might have affected Colorado's eating habits, according to a study. Danielle Lirette
With cannabis still having a Schedule I classification at the federal level, universities need to get creative when trying to learn about the plant. In an attempt to discover more about pot's alleged effects on our eating habits, a research team with the University of Connecticut found a connection between legalizing marijuana and a rise in junk food.

"A widespread urban myth is that marijuana consumption is associated with the so-called ‘munchies,’ namely an irresistible urge to consume large amounts of snack or junk food, such as ice cream, cookies, candies, and the like," reads a study authored by professors Michele Baggio and Alberto Chong. "While there is some neuroscience-based hypothesis that may help support this idea (e.g., Patel and Cone, 2015), there is no formal causal evidence that may help support any actual behavioral change."

According to previous (and light) research, the THC in cannabis can increase our appetites by activating certain brain receptors. Popular culture and stereotypes depict those appetites as undisciplined and high in calories — also known as the munchies boiiiiiiiiiiii.

The UConn study indicates that those depictions might be on to something, though, with data in Colorado, Oregon and Washington showing overall rises in the sales dollars of chips (5.3 percent), cookies (4.1 percent) and ice cream (3.1 percent) in the two years following the states' decisions to legalize recreational pot. Counties in states bordering Colorado, Oregon and Washington saw minute increases in cookies and chips sales, according to the study, and ice cream sales dropped.

This shows that the results are "not likely to be driven entirely by chance and confirms that high calorie food and marijuana are complements," according to the study's authors. Colorado has been doing a good job burning off all those calories, however, with a 2018 study claiming Colorado to be the least-obese state in the nation.

This is not the first time that Colorado has been accused of letting all that devil's lettuce make us unhealthy. In 2014, shortly after recreational pot sales began here, then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie accused cannabis of ruining the quality of life in Colorado. In response, Governor John Hickenlooper's staff released a list of eight quality-of-life statistics that compared New Jersey and Colorado.

We ranked seventh in a Gallup poll evaluating the work environments, habits, behavior and emotional and physical health of all fifty states. New Jersey ranked 23rd.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell