Snack sales grow with legal marijuana: study

Legal marijuana sales could be driving up sales of candy and snacks, a new study finds — and eateries near recreational pot shops say that might explain their increased business.

“We’ve definitely noticed more foot traffic,” said Rachel Kelsey, co-owner of Cutty’s, a lunch spot that sells sandwiches, homemade snacks and cookies near NETA Brookline, a medical marijuana and adult-use dispensary.

Hilary Talbot, manager of Haymarket Cafe in Northampton, where NETA owns another dispensary, said she sees customers come in with bags from NETA “after their run.”

“They’ll order cheesecakes, salad, smoothies or a wrap,” Talbot said. “We also get people who work at the cannabis shop.”

Marijuana consumption has been clinically shown to increase appetite and enjoyment of food — a phenomenon also known as “the munchies.” And sales data from within the U.S. Census divisions where cannabis has been legalized for recreational use suggests that might be an economic driver, according to Nielsen, a global measurement and data analytics company.

Over a period of four years, junk food sales were up 2% in areas where pot is legal, compared to 1.3% in places where it is not, the study found.

The “total snacking growth rate” was up 7.2% in recreational weed states, Nielsen found, compared to 6% in states where pot prohibition remains in effect.

Marijuana use causes the “munchies” because it “hijacks the parts of your brain that make you seek pleasure,” said Debbie Petitpain, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Specifically, we seek highly palatable foods — those high in fat and/or sugar,” Petitpain said, “and an enhanced sense of smell and taste further encourage us to consume more.”

The growing legalization of cannabis in the U.S. presents big opportunities for the American food and beverage market, according to Nielsen.

Nationally, sales of both salty and sweet snacks increased over the 52 weeks ending April 27, with salty snacks reaching sales of $29.9 billion and sweet snacks hitting sales of $6.5 billion.

Massachusetts became the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana when voters passed a ballot in 2012, and recreational marijuana became legal in the Bay State as of Dec. 15, 2016, after a ballot initiative passed the previous month.

Over the last year, the Illinois legislature approved recreational marijuana use for adults, with sales of cannabis products expected to start on Jan. 1, 2020. With Illinois soon entering the mix, recreational marijuana will be legal in 11 states and Washington, D.C., despite the fact that federally, it is still illegal.

In Lowell, Justin Valdez, assistant manager at Tavern in the Square, said sales are up, though it’s hard to say whether it’s directly related to the local marijuana dispensary, Patriot Care.

“We’re doing really well, actually,” Valdez said. “I know some of the employees (from Patriot Care) come here.”

 

 

 

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