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Pot legalization means high times for junk food sales, study says

Puff, puff, pass the cookies.

Young pot plants at a farm-to-table-style marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Marijuana-fueled munchies don't just hit your stomach. Cravings fueled by recreational cannabis may have an impact on junk food sales, according to a study led by a University of Connecticut researcher.

The study looked at data culled from the Nielsen Retail Scanner database covering over 2,000 US counties over a period of 10 years. Colorado, Oregon and Washington all legalized recreational marijuana in recent years, giving researchers a good look at retail sales data before and after. 

The study finds that "legalizing recreational marijuana led to a 3.1 percent increase in ice cream purchases, a 4.1 percent increase in cookie purchases, and a 5.3 percent increase in chip purchases immediately after recreational marijuana sales began."

"These might seem like small numbers, but they're statistically significant and economically significant as well," said UConn economist Michele Baggio, one of the study leads. The trend held true for Colorado, Oregon and Washington.   

In an interesting tidbit, the study found that ice cream and chip purchases reduced a little in the months after legalization, but cookie purchases stayed high. The research didn't address this discrepancy, but I like to think it's because cookies are so clearly superior to ice cream or chips.

The researchers didn't include data from states including Michigan, Maine and Massachusetts, since 18 months of purchasing information was not yet available for those areas.

So are the junk-food munchies real? A Yale-led research study from 2015 points to cannabis triggering neurons in the brain that promote hunger. 

This latest study seems to back up the existence of a real-world munchies phenomenon that exists outside of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.