To satisfy the munchies, it turns out most cannabis consumers in legal states are hitting up McDonald’s.
According to a study in a series called “Cannabis Freakonomics,” conducted by Green Market Report and Consumer Research Around Cannabis, 43 percent of survey respondents who bought legal cannabis said McDonald’s was their go-to food joint.
In the form of an online survey, the study garnered 27,500 replies throughout 25 markets with a base population of 55 million where cannabis had been legalized. The study also found that 4.7 million people or 8.5. percent of the population bought cannabis from a legal dispensary.
While 43 percent of respondents said they ate at McDonald’s in the past four weeks, another 18 percent said they ate at Taco Bell, 17.8 percent at Wendy’s, and 17.6 percent at Burger King. Though cannabis consumers have been shown to be overall healthier and thinner than their non-consuming counterparts, the majority don’t seem to be making the healthiest choices in terms of the fast-food they’re eating. Subway, a comparatively healthier option, earned only 8.7 of respondents’ appetites, followed by Kentucky Fried Chicken (5.5 percent), Chick-Fil-A, Jack-In-The-Box, and Carl’s Jr.
Jeff Stein, vice president of Consumer Research Around Cannabis, suggests that McDonald’s wins by default, given the sheer number of the chain’s locations. Local flavor and hours of operation are also factors, he adds.
“These results make it clear that more affordable healthier options need to become available,” Cynthia Salarizadeh, co-founder of Green Market Report, tells Jane Street. “As it is truly interesting to see what this data revealed, it is also disturbing. We believe location and frequency are a large part of why McDonald’s took the top spot. They are simply a larger change with more stores to frequent. If there were tasty organic options available at every corner, I guarantee these figures would alter significantly in most of these cities.”
Stein also suggests that these fast food joints may start to accommodate the demographic of cannabis consumers with healthier options. “As more folks are educated on medicinal cannabis, the population of users will grow, especially among the older and more affluent,” he says. “As fast food restaurant groups embrace the consumer characteristics of cannabis users, they will be able to more effectively reach them, driving growth for those with less locations and more healthy choices.”
However, the study also found that in California, cannabis consumers heavily frequent the iconic west coast and relatively healthier chain In-N-Out. “But they were number 15 on the list and that is probably because they aren’t located in as many states,” says Debra Borchardt, Green Market Report CEO. Moreover, she adds, “McDonald’s has long been favored by the cannabis community as many like to turn the golden arches into green arches for the word ‘marijuana.'” McDonald’s is probably aware of this special joke, she says, pointing to a billboard ad they ran in New Mexico, featuring a breakfast burrito with the caption, “Usually when you roll something this good, it’s illegal.”
Borchardt says Taco Bell is also known to be a favorite among cannabis consumers: One Taco Bell employee even started a Reddit discussion about the antics of late-night stoners coming through for munchies.
“I believe that as the cannabis industry matures and the big chains get more comfortable with the idea of targeting this demographic, we will see more focused ads for these customers,” she says. “I expect we see lots of ad copy with double entendres using clever inside jokes. Fast food sales have been dropping as people prefer more healthy alternatives, so why not go after a loyal crowd that will happily eat fast food and enjoy it?”
That said, if you’re a cannabis consumer and concerned about getting the munchies, there are a number of options to keep your waistline in check. From an appetite suppressant called MunchEase to strains that actually curb your appetite, you shouldn’t have to feel resigned to eating fast food the next time you want to get high or medicate.