Legal Marijuana Lights Up Sales for McDonald's and Taco Bell

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States that have legalized marijuana are also experiencing higher snack sales. GETTY

McDonald's is experiencing a feeding frenzy thanks to lots of people in legal pot states suddenly having the munchies.  

A joint study by Consumer Research Around Cannabis and Green Market Report found that 43 percent of people who bought recreational marijuana in the last four weeks chose McDonald’s as their go-to fast food spot. Another 18.3 percent went to Taco Bell, 17.8 percent went to Wendy’s and 17.6 went to Burger King.

The study looked at Denver; Las Vegas; Washington, D.C.; Sacramento, California; and Portland, Oregon—all of which have legalized the wacky tobaccy.

There's probably no link between pot consumption and a specific craving for a Big Mac, but McDonald's simply happens to be better situated to take advantage of marijuana munchies.

“McDonald’s wins by virtue of the sheer number of locations—by default really,” said Jeff Stein, vice president of Consumer Research Around Cannabis. “Those competitors which better understanding cannabis users and their consumer habits can certainly close the gap by integrating what they learn through their marketing efforts.”

Serge Chistov, a financial adviser for Honest Marijuana in Colorado, said the behaviors were nothing new, but now easier to study and learn about as people smoke in an “organized, taxable, clean environment.”

He thinks other industries, such as video games and home shopping, could see a boom with legalization. But even in Colorado, which has led the charge on marijuana industry innovation, the effects are somewhat limited by the restrictions on public smoking.

Chistov thinks a good remedy would be Dutch-style smoking coffee shops, now that there is more “social acceptability” surrounding pot.

“Just like in a college bar,” he said, “You could get some coffee or hot cocoa and smoke a joint.”

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