Legal Weed Is Driving Up Sales at Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Other Fast Food Chains

You don't need to be a wake-and-bake stoner to know that consuming weed can have a profound effect on one's appetite. And while proving the existence of the munchies is far from revelatory, there's new research to show that people's increased appetites have collectively driven up sales at fast food joints in states where marijuana is legal.

In other words, some of your favorite chains -- McDonald's, Wendy's, Taco Bell, and others -- are raking in more green due in large part to legitimate sales of the green. 

While you may not be shocked to learn that drive-thrus are getting more traffic in these areas, this new research from the folks at Green Market Report and Consumer Research Around Cannabis suggests that certain fast food spots are considerably more popular with legal weed users who are experiencing the munchies. Specifically, of cannabis consumers in states where it's legal who've visited a fast food restaurant in the past four weeks, 43.4% chose McDonald's, 18.3% visited Taco Bell and 17.8% stopped by Wendy's.

The study, which collected responses from 27,500 people via an online survey, also found that people who bought marijuana legally from a dispensary were far more likely to have visited a fast food joint in the last four weeks than people who hadn't. Specifically, compared to non-users, they were 10% more likely to eat at McDonald's, 43% more likely to have eaten at Taco Bell, 17% more likely to have ordered off the Wendy's menu, and 19% more likely to have consumed food from Burger King. And while not quite as popular as the others, KFC, Chick-fil-A, Carl's Jr., and Jack in the Box were also more popular among consumers of weed.

Roughly 4.7 million people, or 8.5% of the US population, currently purchase weed legally in dispensaries around the country. And as more states vote to legalize marijuana, cannabis consumption has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, which spells good news for big chains like McDonald's and Taco Bell.

But why is McDonald's seemingly far more popular among the munchies-prone crowd? The VP of Consumer Research Around Cannabis sums it up pretty well: "McDonald’s wins by virtue of the sheer number of locations -- by default really," he said.

Or perhaps it's their suspiciously delicious apple pies.


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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.