As legalization spreads across the country, more and more data is emerging to support—and sometimes challenge—our assumptions about what effect legalization could have. Most recently, more information has been surfacing on the social effects of marijuana.
Two recent findings about the social effects of marijuana stand out. The first is that legal cannabis may be having a positive effect on restaurant (particularly fast-food) sales. Even more surprisingly, it appears to have a positive influence on real estate prices. Together, these perspectives are helping naysayers see the bright side of legal weed.
Pot and Fast Food: More Than Just the Munchies?
Even people who’ve never touched cannabis know what “the munchies” are: The cannabis-inspired sensation that a) food has never tasted so good and b) you are completely, totally, 100%, certifiably starving right now.
As reported in respected journals such as Smithsonian Magazine and many others, the munchies are fact, not fiction. So, too, the correlation between legal weed and healthier sales of fast-food, as Newsweek reported in 2017.
There’s no real surprise in these findings, which include (Mc)nuggets of information such as the fact that in several weed-legal states, some 43% of recent recreational cannabis users had also frequented a McDonald’s.
As analysts point out, this may have more to do with the prevalence of McDonald’s restaurants than any qualities of the food served there; it’s simply more likely you’ll stumble across one of the 14,000+ McDonald’s in the United States than any other fast-food restaurant. Though, of course, when you’re completely baked, a fatty, sodium- and sugar-rich meal with plenty of crunchy textures is probably going to taste pretty great.
Does Weed Bring “Higher” Prices for Real Estate?
The second recent finding about marijuana’s social effects is a bit more complicated. According to data collected in Denver, CO—where legal cannabis sales began in 2014—home values within a tenth of a mile from a dispensary rose 8.4%, compared with 6% for comparable area prices as a whole.
According to Westword, a Denver-based free weekly paper, analysts are cautious about assigning definitive causes to this rise in prices. But one trend is crystal-clear: One of the factors in Denver’s surging popularity is legal cannabis.
In addition to the many consumers interested in access to clean and potent cannabis, the booming marijuana industry is spurring hopeful entrepreneurs to relocate and having a direct impact on commercial real estate prices as well.
In April 2017, the New York Times reported that space for commercial grow, production, and retail operations is at a premium. In some markets, cannabis businesses are even paying above-market rates for real estate.
Will the Social Effects of Marijuana Continue?
Whether or not this will turn out to be a trend with legs is another matter. Growers and entrepreneurs could find less-expensive solutions, a promised federal crackdown could put the entire industry on ice, or the long-term prediction—that ultimately, national decriminalization will loosen restrictions on interstate trade in cannabis—could all change the calculus significantly.
But at least for now, we’re seeing some truly fascinating social effects of marijuana. Keep your eyes on this space for continuing updates on cannabis policy, research, and more breaking stories concerning our very favorite plant.