Legal Marijuana Leads To Big Sales For Major Fast Food Chains

By Britni de la Cretaz 10/03/17

A new study revealed that the ubiquitous golden arches are a top destination among people who use legal marijuana. 

woman enjoying a sip from a McDonald's soft drink in front of a McDonald's location.

A new study examines the fast food habits of cannabis users, finding that a majority of legal marijuana consumers prefer McDonald’s as their fast food restaurant of choice. The study, conducted by Green Market Report & Consumer Research Around Cannabis, is part of market research called “Cannabis Freakonomics” that examines the spending habits of people using legal marijuana.

Polled about their eating habits over the previous four weeks, over 43% of legal cannabis users said they’d eaten at a McDonald’s restaurant, while Taco Bell came in a distant second with 18% of those surveyed having eaten there in the past month. Wendy’s clocked in at 17.8%, with Burger King close behind at 17.6%. 

But the golden arches may win for a simple reason: accessibility. "McDonald's wins by virtue of the sheer number of locations—by default really,” Jeff Stein, Vice President of Consumer Research Around Cannabis, said in a press release. “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."

The study also looked at different markets around the United States. McDonald’s was victorious in all markets, but for some cities, regional chains make an appearance. For example, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jack-in-the-Box is right on the heels of McDonald’s, with 24.1% of respondents having eaten at the former in the past four weeks, and 27.1% eating at the latter. In Sacramento, California, numbers 1 through 3 are McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King, respectively, but in fourth place is Carl’s, Jr.

According to the press release, the reason for conducting studies that calculate the eating habits of cannabis users is that the drug is known to enhance the appetite and therefore, “understanding the spending habits of consumers is critical.”

Consumer Research Around Cannabis offers regularly scheduled surveys in a large number of mostly U.S. markets around cannabis consumer demographics and spending trends. Their hope is to connect the economic habits and effects of legalized marijuana to the broader consumer market, and to examine how legalization might affect markets.

The legalization of cannabis stands to create entirely new markets, in terms of paraphernalia, supplies, and more. And also, apparently, fast food sales—which makes total sense, if you think about it.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.