Cannabis plants contain hundreds of chemical components called cannabinoids, however, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are considered the main ones. THC is an intoxicating substance that interacts with endocannabinoid receptors in a user’s brain, activating reward mechanisms that produce dopamine and get a user high. Here Dr. Joseph Mercola, Mercola.com, reflects on a study confirming that recreational marijuana use can cause the munchies:
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“As a result of breeders selectively growing marijuana plants for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana became known as a plant that gives you a high. As a result, the original medicinal properties and uses for cannabis largely fell by the wayside and the U.S. added marijuana to their Schedule 1 Controlled Substances list in 1970, reserved for illicit drugs such as heroin, LSD and Ecstasy.
Based on the Controlled Substance Act,1 drugs in this group must have a high potential for abuse, have no acceptable medicinal use and lack acceptable safety under medical supervision.2 Before being added to the Schedule 1 list, marijuana was listed in the U.S Pharmacopoeia (USP) until 1942 and prescribed by physicians for nausea, rheumatism and labor pain.3
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In a decision reversing their previous classification of marijuana as a drug having no acceptable medicinal use, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has removed some cannabidiols out of the most restrictive class of substances making it a Schedule V drug.4
This move was made three months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first nonsynthetic cannabidiol (CBD) preparation for epilepsy. The DEA announcement means the epilepsy drug can be distributed through traditional pharmaceutical channels requiring a physician's prescription, instead of through medical marijuana dispensaries.
Although many proponents of medical cannabis were encouraged by the change in the DEA's position on CBD, it is more likely a step toward creating a pharmaceutical distribution channel rather than accepting CBD as a legitimate medical treatment.
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The number of states that have decriminalized, legalized or allowed medical marijuana sales continues to grow. In some states, marijuana is fully legal or illegal, but in others the laws are mixed, allowing medicinal use but not decriminalizing recreational use.5
Researchers from the University of Connecticut recently released a study showing sales of ice cream, cookies and chips increased immediately after a state legalized the sale of recreational marijuana.6
Cannabis Use Can Cause the Munchies
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Although there are some hypotheses as to why this occurs, at the present time there is no causal evidence supporting the effect on the brain. But, as the Connecticut researchers expected, after smoking marijuana, many enjoy a junk food binge, especially certain high-calorie foods.7
To get their information, assistant professor of economics, Michele Baggio, Ph.D., in collaboration with a professor from Georgia State University, evaluated data on the monthly purchases of high-calorie junk food such as ice cream, chips and cookies in more than 2,000 counties over a 10-year period.8
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Analysis compared buying trends against the implementation date of marijuana laws, finding legalization increased purchases from 3 percent to 5 percent for the junk food evaluated. Baggio believes that while the numbers may seem small, they are statistically significant to both users and the economy.9
Initially, the economists had set out to determine if there was a tie between the legalization of marijuana and rising obesity rates that may be connected to an increase in junk food consumption. In this study, the researchers analyzed the trends and sales, but further analysis of obesity rates may come at a later date.
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The researchers’ concern is that rising rates of marijuana legalization and usage may contribute to growing waistlines, and policymakers may want to consider this issue as they contemplate legalizing marijuana in other states.10
Rising Rates of Obesity Fueled in Part by Junk Foods
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Junk food is a multibillion-dollar industry, so a 5 percent rise in sales of one product is a significant jump. In his book, “Fast Food Nation,” Eric Schlosser, investigative journalist and best-selling author, describes how nearly 90 percent of America's budget is spent on junk food,11 and nearly 60 percent of what is eaten is ultraprocessed convenience food available at the local gas station.12
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The junk food industry uses several advertising ploys to paint their products in a better light, especially as more consumers are starting to question a diet based solely on salt and sugar. Reliance on ultraprocessed foods is undoubtedly a primary driving factor in the skyrocketing rates of obesity and chronic disease.”
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