Changing Cannabis Regulations and the Impact on Foodservice

Cannabis is quickly becoming part of our national, mainstream landscape on a variety of fronts. From health and wellness to food and beverage, there’s likely no slowing its growth potential as regulations change state by state.

While we certainly want to talk about some of the changes created by the recent election results in states across the country, it’s important to begin with what cannabis means to the foodservice industry. Every year, the National Restaurant Association releases a What’s Hot, What’s New list of the top trends in food and beverage, and in their 2019 edition, cannabis was the clear winner. According to the NRA, the use of cannabis and CBD in food products was noted as being the second hottest trend in the industry. What was the hottest? The use of cannabis and CBD in beverages.

Alphabet Soup: What People Should Know

When we talk about the use of cannabis for either recreational or medicinal purposes, it inevitably boils down to a few letters, in some cases almost literally. Cannabis contains both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), and both have different effects and impacts on our bodies. Most people associate being “high” with the effects of THC, while CBD is often associated with health benefits.

While there’s some truth to that, it isn’t the full picture. Our bodies actually create something called anandamide (rooted in a Sanskrit word meaning joy, bliss, and delight) that can impact appetite, emotions, and more. When we ingest THC, synthetic anandamide is added to our endocannabinoid systems, and when we use CBD, our bodies are prompted to create more anandamide naturally.

How 2020 Elections Changed the Laws

There were two basic ideas proposed in 2020 elections across five different states. Recreational usage of marijuana, as well as use for medicinal purposes, were both considered.


Mississippi had two ballot initiatives that passed, one to legalize cannabis use for medicinal purposes and the other to legalize use for terminally-ill patients. The state of South Dakota also legalized cannabis use for medical purposes.


While South Dakota legalized cannabis for medicinal use, it also legalized use for recreational purposes, as well. While nearly 70 percent of voters agreed to medical usage, only 54 percent voted to legalize for recreational use by adults 21 and older.

Across the country, three more states voted to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey residents all voted to approve measures.

A Return to Foodservice

So now that we’ve gone through the basics of cannabis and some of the recent regulatory changes, let’s circle back to foodservice. The reality is there are many industries that will be impacted by and will integrate with an industry that was estimated at $13.6 billion last year, employing more than a third of a million people. This means there are peripheral industries like real estate, banking, and certainly investment capitalists who are looking to make a big investment in an industry that is only continuing to grow. It just grew by five more states a few weeks ago.

Food and beverage are part of this periphery. As we’ve seen from the National Restaurant Association and others, THC- and CBD-infused products are expected to continue in popularity. If you look at election cycles and changing regulations on cannabis, the frequency and popularity of cannabis in foodservice should follow shortly after.

We want our customers to recognize and be prepared to capitalize on these trends. With our full range of food and beverage solutions, we can help fine dining restaurants implement THC-infused service. We can help edibles manufacturers process and create infused chocolates. And we can help bar and beverage operators with CBD options.

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Topics: Foodservice Industry Trends