In a staged conversation with a Texas Tribune reporter, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said that the grocery chain would likely enter the marijuana market should cannabis be regulated in Texas.
“If cannabis is ever passed in Texas, chances are good that grocery stores will be selling that too,” said Mackey. “You just never know what happens over time with markets. They change and evolve.”
The statement came as part of Mackey’s response to an audience member who had actually presented a question about whether Whole Foods would consider selling insects as alternative protein sources. (The answer to the bug query was also an affirmative.) Mackey did not say whether the company was currently pursuing a plan to widen its cannabis-related offerings, and wasn’t ready to venture a guess as to what products would be the first on the company’s shelves, replying to the moderator’s follow-up with, “Let’s see what happens with the market and the government regulations over time.”
Mackey has been on record as a cannabis supporter since a 2013 interview with Mother Jones, in which he identified his pro-pot stance as part of his posture as a “classical liberal.” Whole Foods already sells some cannabis-derived products, such as organic hemp seeds and endocannabinoid health supplements.
Earlier this year, the company included hemp products on its list of top 2019 food trends, commenting “It’s clear that hemp-derived products are going mainstream, if not by wide distribution, then by word of mouth!”
Time will tell how long it will be until Mackey has the correct political conditions to make Whole Foods pot sales a reality. At the moment, no states have legalized the sale of marijuana in grocery stores. Amazon— Whole Foods’ parent company— has remained conspicuously mum on the subject, but has made some key moves towards offering prescription drug products abroad. Some analysts have even surmised that Whole Foods could provide the corporation with a brick and mortar location for such sales.
But Whole Foods is far from the only food retailer to express interest in hawking cannabis products. In February, United Bodegas of America announced that the group was encouraging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to let bodegas sell cannabis. Cuomo is currently behind a hard push for state-level legalization that has been famously weighed on by cannabis industry representatives. The association, which represents many business owners of color, ties bodega access to larger efforts toward race and gender equity taking place in the legalization movement that are stated priorities of New York politicians.
There is no plan proposed for across the board legalization in Texas, but support for regulation, once minimal in the state, is growing more popular among members of both political parties. Both houses have seen the introduction of legislation that would widen access to cannabis for state residents. In total, twenty-seven pieces of such legislative proposal have been filed, according to Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. 2015’s Texas Compassionate Use Act made it medicinal low-THC cannabis oil legal for use by people with intractable epilepsy, and available for sale through dispensaries located in state.