Last Updated on March 31, 2020 by Mark P.
Maybe it should come as no surprise, but shops that sell pot are doing remarkably well despite the outbreak of the Coronavirus. Apparently viral contagion is no reason to avoid relaxing substances: or maybe it’s an exact reason to use them.
The West Coast of the US was hit remarkably hard when California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all residents to stay home unless buying essential supplies or seeking medical care. However, among all the essential stores that have to stay open for people to survive is marijuana dispensaries.
The popular dispensary MedMen, operating 33 stores across nine states is operating with modified hours, but their doors are still very much open.
“As of now, we have been deemed an essential business in the markets that have established protocol,” Christian Langbein, the company’s spokesperson says. “We are closely following recent guidelines released by each state and local jurisdiction, plus that of the CDC and the WHO in the best interest of our customers and employees and have adopted the recommended safety protocol.”
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the private sector of the United States has gone awry in almost every way possible. Nearly all forms of entertainment have been delayed or canceled, and any sort of social gathering has been called off. Most of our non-essential stores have closed. We’ve even postponed our sports seasons, which is a true sign of how serious the situation is if ever there was one.
And yet, despite all this, it seems the marijuana industry is doing fine: doing great even. According to Medicine Man, a Denver based (and one of the largest in the U.S.) dispensary has revealed that their sales have actually increased since the outbreak.
“Our numbers are significantly higher than they would normally be this time of year,” says Sally Vander Veer, the dispensary’s CEO. “For the most part, we’re seeing customers who are grateful that were open because they can get their medicine.”
While said CEO doesn’t think that the situation is ‘panic buying’, she’s made it clear that there has been a real shift in buying habits, and her company is going to act accordingly.
“We’re encouraging online orders. So customers can go to our website site, place an order and it will be ready for them to pick up at our store. They can be in and out in 30 seconds,” says Van der Veer. “On the floor of our dispensaries, we have tape that to ensure that we’re maintaining six feet of distance between every customer. All of our budtenders are wearing gloves and using hand sanitizer or washing their hands in between each transaction.”
They are also preparing to move all of their sales online if need be, but CEO Vander Veer, she believes the four physical locations of Medicine Man will remain open.
“Luckily we’re considered essential businesses so far in Colorado,” says Van der Veer, referencing a mandate from Colorado Governor Jared Polis requiring all non-essential businesses to close. “I think it speaks a lot to the importance of marijuana as medicine —especially in times when people are anxious, [depressed] or they can’t sleep.”
According to Vander Veer, the acknowledgment of cannabis as an essential service is something that makes perfect sense to the populace, and is thus a good move by the government.
“[GovernorPolis] has been a strong supporter of our industry because I think he realizes what we contribute to the economy,” she says. “And he’s smart enough to know that like liquor stores, you can’t take these things away from people in times of stress.”
Considering how large the pot industry is in states like Colorado, it’s no surprise that it is considered essential. According to Leafly’s 2019 Cannabis Jobs Report, there are approximately 243,700 full-time employees working in the industry right now. Experts have already predicted that the marijuana industry will be a major driver of job growth in the future.
Of course, with COVID-19 going around, that may not be the case in the near future, but even in the midst of the outbreak, marijuana dispensaries around the country are going strong.
The Seattle based Uncle Ike’s dispensary, run by Ian Eisenberg, has no plans to close down, even though they are putting measures in place to prevent unnecessary risk.
“We’re limiting the number of people in our stores at a time, we’re encouraging pre-orders. If you want to talk to a budtender you’re going to wait in line outside for a long time and there are chalk marks on the sidewalk showing you where to go.” Eisenberg says. “Inside we’re making people stand six feet apart and I think we only have, depending on which store it is, a handful of people in the stores at a time versus 20 or 50 before.”
According to Eisenberg, the entire situation, namely keeping pot dispensaries open, makes perfect sense.
“The pharmacies and grocery stores are going to be allowed to stay open so I don’t know why they wouldn’t allow pot stores,” says Eisenberg. “Most of our customers self-identify as one form or another a medical user.”
On top of that, he makes a pretty good point regarding why having pot available to people may be a good idea in these trying times.
“I think if you want people to stay indoors and not go out and not interact with a lot of people? Pot’s a pretty good thing to have,” he says. “Then you can get stoned and watch Netflix.”
Frankly, Eisenberg probably isn’t wrong. If you want people to stay in isolation, having a way to entertain themselves while doing so jus probably going to help quite a bit. It may seem a little weird at first, but it seems that marijuana really is an essential service in the midst of the viral outbreak. Besides, that is to say nothing of the people that need cannabis for medical reasons, so at least this industry will manage to remain relatively afloat in the midst of this crisis.