NEWS
Coronavirus Incites Hoarding, Then Sales Slump Across Legal Weed Industry
Across the legal weed landscape, coronavirus initially spurred sales spikes, but they were followed swiftly by empty shelves and deserted dispensaries.
Published on March 16, 2020

As citizens around the globe continue to practice social distancing and self-quarantine in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, grocery stores and gun stores aren’t the only retail establishments seeing a rush of business as news intensifies. In every corner of the legal cannabis market, both domestic and international, pot customers are risking close contact and braving long lines to stock up on marijuana before shops potentially close down for extended periods.

But just days after crowds first started converging, a number of dispensaries and legal markets at large reported swift downturns in customers and patients. This suggests that the immediate future of the dispensary business is still up in the air. As of press time, these are the latest reports about how regional cannabis customers and businesses are handling the pandemic.

West Coast

From Seattle to Los Angeles, the West Coast is already seeing spikes in coronavirus cases, and cannabis customers are responding accordingly. 

According to a new report from the Los Angeles Times, crowds swarmed the Herbarium dispensary in LA over the weekend, with patients buying as much weed as they could, and the pot shop offering a custom face mask after every purchase.

“There are two reasons for all the customers you see in here right now. One is that people are stocking up on all the things they consider essential after being advised to stay indoors,” Herbarium spokesperson Breanna Lucier told the Times. “The other reason — people don’t want to care about coronavirus or watch upsetting news about it on television,” she said. “Instead, they just want to chill out with Netflix and some weed.”

In Washington State — a hotspot for coronavirus in the US — pot shops saw similar crowds late last week and over the weekend. But at Dockside Cannabis in Seattle, director Aaron Varney told MJ Biz Daily that the brand has reached out to customers to encourage increased sanitation practices, as well as offer a 10 percent discount for patients who place online orders before arriving at the shop. It is not yet clear if California and Washington will continue medical or adult-use cannabis sales as more businesses continue to close for extended periods.

Midwest

In the country’s newest recreational marijuana market, pot shops in Illinois and Michigan have both reported sales spikes last week and over the weekend. 

In Chicago, where product shortages have already caused confusion for recreational and medical customers, at least one dispensary — Modern Cannabis — has shut down adult-use sales altogether, responding to the crisis by prioritizing medical patients. 

“We didn’t want to put our staff or medical patients in a position where they could be exposed to that many people,” CEO and co-owner Danny Marks told the Chicago-Tribune. “Hopefully, it’s a short term thing. There is no playbook for something like this, and we are going to take it day by day and reevaluate as things evolve.”

Nearby in Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reported that coronavirus put a damper on at least one dispensary's grand opening, cutting expected crowds down to a trickle of customers. Across the state, retailers reported slowing sales as a result of the virus. In addition to increased sanitization at stores, Lume Cannabis Company in Big Rapids offered free delivery to patients over 60-years-old as a way to encourage older customers and patients to stay at home, safely indoors.

East Coast 

Like their counterparts across the country, East Coast medical and adult-use dispensaries saw their fare share of crowds this weekend.

According to WGBH News, Massachusetts medical patients in particular are risking close contact to secure a supply of cannabis for the foreseeable future. Like many other states, Massachusetts allows medical cannabis delivery, which a number of dispensaries have ramped up and advertised over the past week. But with traditional medical products more tightly restricted by prescription and pharmacy limits, the state's medical marijuana patients were thankful to be able to stock up on pot, even if it meant standing in line.

“Now we're in a state of emergency, and I don't know if I will be able to get to the pharmacist or to my next doctor's appointment to get that prescription renewed,” a cannabis customer in Brookline told WGBH. “It's definitely making me anxious, but having the ability to purchase the amount of marijuana and cannabis products that I'm going to need is essential to addressing how I'm going to stay safe.”

As a number of states continue to adjust emergency rules about what type of businesses are allowed to remain open, and how many people are allowed in those businesses at once, it is still unclear how long cannabis dispensaries will remain open and operate at regular capacity. 

Around the Globe 

Outside of the US, cannabis users in the Netherlands reversed their typically chill attitudes about local marijuana coffee shops over the weekend and queued up for blocks to stock up on hash and grass, as more and more Dutch citizens prepared to self isolate for the weeks to come. 

But unlike dispensaries in the US, Dutch government officials subsequently ordered the closure of all of the country’s cannabis-serving coffee shops — along with all bars and restaurants — over the weekend. 

"For maybe for the next two months, we're not able to get some weed, so it should be nice to at least have some in the house," one young cannabis buyer in The Hague told France24. "My friend called me like five minutes ago, he saw the press conference — good friend." 

As more news and changes to social life continue to come to light seemingly by the hour, it is likely that dispensaries around the world will continue to see immediate rushes of business followed by sales slumps as social distancing continues and intensifies. But if you are going to risk your personal health and the health of others to hit your local dispensary, please make sure to take the necessary sanitization precautions. Call your dispensary ahead of time to place a phone order, utilize delivery, or ask if there are crowds. And be conscious of sick patients who may be stocking up, too. Be safe out there, MERRY JANE fam. 

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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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