Coronavirus may have a long-term negative impact on the US economy as a whole, but in the short term, anxieties about the virus are boosting sales for California's cannabis industry.
In preparation for an eventual quarantine, people have flocked to supermarkets, stripping the shelves of toilet paper, pasta, and other necessities. In adult-use states, legal weed shops are also seeing their share of panic buying. Many Los Angeles pot retailers are reporting a spike in sales as customers stock up on extra weed to get them through this outbreak.
"People are in scarcity mode. The streets are emptier, but specific businesses like grocery stores and dispensaries are seeing more people than usual — and people are stocking up and purchasing in bulk," said Steve Lilak, head of sales for California cannabis company NUG, to The Hollywood Reporter (THR). "I've seen regular customers buying three or four of what they normally buy just one of in LA dispensaries."
Sweet Flower, a dispensary with locations on Melrose, in Studio City, and in Downtown LA has also noticed a boost in both retail and delivery sales. "Because of the virus, consumers are worried about scarcity, which is likely why they are purchasing more products than usual,” said Sweet Flower CMO Kiana Anvaripour to THR. “I also think that many of our customers are turning to our cannabis offerings to promote mental wellness and ease their minds in the midst of the nationwide panic."
Brandon Andrew, CEO of infused beverage producer Calexo, said that he anticipates “sales to be swift, especially as people look for ways to cope with fear of the pandemic." He also advised that "people can adhere to social distancing by ordering through delivery from a dispensary.”
Many customers are already following this advice, and delivery services are reporting a massive uptick in sales. "We have seen an increase in our delivery services across all of our locations, with record-breaking sales over the past two weeks," said a spokesperson for Caliva, another local dispensary chain that offers delivery services, to THR.
Although coronavirus may cause a short-term boost in sales, it is still likely to have negative impacts on the legal weed business in the long run. Many states, including New York and California, have banned large gatherings of people, and many major cannabis events have been canceled. These cancellations include many 4/20 celebrations, which have traditionally been responsible for massive weed sales.
The vape industry has also been impacted by the virus, as it is largely a hardware industry dependent on overseas manufacturing. Pretty much every element of a vape — other than the cannabis itself — is made in China, and the shutdown of Chinese factories has created a serious supply shortage for the vaping industry.
Health warnings may also decrease sales of vapes, or even flower. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio recently warned people who are infected with coronavirus to steer clear of vaping and smoking nicotine or weed until they recover.