With cannabis dispensaries across the United States having to adjust their business practices to comply with social distancing guidelines, the online market for marijuana sales has started to boom. People are being asked to stay in their homes as much as possible to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Thus, the online consumer base for weed has skyrocketed. Some businesses have seen a spike as high as 50% in their online orders. Marijuana dispensaries are considered essential businesses in California, on par with other medical facilities like hospitals, blood banks, and mental health clinics. “Workers supporting cannabis retail” are listed as part of the essential workforce as well. Some states only allow for medical cannabis facilities to stay open, but within the State of California, recreational cannabis shops have been permitted to continue operation as well.
Shoppers stock up on weed during quarantine
Just after California's Emergency Order went into effect, people flocked to stock up on weed. Data on sales collected by a cannabis analytics company called Headset shows sales of marijuana products jumped 56% in a single day at the start of the crisis. The same is true of several other states where cannabis is legal. The Bureau of Cannabis Control supported a rule in January of 2019 that allows marijuana deliveries to be made to people's homes across the state of California, and many local jurisdictions approved it. Now, that's being put to use more than ever. Headset says sales overall have leveled out and are now approximately the same as they were before the start of the crisis, but there have been some notable fluctuations, and the way people are spending their money has changed. While people rushed to buy up a bunch of weed right away with the shelter-in-place order first went into effect, there was a significant drop in sales afterward as people had less disposable income. Then, as stimulus checks starting being distributed and 4/20 approached, sales went up yet again.
4/20 becomes a full week of celebration
Normally, on the day of April 20th, marijuana sales skyrocket to the point of doubling the typical day-to-day numbers. This year, since people want to avoid crowds, sales went up throughout the entire week leading up to the “holiday” rather than on the day itself. On April 16th, Headset explained, “...Consumer purchases of premium eighths (3.5 grams of Flower) has remained constant despite the economic impact of COVID-19 on the cannabis consumer's wallet. One could hypothesize that consumers would begin shifting their eighth purchases to lower priced items given the possibility of a smaller budget, but this has yet to occur,” That being said, many companies offered 4/20 discounts that also led to sales spikes.
Retailers adapt and struggle amid virus
California has allowed businesses to apply for licenses to organize curbside pickup of orders at dispensaries. Where in the past people would browse around a dispensary's shelves and counters, now people are looking for product on the web. For curbside pickup, you simply sift through the available product and make the order online, then drive over and have a low-contact exchange. Now, other states like Colorado and Washington are pushing for at-home marijuana delivery too. Though most states that have access to recreational marijuana will allow for purchases to be made online, you still have to go to the store in-person to get your goods. Part of that is because oftentimes, you can't pay for marijuana online using a debit or credit card. Many major credit card companies will not allow dispensaries to use cards for marijuana sales, since the product is still considered illegal under federal law. Visa and Mastercard are both clear about their stances against allowing cannabis companies to use their services. Because of that, customers still have to have contact with a person either at their home, in the store, or through curbside pickup, where they can pay in cash. There is a medical marijuana company that established a national credit program in 2019. Columbia Care extended country-wide but is not available for all dispensaries. There are also payment apps that are being made available, such as PayQwick, a marijuana-driven version of PayPal. Still, shopping online cuts out the browsing time within the store. Dispensaries in California are instituting social distancing policies that only allow a certain number of people into the store at a time, and once inside, you're asked to keep a 6-foot gap between you and other customers. Most people seem to find that sense of tension isn't worth it if they could just as easily browse that dispensary's available product on its website. If people have questions or want suggestions, they can still call the dispensary to ask for help. Eaze, an online delivery marketplace for marijuana, told US News and World Report that marijuana orders and deliveries in the state of California were up 38% back in March, and that number has only continued to clime. The Associated Press also says orders from first-time customers rose by 50% in that time period. The items people are purchasing has also shifted. Headset found that across the United States, sales in edibles, cannabis beverages, and marijuana flower had sales increases daily. Sales of edibles have seen the largest increase of those categories.
Weed's role during a time of fear and anxiety
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says stress, fear, and anxiety are heightened right now due to the coronavirus pandemic. Healthcare professionals say how people respond to that stress varies, but it's important to make sure to have a healthy way to cope. Likewise, those who have preexisting mental health conditions should continue their already-existing treatment. In a study conducted at Washington State University, the research team found that certain types and quantities of marijuana can be tremendously helpful for helping people deal with the feelings the CDC is warning about. “The WSU research team found that one puff of cannabis high in CBD and low in THC was optimal for reducing symptoms of depression, two puffs of any type of cannabis was sufficient to reduce symptoms of anxiety, while 10 or more puffs of cannabis high in CBD and high in THC produced the largest reductions in stress,” an analysis of the study reads.