As measures to slow the coronavirus shutter businesses, stress grocery stores, and confine people to their homes, home delivery of marijuana seems to be one of the few industries still thriving. According to several delivery businesses, cannabis users are hoarding nearly as much dank as they are toilet paper.
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Lisa Hopkins, CFO of Kush Cart, a cannabis delivery service in Portland, Oregon, said orders “skyrocketed” about a week ago. “Oh yes, we’re pretty much slammed 24/7,” she told Wikileaf on Monday.
Oregon legalized home delivery of recreational cannabis in 2017, but the accelerating pandemic has produced a surge in demand that has been hard to keep up with.
“We’re scrambling, but holding up OK,” said Hopkins. “It’s definitely been more than I think we can handle.” The delivery business faces challenges with inventory at one end and delivery logistics at the other, not to mention that according to Hopkins, “the laws just aren’t very friendly for scaling delivery right now in Oregon.”
Nonetheless, Hopkins said that Kush Cart was “definitely” better positioned than retail dispensaries for this climate. After wishing luck to those businesses trying now to adapt, she said delivery is “a completely different infrastructure to build. That’s why I feel like we really lucked out, in that we started and specialized in this specifically.”
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The surge in business does not preclude other worries, though, and Kush Kart employees are taking extra precautions to keep their product and customers virus-free. Namely, gloves. “Oh my gosh, so many, bulk orders of them,” said Hopkins.
Other calls around Portland confirmed the rush. One representative from another delivery service hurriedly acknowledged that they were “extremely busy right now” before hanging up to field more orders.
In California’s Bay Area, one of the regions hardest hit by coronavirus, delivery services are also bustling, in part because of the statewide shelter-in-place order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday.
A representative from Foggy Daze, a San Francisco cannabis company that SFist called a “farm-to-bong weed delivery service,” said the business saw a rush of orders for the first several days after the shelter order, which also instructed all nonessential businesses to close.
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“We have a lot of regulars, so I think a lot of them were definitely stocking up,” she said. “Were we worried we were going to close? I mean, we had no idea. We were preparing for it, but we were just taking it day by day. We had no intentions of closing unless we were absolutely forced to,” she said.
The representative said San Francisco residents were worried that the dispensaries would not be deemed essential, and were racing to stock up on bud before it was too late. “Especially when they put everyone in a shelter in place, that’s when they really got out of control,” she said. “It was absurd. “
However, she said, “it seems like it’s slowed down a bit, it seems like the panic is sort of over. Since now we are deemed essential and able to continue delivering, I think it’s starting to even out again.”
Meanwhile, in Nevada, all dispensaries have been restricted to delivery-only as part of Governor Steve Sisolak’s order on Friday to close non-essential businesses. Kate Smith, Field Marketing Manager at Essence Cannabis Dispensary in Las Vegas, which operates multiple retail stores, said, “now that we are on a delivery-only status, we have seen an influx.”
The surge in online orders has been steep enough that the dispensary has been maxing out by noon each day. “Us, and other dispensaries as well, are doing next day delivery because the demand is so high,” said Smith. “So all of the orders that we are receiving today will go out tomorrow. That’s just kind of the pattern that we’ve set in place to be able to receive a bulk amount of orders, bulk process them all, and then get them all out the next day.”
Smith said the transition to delivery-only from mostly retail has not been easy, and that the current system is not adequate to meet the consumer demand for cannabis. The dispensary is “working hard right now to add on more delivery drivers, things like that, but there are definitely a lot more people needing their cannabis products than are able to receive them right now,” she said. “Long and short, there’s more people than we can service with just being at delivery-only right now.”
Despite the difficulty, Essence is more prepared than some dispensaries to shift into room service mode. “Luckily, we have had a delivery system set up through Blackbird Go, so we’ve kind of had that infrastructure in place,” said Smith. Previously, their delivery service had been used “here and there” by customers who had preferred that method.
Now that it is the only option, customers have been encountering some logistical difficulty, especially with the online ordering process. “Older patients that come in and aren’t as tech-savvy, having to navigate with them how to utilize the online ordering, things like that,” said Smith.
The news that Essence would need to transition to online-only came as a blow, Smith said, because Nevada dispensaries have been working hard to keep their patrons safe from the coronavirus.
“A lot of dispensaries had made plans for limiting how many people were allowed inside and encouraging curbside pickup,” she said. “Unfortunately we received news just yesterday that we had to close all of the in-store operations. They were seeing too many people still congregating, still trying to form lines even though dispensaries tried to minimize that as best as they could.”
Other states with strict coronavirus measures have also seen spikes in cannabis delivery, even when such deliveries are not legal. As New York Magazine reported earlier this month, New York City’s word-of-mouth weed courier services are “working in overdrive.” As measures to limit the pandemic spread to other states, we should expect to see more and more business shift away from retail stores.