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Coronavirus and Cannabis: "Every Single Day has been Busier than 4/20" - LA Weekly

Nothing in the brief history of legal marijuana has ever spurred sales quite like coronavirus preppers, and now a week after its record day, the industry looks back at a wild run of days and wonders what the future holds. 

Last Monday, it quickly became apparent that, as word of pending lockdown orders started to spread across California, consumers were rushing to dispensaries. Unsure of what would happen to the cannabis supply chain in that moment, they bought huge amounts of pot.

“Every single day has been busier than 4/20,” an employee at People’s OC dispensary in Santa Ana told L.A. Weekly.

We spoke with cannabis industry data miners Headset the day after to see if they had picked up anything across the data points they cover in California. They said they did not see sales jump quite the same way they do on 4/20 — but it was close. Sales last Monday in California were 56 percent higher than the preceding four Mondays.  

But Headset’s data only cover so much of the market. Many retailers we called said Monday was the biggest day of their existence, whether they were a couple of months old or a couple of decades old. The pace of how well business kept up through the week varied from dispensary to dispensary, but many did awesome. 

“Over the latter half of last week and into the weekend we saw the winds shift dramatically in some states,” Headset’s founder Cy Scott told L.A. Weekly. “The stock-up behaviors demonstrated early last week cooled off by the weekend, especially in California.”  

Scott noted Headset saw sales nearly double normal volumes on the 16th and 17th (Monday and Tuesday).  However, as shelter-in-place orders took effect over the weekend, there were fewer orders and sales dipped below normal levels. Sunday sales were down about 15 percent compared to an average Sunday for stores that remained open; however, that dip excludes the many stores that temporarily closed their doors. 

Weedmaps data confirms these trends. Their online ordering platform also saw record numbers. In a week-over-week comparison, they observed a 207.25 percent increase in the number of orders placed during the week of March 16 in comparison to the previous week. Weedmaps also observed a 191.33 percent increase in the number of orders placed this past weekend in comparison to prior one on the eve of lockdown orders starting to pick up steam. 

In fact, Weedmaps experienced the highest number of orders placed through the site in the company’s history last Friday. At the end of the day, they were at 235.75 percent of 2019’s 4/20 figure. 

“With a little over a week left in March, we’ve already seen a 73 percent increase in unique customer orders than in the entire month of February,” Weedmaps’ communications director Travis Rexroad told us. 

The longtime providers at Alternative Herbal Health Services in West Hollywood were thrilled to see the city and state take active steps to preserve the cannabis supply chain by declaring dispensaries essential, but their main concern is with the most at-risk populations they provide medicine. According to AHHS owner Jason Beck, it was also fair to say they also rode the wave of consumers statewide rushing to secure longer-term supplies of marijuana than usual. 

“Our main goal is that we’re open and we’re providing services to our most vulnerable and most needy members of the community,” Beck told L.A. Weekly before speaking on last week’s sales bump. Beck pointed to the combination of long-term supply and foot traffic that made everything so wild. “We had a lot of traffic and people buying up, but how that translates into the following weeks we’re not really sure yet. Nonetheless, we’re just glad to be able to remain in operation,” he said. 

We asked Beck about concerns around the industry after last week’s records. They believe it might be tough times ahead as consumers’ cash reserves start to dwindle, with no end in sight for when people will be able to return to work.  “I think that’s a realistic thing for every essential industry, not just cannabis,” Beck replied. He pointed to the reality of the impact of what is happening right now on Americans that live paycheck to paycheck.

Over at Caliva’s lineup of dispensaries, things are also going great. 

“So far in March our delivery business is seeing double-digit growth. We have seen an increase in our delivery services across all of our locations, with record breaking sales over the past two weeks,” Caliva president Steve Allan told L.A. Weekly. “We know that many cannabis users rely on our products and services for their ongoing well-being, so having a delivery option that can continue to service them during these unprecedented times is something we’re proud to keep up and running, of course with the safety of our own employees and our community front of mind.” 

Allan said sales have increased for all of Caliva’s most popular products, including Caliva top sellers such as Dogwalkers, Reef Leaf, and our DELI by Caliva Ounces and Quarters.

The National Cannabis Industry Association pointed to the sales spike as clear evidence of how essential cannabis is to many American consumers. 

“The sales spikes we saw around the country in cannabis businesses over the last two weeks is indicative of a combination of factors, including the fact that it is actually essential to the health and wellness of many consumers, coupled with the uncertainty of continued availability as the pandemic response progresses and intensifies,” NCIA’s media director Morgan Fox told L.A. Weekly

Fox believes the fact that an increasing number of state and local governments are either declaring cannabis businesses “essential” or facilitating continued access in some form is a great sign of the legitimacy and acceptance of regulated cannabis providers. He said that it also shows the recognition of cannabis itself as a valuable medicine, therapeutic product and safer alternative to alcohol.

“Early assurance on the part of the authorities that at least limited legal access will continue can go a long way to alleviating any further panic buying or stockpiling, which could create unsafe conditions for everyone and supply problems for patients,” Fox said. “Failure to allow some form of legal access will almost certainly push some consumers into the illicit market, where they will be exposed to untested and potentially harmful products, obtained under unregulated and dangerous conditions.”