Things That Matter

Thanks To The Pandemic, Legal Weed Sales Are Booming As Customers Stock Up

While COVID-19 has decimated many sectors of the economy with stay-at-home orders, shutdowns and layoffs, the marijuana industry appears to be booming, with the market doubling in size since February.

As anyone who is living through these stressful af times can tell you – that’s not surprising. From the pandemic to Black Lives Matter marches to a presidential election that just won’t seem to end, these are stressful times. And it appears that many people are turning to legal marijuana use to help calm their nerves.

With another round of lockdowns or stay-at-home orders possible with the growing second wave of Coronavirus, many expect sales of recreational and medicinal marijuana to continue to boom.

Legal sales of marijuana have boomed since March with no signs of slowing down.

Across the country – or at least in the states where recreational marijuana is legal – weed sales are booming. Some states are reporting 20 percent spikes in sales as overly anxious Americans prepare to be hunkered down in their homes potentially for months. This trend is only likely to grow with the results of an election hanging in the balance and the holidays coming up.

Weed sellers are staffing up too, hiring laid-off workers from other industries to meet demand. And in the midst of a historic market meltdown, stock prices for cannabis companies have surged, in some cases doubling since the public health crisis began.

Customers appear to be stocking up, and many stores are shifting to delivery. It’s also possible the industry is reaching new customers who, until now, have bought their pot illegally, but want to now take advantage of regulated product delivered to their doorstep.

Revenues are expected to hit $17 billion this year, according to New Frontier Data — a 25 percent spike over 2019.

The boom in sales is driven in large part by new legal markets, particularly the start of recreational sales in Illinois and Michigan. But even some states with relatively mature markets have seen big spikes in sales. In Oregon, for example, monthly revenues jumped from just below $70 million during the first two months of this year to more than $100 million in May and June.

States across the country now consider pot shops “essential” services and anxious Americans are flocking to them.

Credit: John Tlumacki / Getty Images

Across the country, sales are sky high in states where legal cannabis has been declared “essential medicine” during state shutdowns, allowing stores to stay open.

Nearly all of the 33 states with legal medical or recreational markets have classified marijuana businesses as an essential service, allowing them to remain open even as vast swaths of the retail economy are shuttered. San Francisco and Denver initially announced plans to shut down dispensaries, but immediately backpedaled after a public furor.

Weed shops are essentially being treated the same as pharmacies, reflecting a dramatic shift in cultural perceptions about the drug over the last decade.

Many people rely on cannabis as a first line of defense for medical issues especially with all the external stressors.

Industry experts believe the plant can help calm people during stressful times. “Most of all, if we don’t allow people access to cannabis — which is relatively safe — they’re quite likely going to start self-medicating with more dangerous substances,” says Stephen DeAngelo, representative for Merida Cannabis Group.

Meanwhile, street weed and its dealers are feeling the pinch as customers shift to legal marijuana.

For years, the legal marijuana industry has been battling street dealers who peddle in illegal marijuana and eat away at the industry’s profits. But the coronavirus has proven to be a boon for legal pot shops, as customers fear the risks associated with inhaling questionable products and are nervous about letting sellers into their homes.

“It’s understandable that people may be more hesitant to get their products from sources that are unregulated,” said Kris Krane, CEO of 4Front Ventures, which operates dispensaries in multiple states. “They may not want to go to their dealer’s house, or they may not want to have their dealer come into their house, at a time when people are social distancing and not supposed to be interacting with people that they don’t know.”

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