COVID-19 Boosts Cannabis Sales by 159% as Coronavirus Shutdown Looms

Panic buying is no longer limited to hand sanitizer and toilet paper rolls. Reports show that anxiety-driven consumers are now stockpiling cannabis in at least four US states.

Global markets are crumbling, lockdowns are being put into place and the worldwide death toll continues to rise thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Financial anxiety is also at an all-time high, as many fear that the government-ordered shutdown of all non-essential business may have a knock-on effect on the economy and lead to significant job losses.

Although, while the unemployment rate may be climbing, the owners of cannabis dispensaries throughout North America have reported a significant upswing in business.

Outside of predictable holidays like 4:20, I'd say for sure I've not seen anything like this before. I think people pick up toilet paper and hand sanitizer and think, "That was a rough trip; I should pick up some weed". I think there is probably a fair amount [of buying] due to recreation; this isn't all due to anxiety.

Headset Director of Analytics, Liz Connors

Adult use cannabis sales in California shot up by 56% on Monday, March 16—the same day that lawmakers a "shelter-in-place" edict for six counties in the San Francisco Bay area—when compared to the same period during the preceding weeks, while the sale of edibles experienced a staggering 107% increase.

Preliminary data from cannabis data intelligence firm Headset has also indicated that overall legal sales spiked by 159% when compared with the same day in 2019.

"Unlike most other products in our society, especially in California, there is an extremely robust underground market for cannabis," co-founder and chairman of Harborside, Steve DeAngelo said.

"If the dispensaries in California were closed, that slack would immediately be taken up by unlicensed delivery services."

"Those unlicensed delivery services do not test their cannabis, they don't know the provenance of that cannabis, they don't know whose been breathing on it, who's been handling it."

The world has been in a panic ever since the new Chinese coronavirus disease—which is now officially known as COVID-19—began stoking fears of a global pandemic in early 2020.

In San Francisco the outbreak of panic buying was initially spurred by an announcement that cannabis dispensaries would not be placed on exemption list of "essential" businesses that will be allowed to remain open during the shutdown.

However, the Department of Health would eventually elect to reverse this decision, as San Francisco residents began rushing to cannabis retailers to secure the supplies needed to ride out the quarantine.

"The Department of Health today clarified that since cannabis has medical use, dispensaries will be allowed to operate as essential businesses just like pharmacies are allowed to do," San Francisco Mayor London Breed said.

"So, it's important that we think about creative things we can do for the short term in order to get us all through this."

Reports out of Washington State have also been telling a similar story, as legal cannabis sales climbed by 23%, 14% and 33% on March 13, 14 and 15, respectively.

And just like in California, cannabis edibles received the lion's share of additional revenue thanks to a 51% boost in sales.

Conversely, the sale of flower only increased by 20%, which may be the result of hygiene concerns—as people are unlikely to share joints or bongs—during the Coronavirus pandemic.

"I think that's kind of what consumers are thinking, as well. So edible sales are really being boosted at this time," Headset Director of Analytics Liz Conners said.

"You don't have to touch your face very much to take an edible. They're all pre-wrapped, so you can hand a pre-wrapped edible to a friend."

Sales data taken from legal marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Nevada have also seen similar spikes in cannabis sales.


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And with the sector-wide pullback of 2019, this company is now at a bargain-basement price.

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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