How Will Coronavirus Affect Weed Dispensaries?

With COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, in full swing, many citizens are panic-buying products in bulk. But what does the coronavirus mean for weed dispensaries?

Famously, toilet paper supplies have evaporated amid the coronavirus crisis, along with other essential items in anticipation of a COVID-19 lockdown and a shutdown of global supply chains.

But there's one important question on every cannabis aficionados mind; what does Coronavirus mean for cannabis dispensaries?

As we covered yesterday, cannabis events, conventions and even 4/20 parades will be either canceled or postponed in light of the coronavirus in attempts to minimise social interactions and thus the spread of COVID-19. This undoubtedly will have effects on cannabis stores in several ways, the first of which is panic-buying.

In anticipation of a potential lock-down, dissipating supplies or the need to self-quarantine, reports are already emerging of long lines outside of Amsterdam cannabis dispensaries with people hoping to stock up on weed supplies.

Cresco Labs' dispensary in Illinois, the U.S. state which most recently legalized weed, implemented a text-based check-in platform at its Sunnyside dispensary in order to minimize interaction in the waiting area. Recent waiting times at the Sunnyside dispensary were about one hour for recreational patients, according to the dispensary's website.

Many countries globally are imposing travel restrictions to and from other countries, and if these become domestic restrictions or curfews it's likely people will stock-up on weed to make sure they're supplied for their more solitary lifestyles amid the crisis.

If pot panic-buying does occur in a similar fashion to what we've already seen with toilet paper, it's likely dispensaries will also experience an undersupply of cannabis. While countries like Canada reported an oversupply of cannabis late last year, dispensaries have an obligation to ensure they maintain stock for their medical patients, who themselves are likely to stock up to minimize visits to potentially crowded dispensaries.

Cresco Labs text-based check-in measures are a smart way to minimize the crowding at dispensaries, as it places shoppers at risk from contracting the virus, most particularly risking the health of already compromised medical patients who are likely to come into the store at this time. In fact, the Sunnyside dispensary is considering limiting services to medical patients precisely to minimize their risk of infection, highlighting the necessity for people to avoid flocking to stores.

The third and final area that COVID-10 will impact, interestingly, is vaporizer products. As many will know, vaporizers have already been hurt by the recent vaping crisis that plagued the industry in late 2019/early 2020. Deaths and illnesses from illicit vaporizer products instilled fear into the broader community, who were previously shifting toward vaporizers en masse as a healthier, smoke-free alternative prior to the crisis.

Now, just as confidence is beginning to return to the vaporizer industry, the Coronavirus may once again throw a spanner in the works, as the global supply chain – particularly in the case of vape products – may be impacted.

Experts estimate that close to 95% of all vaporizer components are manufactured in China, with just 5%-10% of supplies that are made by U.S. manufacturers.

With the Coronavirus first emerging in China, the country was the first to begin shutting down factories and operations to mitigate the spread of the virus. This is beginning to place a strain on the U.S. cannabis industry.

"People will stay in business, but it's frustrating and a little disruptive," said Nick Kovacevich, CEO of KushCo Holdings, who manufacture many ancillary cannabis products. "The reason it's taking a long time is the workers couldn't get back to their factories to restart production."

Additionally, the CEO of Tilray, Brendan Kennedy stated: "If we were to feel the impact of the [coronavirus], we would feel it first with the 2.0 products."

As it stands, countries are implementing measures to slow the spread of the virus and ensure that citizens remain safe, though the number of people affected by the virus continues to climb globally. It is important for readers to remember to wash their hands, maintain social distancing, and to not flock to their nearest dispensary, as that may put those with compromised immune systems at risk. If you notice any of the symptoms linked to COVID-19, it is important to stay at home and maintain a safe distance from those around you to minimise the spread.

As for the future, the weed industry may take a hit during this time, but it will come back in full force once the virus is under control.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.