The cannabis industry has once again had to work to adapt to and overcome yet another challenge: surviving in the era of COVID-19 lockdown. In states where cannabis is legal, those businesses have been deemed “essential,” and these enterprises have been allowed to remain open for business — while still technically illegal federally. This makes the situation a little different than most other industries. Cannabis industry employees, already regulated to high hell, are now working under even more restrictions (social distancing, masks, and PPE protocols) than ever. Yet tragically, those same canna-businesses aren’t eligible for any of the government stimulus money available to other businesses trying to survive the pandemic. But through sheer tenacity and creativity, many of them will weather the storm.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, I promise. From offering delivery services to adapting product selection to meet consumer needs, here’s how cannabis companies have adapted to COVID-19.
While temporary for now, some of these changes may just become permanent. For example, the I Heart Jane platform started curbside pick-up services within a day of California’s cannabis regulatory changes. The site coordinates sales for over 1300 dispensaries around the country. Within a week of the switch, the site’s service added 100,000 new users. Likewise, the state of Nevada, while shutting down all cannabis retailers, is allowing medical and recreational marijuana delivery. That means some savvy entrepreneurs, like The+Source, with locations in Las Vegas, have jumped at the chance to offer its own in-house delivery service to customers.
Oregon, which is allowing cannabis retailers to remain open during COVID-19’s shelter in place orders, is still doing its part to maintain social distancing requirements while also serving up customers. Portland cannabis retailers like Chalice Farms is offering home delivery and curbside pick-up for online orders, a handy option when there are strict limits on how many customers are allowed in the store itself.
Other companies haven’t been as sure in their decision making. The Green Solution of Colorado flip-flopped, closing and then re-opening its sales floors, tried and then quit a curbside pick-up service, and is now trying to entice customers to place web orders. They’re trying to sweeten the deal with discounts and fast-track store pick-ups to maintain business while minimizing person-to-person contact.
Besides curbside pick-up and home delivery options, some retailers have adapted their products to what customers are clamoring for while stuck at home. Whether or not recent product trends have anything to do with last year’s vape health scare, combined with the fact that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, but edibles are surging in popularity. Emjay, a cannabis delivery platform based in Los Angeles, quickly realized that their customers were shying away from vape pens and switching to consuming edibles, with sales in that category jumping by 200%.
It might be that consumers need a longer-lasting high (resulting in exploding edible sales), or that cannabis is serving as a nerve-soothing component in these highly unusual times. Regardless, these times of crisis have pinpointed what products and services consumers are willing to indulge in, all of which imply that cannabis is a robust industry.