Everyone wants to wear face masks this season. Toilet paper (even single ply!) has vanished from shelves across the nation. And the legend of the once-scoffed-at hand sanitizer grows daily. Is cannabis next?
“We saw sharp daily increases in sales, number of transactions and ‘average’ transaction amounts for the five days prior to Gov. Newsom’s statewide shelter-in-place (SIP),” says Eli Melrod, CEO of Solful, a Sebastopol-based dispensary. “During that time there were many municipal and county-issued indicators that an overarching SIP order might be coming. We were not sure how to interpret the increased demand but, in retrospect, we attribute it to folks stocking up because they were not sure if they would have a dependable supply under a broader SIP mandate.”
It’s been a little over two years since weed became legal across the state of California. To date, commercial cannabis sales have raised more than $1 billion in taxes. The recreational cannabis market—one that was launched to much fanfare and with sky-high expectations—became big quickly, but never quite reached the level many predicted. Brutal competition between the legal cannabis industry and the thriving black market continues to contribute to semi-sluggish recent growth and the oversaturation of some key markets.
Now, thanks to the coronavirus, the Golden State is experiencing a cannabis resurgence. Many California dispensaries have reported record growth in recent weeks—in some cases, numbers not unlike the first day of recreational sales. But this spike might just be a COVID-19-inspired blip.
“There’s a weird mass hysteria going on now,” says Cole Hembree, owner of Curbstone Exchange, a Felton-based dispensary. “In the wake of the shelter-in-place order, we literally doubled our numbers. People are freaking out about COVID-19 and ordering more—in a stockpile-type scenario. We’re doubling our orders from all of our vendors just to keep up with demand.”