I last wrote about the virus on March 9, 2020. Six days later, the newspapers carrying my column lost 90% of their revenue, and I lost 100% of my syndicated column.
At that time, Governor Kate Brown declared a statewide State of Emergency the night before, and the scope of what was to come, and the speed in which it did, wasn’t clear to anyone. The unchartered territory of the pandemic deeply impacted every aspect of businesses, including cannabis.
Oregon responded quickly, announcing March 23rd 2020 that they were modifying rules to both increase the amount of cannabis an OMMP cardholder could purchase at one time to 24 ounces, and allowing curbside pick up for both medical and recreational sales while honoring social distancing rules.
Those changes were an option and not a requirement, but curb side pick up and delivery quickly grew in popularity.
Trips to dispensaries which choose to remain open in a traditional manner came with both the restrictions of social distancing, and reduced access to cannabis flower purchased. Many dispensaries began prepackaging the flower before sale, leaving consumers no opportunity to see or smell what they are purchasing.
Shortly after, Oregon determined cannabis an essential service, along with alcohol and the lottery. (Because both alcohol and scratch-off withdrawals can be brutal.)
That coveted “essential service” classification was earned for both it’s tax revenue generating power, and ability to keep people at home from freaking the fuck out, and going all Shining on their families during the pandemic. There’s a thing as too much togetherness.
Much as with toilet paper and flour, there was an initial spike in sales of cannabis, resulting in some short term shortages of select products.
March was a mind blowing month as far as sales went.
- March 2020 saw $84.5 million in sales, a record breaking month for any year
- From March 15-21, sales were up 65% over the same time last year.
- Oregon saw a jump in sales of nearly 30% for the first 18 days of March compared to 2019, which was on pace with other states – dispensaries in Washington State and California both reported a similar uptick in sales.
That spike in sales didn’t equate to long term gains for all markets. Headset released a report this week showing that some states saw a drop in sales for April 2020 compared to the year prior.
Nevada and Colorado saw a reduction in sales, while Washington saw a more than healthy 20% increase. The traditional 4/20 sales spike was soft as well, and post 4/20, many customers have stocked up for a week or two , or more.
The record breaking job losses aren’t helping sales, nor are concerns about smoking anything during a pandemic of a respiratory virus.
There remains the frustrating dichotomy of cannabis being both federally illegal, yet something states have quickly determined access to an “essential service”. Up next, we’ll take a look at how that purgatory status is keeping the industry from participating in the economic recovery tools available to other businesses.