In the intersection of the COVID-19 outbreak and marijuana businesses across the U.S., two different stories have emerged.
At the top of the pecking order, major cannabis players aren’t looking so swell. Entire growth strategies have been scrapped, thanks to disruptions in supply chains and dropping stock market valuation. Raising capital was already difficult for marijuana businesses as of late, and investors could wait to make moves until the market stabilizes.
On the other hand, marijuana dispensaries and stores can’t complain. The Fresh Toast contacted several stores in Washington’s Puget Sound to better understand how the coronavirus had affected sales. A Snohomish County resident in Washington received the first positive test for the coronavirus in the United States and, by some accounts, the state is suffering among the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country.
None of that, however, has stopped residents from stocking up on marijuana.
”Listen, when the people are in a state of unease about something like COVID-19, they need to know that they can manage their stress and anxiety,” Tedd Wetherbee, owner of The Gallery chain in Tacoma, told The Fresh Toast. “What better way to do that then with cannabis? Our sales are up and we’re happy that we can be a part of making people feel better about the madness going on around them.”
Stores have taken extra precautions to help contain the spread of the virus while still supplying residents with cannabis. At The Gallery, employees have set up stand-alone sanitizing station at all of their locations to ensure customer safety.
A new research study could help explain why marijuana sales are up. MKM Partners conducted a survey of 1,000 cannabis consumers and 863 alcohol consumers and found the two vices are being used the most to self-medicate in these trying times.
According to MKM analyst Bill Kirk, marijuana users were more likely to isolate themselves or gather only in small groups when consuming weed, while alcohol drinkers preferred larger groups. As medical experts and national leaders urge social distance to limit spread of the coronavirus, Americans will find themselves more isolated than usual in the coming weeks.
“The vice of choice when alone is cannabis. The vice of choice in large groups or with new people is alcohol,” Kirk told Investors Business Daily. “We believe any increased stay-at-home activity related to COVID-19 will accelerate the vice share shift away from alcohol toward cannabis.”
Some disagree. Groups might not gather in downtown bars or indoor sporting arenas, but people are still gravitating to alcohol during this time. They are just buying their wine and spirits at liquor stores in bulk instead, says Marques Warren, President of Downtown Spirits in Seattle.
“Sales at Downtown Spirits have continued to grow overall, however, specific customer groups have pulled back,” Warren told The Fresh Toast. “Most visibly, corporate sales have slowed dramatically as so many [South Lake Union] firms [in Seattle, where Amazon, Google, and Facebook are located], have suddenly closed up for the month of March. Our home delivery and brick-and-mortar businesses have continued to grow.”