While the coronavirus pandemic is causing havoc in all market sectors, new data shows that legal cannabis markets in the U.S. saw a significant spike in sales in recent times. But even though consumers are currently stocking up on cannabis products, the fast-developing cannabis industry faces difficult times.
Coronavirus and cannabis hoarding is leading to supply bottlenecks in legal markets
As the global toll of COVID-19 victims continues to rise and an increasing number of American states, as well as many European countries, are closing all non-essential businesses, cannabis dispensaries across the U.S. are thriving. Legal weed businesses report having lines of customers waiting outside, similar to those you’d see in front of pharmacies or grocery stores.
New data shows that cannabis sales in California spiked by 159 percent compared with the same dates in 2019. And that seems to be happening in all legal cannabis markets in the U.S. The sales recorded on Monday were, on average, higher by 30 percent across all markets. People are buying cannabis in larger quantities because they don’t know when they’ll have the opportunity to buy again.
But the recent surge of cannabis shopping exposed how fragile the cannabis supply chain really is. And it all started in China.
Most of the hardware needed for the cannabis industry is made in China. So, when the Chinese factories slowed or stopped their production during the coronavirus outbreak, American cannabis companies had little choice but to rely on their existing stock and wait for their new orders to arrive.
Shipment delays of materials, such as plastics, packaging, extraction and cultivation equipment as well as hardware, led to supply problems across the U.S. And the shopping surge almost KO’d some cannabis businesses.
The first cannabis businesses that were affected by the coronavirus crises were cannabis vape shops. Unlike other cannabis companies, vape shops rely heavily on their Chinese imports. Up to 95 percent of the components that go into a cannabis vaporizer are made in Shenzhen, China.
As a result, almost every vape shop sold most of its stock before the coronavirus scare hit the U.S. Now, the shopping surge left these shops almost empty.
And other cannabis businesses aren’t doing too well either. In many states that legalised recreational marijuana, cannabis stores are not considered essential, so they might have to close at a moment’s notice.
Even though shops are currently flooded by customers, store owners are reluctant to increase their stocks because they are fearing they might be closed down before they receive their orders. As a consequence, cannabis enthusiasts are scrambling to buy whatever products they can get their hands on.
Advocacy groups are urging local and state authorities to declare that cannabis dispensaries are essential
In some parts of the U.S., local and/or state authorities declared that cannabis dispensaries are essential during health crises, so weed stores can remain open. With this move, regulators put cannabis companies above other businesses, such as restaurants, bars and regular shops.
However, this only happened in a few places across the U.S., and at the moment it’s difficult to say how many officials will share this view. Advocacy groups are urging government officials to keep cannabis dispensaries open because tens of thousands of people depend on cannabis to treat various medical conditions.
Some are even going as far as saying that even cutting off recreational cannabis sales would cause a disruption in the lives of many because a lot of cannabis consumers use products bought from recreational stores to treat undiagnosed or poorly diagnosed medical conditions.
Cannabis dispensaries are taking measures to protect their customers
Cannabis businesses are taking measures to protect their consumer base. Many businesses are limiting the number of customers they are letting inside a dispensary at the same time, and they are enforcing social distancing for the safety of their staff and clients.
Some businesses are shifting towards a pre-scheduling, delivery or a pick-up only system. These companies are assigning employees to sanitise the stores and respect all the hygiene recommendations necessary to limit coronavirus exposure.
Cannabis delivery companies are also taking extra precautions to protect their staff during this health crisis. The staff need to wear protective gloves and masks, and they no longer touch ring bells or door handles to complete a delivery. Buyers are also asked to refrain from touching the delivery person or the package until the delivery person leaves.
And some weed dispensaries are taking drastic measures to help their customers. Dispensaries operating in states that don’t allow cannabis delivery are calling for volunteer caregivers to meet the demands of their patients.
One dispensary in Pennsylvania asked for 100 volunteers to deliver cannabis orders to patients across the state. The dispensary is looking for caregivers who are older than 21, and it’s prepared to pay the state-required registration fees on behalf of these volunteers.
The volunteers will deliver cannabis products that are essential in the treatment of immunocompromised marijuana patients who shouldn’t leave their homes during this coronavirus health crisis. Each volunteer can deliver products to up to five patients.
Hard times are coming for cannabis businesses
That being said, the coronavirus pandemic already affected millions of businesses around the world, and the cannabis industry is not excepted from this. Even though legal cannabis markets are witnessing a sales increase at the moment, the situation is bound to change if the coronavirus epidemic will affect more people in North America.
Combined with the latest market rout and the fragile financial status of many cannabis businesses, the future of cannabis doesn’t seem too bright at the moment.
However, some companies will come out of this crisis stronger and better than ever. Their complete dedication toward helping their clients during these trying times might earn them a loyal customer base that will keep using their services when things calm down.
This unfortunate event could also help many cannabis entrepreneurs understand that, at the end of the day, companies that put their clients, not their profits, first are the ones that thrive.