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The Curious Case of COVID Cannabis Sales

The Curious Case of COVID Cannabis Sales

Cannabis sales during the COVID-19 pandemic

A tale of two (or more) sales cycles, it would seem. By March 16thsales for legal cannabis in California were up 159% from 2019 numbers. What’s most interesting about this, is that many dispensaries are reporting that while there were insane increases initially, things are mellowed back to their mean, and even under the average for some dispensaries. However, some are still reporting that they’re just as busy as ever. Why is this?

If we look at the landscape of the industry in California, you can piece it together a bit with deductive reasoning. If you pay attention to public sentiment it seemed that most people, initially, were a bit slow to take the situation seriously. Parks were still filled with people, public places had gatherings over the amount proposed by the state, and most people seemed generally annoyed at the adjustment to everyday life.

However, as time passed it seems public sentiment quickly turned to one that understood the current situation, and the need to truly shelter-in-place, as mind-numbingly boring as it may seem. During this initial phase, most consumers seemed to understand that they’d be home with very little to do for a good while. You started to see people stocking up on to the point of product shortages on a wide-spread level, like toilet paper, pasta, meat, and other items most are used to having readily available wherever they shop.

Data indicates the same kind of logic was applied to cannabis that was applied to food and other goods, and that’s where we see a surge in sales or cannabis. As consumers obviously ran out to stock up in preparation of a lengthy shelter-in-place staycation. So, what exactly happened that led to these sales surges turning into a plateau?

It’s important to understand, that as you read further, this is nothing more than an opinion piece. In this article, my goal is to simply speculate on what has transpired, and I don’t in any way shape or form claim to know this is the gospel truth of the situation. Having said that, let’s walk through some possible reasons for these odd sales behaviors for the legal cannabis industry.


A lot of times when people stock up, it takes a ‘minute’ until they need more.

This one is fairly straight-forward. If you go out and stock up on a bunch of product, more than you’re normally purchasing said product is going to last you longer than it normally would have. If you normally smoke an 8thevery two weeks, for instance, and you bought an ounce instead of an 8th, assuming you’d want to be sitting at home for a while without going out for anything – it’s safe to say there’s a good chance you’re not going to be coming back two weeks later to replenish your supply.


As people started taking the situation more seriously, they started to really try and make sure to not leave the house as much as possible.

This one is also very straight-forward. As this situation progressed very rapidly, people started to realize the reality and severity of what was happening. As part of this realization, people generally wanted to limit the amount of time they spent outside and around other others in crowded spaces. Along with that, not every dispensary in California offers services that make it easy for customers to still receive the products they want while addressing their concerns about social distance. When you mix the heightened social anxiety with the lack of options that are respectful toward a desire for social distance, you will see a decline in customers that are willing to come into a store.

When you look at dispensaries that have seen the increase in sales steady during this process, you are looking at companies that have found ways to keep customers confident in their desire for social distance.

For example, here at Delta Dispensary, we’ve put an express order service in place, where customers can be brought the products they ordered with very little contact involved. Granted, a contactless system is difficult, as this product requires verification, of both age (to qualify for purchase eligibility) and identification, it also requires a hand-off, and isn’t a product that customers trust to just be left unattended.

Other dispensaries that have reported putting similar approaches in place are also reporting that these order pickup options have become wildly popular and led to sales remaining high.

Another factor is delivery. Obviously, not every dispensary offers a delivery option, and obviously during a time like this, not being able to deliver limits the possible market-share for sales from the standpoint of the dispensary.

So, while the sales in aggregate have fallen off a bit from the peaks they saw initially, the good news is the industry is still strong, and in some areas, those sales increases haven’t declined at all. It’s this writer’s opinion that this is another classic case of businesses that find innovative ways to keep customers happy while also addressing customer needs are ultimately the businesses that survive, and this is something that we see to be true time and time again.

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