On Thursday California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new order for all residents to stay at home and for all non-essential businesses to close—bars, shopping malls, and gyms among them. “Essential services” that will remain open include gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores … and cannabis dispensaries.
Many Californians have already demonstrated their belief that herbal relief is essential in a crisis: the San Francisco-based delivery platform Eaze reported more than double the number of first-time orders on Wednesday (March 18) compared to the same day in 2019. And market research firm Headset showed a nearly 160% year-on-year increase on Monday, the day Bay Area residents were advised to “shelter in place” and that San Francisco cannabis dispensaries were temporarily ordered to close. Cannabis sales in Nevada, Washington, and Colorado spiked early in the week as well.
Amanda Jones, the co-founder of Kikoko—a Bay Area-based manufacturer of cannabis-enhanced teas, honey, and mints—said sales were up 130% earlier this week. In particular she said high-CBD products formulated to deliver a sense of calm, such as Sympatea and Calm mints, were selling well. (By comparison, Nielsen reported that hand sanitizer US sales were up 470% the week ended March 7, first aid kits 111%, and toilet paper 60%.)
Jones said the company’s Emeryville, California packaging facility was working to fill orders with a skeleton crew of fewer than six employees, as opposed to its usual 25. In addition to shipping to dispensaries, Kikoko is also offering direct-to-consumer deliveries with updated hygiene protocol that allows customers to simply hold up, rather than hand over, their ID to a delivery person.
The New York Department of Health has also deemed medical cannabis dispensaries essential. Nevada and Colorado have allowed dispensaries to remain open so long as they observe social distancing advisories, and Illinois dispensaries are offering curbside delivery to medical patients. Jones said she was heartened that San Francisco quickly reversed its decision to close cannabis dispensaries Monday, following pressure from cannabis companies, patients, and advocates.
“I really think it sent a strong message to the state that people need cannabis,” said Jones, adding that restricting legal sales would only send customers to the burgeoning black market. “It’s not just a recreational activity. It is something that helps keep people calm. It helps with their anxiety; it helps with sleep; it helps with pain—all of which people need at a time like this.”