(This story has been updated to include information about new federal guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.)
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Fort Collins, Colorado, cannabis retailer Organic Alternatives closed voluntarily on Monday over concerns about the spread of coronavirus – and many more marijuana shops likely could do the same soon despite the loss in sales they’ll experience.
Worries around marijuana retailers closing also could lead to a run on cannabis stores, where consumers buy out products due to fears that businesses will remain shuttered.
Additionally, that could lead to higher costs and lack of medical marijuana for patients.
Although he declined to give a dollar amount, Maka Kala’i, director of sales and marketing for Organic Alternatives, a vertically integrated company, told Marijuana Business Daily closing the business will result in “significant financial losses.” The store is closed indefinitely.
This is one of the first known instances of a cannabis retailer voluntarily closing because of coronavirus fears.
Organic Alternatives’ cultivation facility and infused products operations are still in business.
Kala’i reported the store was receiving more than 500 visitors a day recently, meaning the store decided to turn away from a large uptick in business for the safety of its workers and the community.
“If there is a larger shutdown, prices will skyrocket,” said Nic Easley, CEO of Denver-based 3C Consulting. “There are implications when it comes to not just recreational but medical marijuana and patients who need medicine.”
Easley said runs have already begun at cannabis retail stores throughout the country, and he expects them to continue.
At Organic Alternatives, the recent crowds “were like 4/20” in the past few days, according to Kala’i, meaning much busier than normal.
“You’d think we were selling toilet paper here,” Kala’i said.
“With that amount of people, we felt it was in our best interest to protect our staff or anyone in our lobby.”
The closure came soon after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced Sunday that all Colorado ski areas would close and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that gatherings of more than 50 people should be limited for the next eight weeks.
The Trump administration on Monday announced new guidelines to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, including avoiding groups of more than 10 people, according to The New York Times.
Kala’i pointed out that Organic Alternatives was seeing far more than 50 people come through its doors each day.
“We feel it is our responsibility to do what we can to help stop the spread of this virus,” Kala’i wrote in an email announcing the closure.
“The most socially responsible step is to shut our doors until our community has the ability to effectively test (for the virus.)”
Meanwhile, some local regulators are including dispensaries along with pharmacies in lists of essential businesses.
The Crested Butte (Colorado) Town Board, in an emergency session Sunday, considered closing all businesses to the public with the exception of grocery stores, gas stations, liquor stores/dispensaries, medical offices and hardware stores, according to the Colorado Sun.
While many businesses might choose to close without being forced to, companies that shutter early risk losing market share, according to Easley.
And recovering that market share can be difficult.
“Once someone leaves your store and finds another store, you’ve got a 50% chance of losing that client for life,” he said.
And they’ll remember if a store tries to extort them in a time of need. Easley believes this is an opportunity for cannabis retailers to see how to price products accordingly and not just price gouge.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at [email protected]