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Eggs? Check. Milk? Check. Weed? Check.
Nevadans are stocking up on marijuana along with the rest of their goods as they self-isolate in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While marijuana dispensaries remain open currently, both industry and state officials are encouraging consumers to order products remotely and have them delivered to their homes. State officials emphasized that shops are not allowed to have lines, waiting rooms filled with patrons or curbside service.
“It’s difficult because we are a more ‘affectionate’ dispensary,” said Ed Alexander, owner of Sol Cannabis in Washoe Valley.
As a business, shaking hands and hosting outdoor concerts has made the dispensary a more welcoming place, he said, but Alexander now is encouraging his clients to stay home and order deliveries of product. He’s seen a 25 percent jump in sales over the past few days.
Not only are consumers flooding the shops with orders, but they’re buying in bulk.
Roy Bingham, CEO of BDS Analytics, which collects cannabis industry data, said there’s a 10 percent increase in the number of purchases nationwide and a 20 percent increase in the amount of product people are purchasing.
“The spike in sales that we saw is similar to what we see for a holiday like 420,” said Bingham, referring to the global celebration of marijuana each year on April 20. “That’s the biggest holiday of the year (for dispensaries).”
Data also shows people are buying more raw cannabis, or flower, indicating many of the people that consume marijuana for medical reasons are stocking up, versus consumers who tend to use concentrates and edibles for recreational reasons, Bingham said.
Courtney Meredith, a spokeswoman for Mynt, a recreational and medical marijuana dispensary in Reno, said clients were getting ready for a long haul indoors by doubling up their purchases, though the state limits all purchases to no more than an ounce of marijuana product.
Consumers are buying up edibles, vaping products and raw cannabis, Meredith said. For now the shelves continue to be fully stocked.
Meredith said the number of deliveries had increased substantially in the past week as city, county and state officials have ramped up closures of other businesses statewide.
While there has been no indication yet that Nevada marijuana establishments will close, consumers caught wind of San Francisco’s brief, and then rescinded, closure order of dispensaries citywide.
Supply chain concerns spur buying
Industry expert Matt Karnes of cannabis data firm GreenWave Advisors said cannabis users are stocking up for the same reason people are stockpiling other supplies: fear that the desired product will run out.
“The supply chain continues to show signs of vulnerability and for the cannabis consumer mindful of potential inventory shortages, this could trigger the decision to purchase more product upfront,” he said.
The supply could run into challenges if communities continue to stockpile, according to Bingham. Or, vice versa, the demand may drop off as consumers remain home.
“I think the big concern for everyone in the cannabis industry is that this a short term blip and then we will see a deterioration of the market. While there’s a pick up in sales, it’ll be interesting to see if the demand slacks off,” Bingham said. “If the country is told you can only go to the grocery store, you’re going to see less traffic (at dispensaries).”
Regardless of purchasing ups and downs, there is the expectation that dispensaries will maintain best practices for social distancing to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Social distancing could be particularly important for dispensaries’ medical patients, whom the Nevada Department of Taxation noted should only receive consultation over the phone or online.
Many medical patients have compromised immune systems and seek cannabis for pain relief and other healing effects.
“Staff is required to wear gloves at all times and they are sanitizing tables, registers, doors and any items being handled in-between each customer. They have also been limiting the amount of people at one time into the facility during the in-take process. This can effect the time frame of purchasing which is why customers should consider pre-order pickup options and delivery,” said Meredith.
Still, even if patients and other consumers receive deliveries, there is a cash exchange and ID check. Many states that have legalized recreational marijuana have banned product deliveries, though California and Nevada both permit them.
In Colorado, some marijuana establishments are opting to close because of the difficulties in avoiding social distancing. In a largely cash-only industry, it’s hard to cut in-person contact from daily tasks.
New policies for spike in deliveries
The Nevada Department of Taxation on Wednesday announced in a news release that it is adjusting its procedures to account for a likely increase in deliveries of product.
The department will be conducting 360-degree video inspections of newly registered delivery vehicles in an effort to approve new delivery vehicles at an expedited rate. The vehicles still must be operated by registered agents, taxation officials said.
The taxation department currently has eight of its 11 inspector positions filled and said it is positioned to continue “robust” regulatory oversight of an industry that has been marred by headlines about tainted product and lawsuits.
Riana Durett of the Nevada Dispensary Association said Nevada was not alone in keeping its dispensaries’ doors open. Other states, including New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Washington, Oregon and various localities in California and Colorado were permitting the continued operation of dispensaries namely because of medical patients’ demand for cannabis.
Jenny Kane covers arts and culture in Northern Nevada, as well as the dynamic relationship between the state and the growing Burning Man community. She also covers the state’s burgeoning cannabis industry (Check out her podcast, the Potcast, on iTunes.) Support her work in Reno by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.
USA Today Network reporter Trevor Hughes contributed to this report.
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