As COVID-19 swept across the nation throughout March and into April, the entire country went into lockdown, shutting the doors of many small businesses. However, every state that holds some form of cannabis regulation (i.e. recreational and/or medicinal) has allowed sales to continue.
Alongside food and delivery services, cannabis is now considered an essential business. The New York Times even went as far as to say these kinds of efforts were “official recognition that for some Americans, cannabis is as necessary as milk and bread.”
States have some leeway when it comes to legislation surrounding what is deemed essential. For example, in Massachusetts, medicinal cannabis sales have continued but all recreational sales have come to a halt. Whereas in Colorado, adult-use continues under the guidelines that purchases are limited to curbside pickup. In some states like Nevada, only home delivery of adult-use is allowed.
Currently, there are a number of people in Congress who want to lift this quarantine and let businesses continue as before. Unfortunately, their hopes are merely optimism in the face of a rampant virus and the length of this lockdown still remains uncertain.
With all this free time on our hands, we have a great opportunity to reflect on a lot of the changes we’ve seen in terms of cannabis over the past few years. More particularly, how our society has moved away from the Reefer Madness propaganda and taken its first steps towards finally understanding this miraculous plant.
Medically Essential, Recreationally Put Up With
It’s important to remember that people use cannabis for a wide range of reasons. While we admit some of us are just trying to get high, there are many out there who consume cannabis products for ailments that would normally require prescription medication. And, it’s safe to say, a good majority of us fall somewhere in between wanting to get high and trying to medicate.
Many local governments took note of these trends in cannabis use and gave the people what they wanted. Currently, there are 11 states that have legalized adult-use for anyone over 21 and 33 states with medical cannabis laws. Not to mention, outside of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), other cannabinoids have been catching a lot of attention, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG).
Since the cannabis industry is so new, we are still learning how the marketplace operates. When COVID-19 began to sweep the nation and governments had to start mandating businesses, it became apparent that there remains a number of people who shop at recreational cannabis shops for medicinal purposes.
Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told the Rolling Stone, “Whether a patient’s registration gets too expensive, or they don’t have one of the qualifying conditions in their state – or maybe they forgot and didn’t get their medical card renewed. A lot of people depend on the adult-use system to get their medicine.”
To take things further, one of the biggest concerns among legislation is the illicit market making a comeback. If people in legal states aren’t allowed to legally purchase cannabis during this pandemic, then there’s no reason they shouldn’t give their old dealers a call.
“There are untested, unregulated products that are potentially dangerous, and they could be obtained in an unsafe manner,” Fox proclaims.
The real issue with cannabis is states are trying to make a distinction between medical and recreational cannabis when, in reality, there is no difference. It’s the same plant people are using for different reasons. Therefore, it’s quite unjust to claim one cannabis dispensary as essential when it has a medicinal store name and another as not due to its recreational implications.
Lock Down and Smoke Up
It’s worthy to note that, during this time, the main concern for everyone is health and public safety. There’s a lot of panic floating around our society and, with that, some media outlets have deemed considering cannabis an essential business as ludicrous.
However, these media outlets have some weight to their argument. For one, being as most people inhale cannabis as a means of consumption, they are more at risk of lung damage in comparison to a non-smoker. COVID-19 just so happens to attack the lungs and it’s already been proven that cigarette smokers are at a much higher risk of serious symptoms to even fatality.
Though there isn’t really any data currently out there proving that COVID-19 can have deadlier effects on a cannabis consumer, the assumption is fair. Even many within the cannabis community have taken note of this potential and have turned to edibles rather than smoking.
Still, it’s granted a majority of cannabis enthusiasts aren’t taking these concerns too seriously. In fact, when this lockdown initially began, cannabis sales skyrocketed. Liz Connors, director of analytics for cannabis data with Headset told the Rolling Stone, “When I look at the March data for Washington state, it looks like there were two 4/20’s. Just before the shelter-in-place order, we had days that were over 100 percent increase in sales from the prior day.”
According to her observations, sales have stabilized and are a bit below average. It’s important to remember, at the initial time of lockdown, nobody knew whether or not cannabis businesses would remain open. In fact, most of us most likely figured they wouldn’t due to the prohibition we’ve been relentlessly fighting over the past decade.
Therefore, the skyrocket in sales was nothing more than a panic response amongst the public. Similar to how people were hoarding toilet paper, everyone wanted to make sure they were well stocked up on cannabis for the duration of this lockdown.
Now that it’s obvious dispensaries will remain open – and the panic is starting to settle – cannabis sales will most likely continue at their stable output.
Fox put the whole situation perfectly into perspective when he said, “Ensuring continued access to legal cannabis has cut down on panic buying and stockpiling. We’re in a situation where our health care systems are already overtaxed. It doesn’t make any sense to interrupt people’s health care during the midst of a crisis like this.”
Cannabis has come a long way over the past 10 years and it’s very much thanks to our efforts. Without the push for legalization and normalization of this plant, there’s no way it would be considered during this pandemic.
COVID-19 has brought a lot of pain and struggle to many out there. Not to mention, it has left even more people stuck inside their homes for an uncertain amount of time. Through all this, we will come out stronger as a society.
And, in terms of cannabis, we will have a healthier perspective on this miraculous plant. For legislation and much of the population is starting to wake up to the fact that it holds so much potential to cure.