The pandemic has hobbled entire sectors of the economy but the cannabis industry is surviving, even thriving. Sales are up as consumers turn to marijuana for stress relief and recreation. Companies in the industry are making those sales easier and safer with online ordering to reduce contact between retailers and customers. There are even a variety of new products for consumers to try.
Consumers may be cutting their spending, but not on cannabis. Retail sales of medical and recreational cannabis in the U.S. is predicted to top $15 billion by the end of 2020 according to the Marijuana Business Factbook. That’s an increase of about 40% over 2019 sales.
Two thousand people who consume marijuana regularly were surveyed by Verilife and reported using more cannabis during the pandemic. Their increased consumption upped their average monthly spend on cannabis from $49 to $76.
Greg James, the publisher of Marijuana Venture and Sun Grower magazines, said at least part of the sales increase is due to the bars closing. “Staying home and enjoying a joint or edible becomes the thing to do,” he said.
One of the high growth areas noticed by Lightshade, which operates nine cannabis dispensaries in Colorado, is sales of cannabis flower products, including pre-rolls and expensive boutique brands. Lisa Gee, director of marketing at Lightshade, said that one reason behind the jump in flower sales is the increase in cannabis users now working from home who prefer to smoke cannabis over other ways of consuming it. “When you don’t have to go into the office every day, you don’t have to seek out more discreet methods of consumption,” she said. Work from home may now mean smoke at home.
While many businesses are shuttering, cannabis companies are unveiling new products. Wana Brands of Colorado recently launched Wana Quick Onset Gummies to meet one of the perennial challenges of the edibles’ category, the variability of the time it takes for consumers to feel the product’s effects. The new gummies aim for a five to fifteen minute onset time, with effects that will last about three hours. It also offers a “low dose” of THC, 5mg, which is half a standard dose. Eric Block, chief revenue officer of Wana Brands said his company had seen growth in cannabis-infused edibles sales during the pandemic.
CBD products are also coming to market. Kimberly Dillon, previously the chief marketing officer at California’s Papa & Barkley, recently launched a line of CBD-infused hair and skincare products made for women of every background called Frigg Wellness.
Martha Stewart’s line of CBD products for pets and humans, announced in June of 2019, will be making their market debut this fall.
To reduce interaction between customers and retailers, some companies are also implementing online ordering which allows patrons to spend less time in-store. That means no more leisurely chat with the local budtender. Block says Wana Brands is investing in digital and online technologies to educate customers. “Pre-COVID, the dispensary budtender has had an outsized influence on cannabis product purchases,” said Block. Now companies have a chance to control the conversation.
Of course, the cannabis industry is not a money-printing machine, even when demand expands. Basic business rules apply including follow the intricate laws carefully, keep pristine records, and hire excellent employees. Most businesses fail because they “have questionable management and unrealistic business plans,” said James. He has spoken with hundreds of cannabis companies during the six years his magazines have been published. “As with most businesses, the successful ones quickly adapt and figure out how to manage with the new normal,” he said. “Good management and well trained employees are as valuable in Cannabis as in every other industry.”