The COVID-19 pandemic’s chilling effect on local businesses, which have been forced to alter practices or close altogether, has put many industries on unstable footing.
Then there’s marijuana retailers.
Marijuana dispensaries were deemed essential businesses by Gov. Jared Polis on March 20. The decision not only reflected the medicinal needs of some, but also allowed cannabis lovers’ favorite day a month later to still be celebrated as planned – somewhat.
A month that those in the cannabis culture had been anticipating has instead been dominated by a global health crisis that has undercut many nations’ economies. However, aside from the shift to curbside pickup and limitations on staffing, Colorado’s marijuana industry is as healthy as ever.
“As far as staffing, we’ve had to keep a certain amount of staff on shift to abide by the 6-foot social distancing rules the governor released,” said Justin Voyles, floor manager at The Happy Camper in Palisade. “As far as business, we’re definitely seeing more than normal. I feel like we’re doing just as much in sales, if not more, than usual. We’re pretty alright currently.”
At The Happy Camper, customers place their orders online, check in at the front door and wait in their vehicles for the dispensary to call them to notify them their order is ready inside. This is the standard many dispensaries are abiding by.
Despite the limitations on staff and mostly increased waiting times at dispensaries across the Western Slope, this April 20 was on par with, if not more financially successful than previous years.
“Our world has changed and we have adapted,” said Suzanne Shelley, owner of the Elk Mountain Trading Post dispensary in De Beque. “The cannabis industry is notorious for having to evolve with the ever-challenging changes to rules and regulations since it was legalized in our state. We have a new workflow allowing for social distancing and health safety practices to help keep our community safe while still providing high quality organic and natural essential products. Our store workforce has been reduced slightly due to social distance practices, but our company has adapted well.”
This was the fifth 4/20 for Elk Mountain Trading Post. Thanks to its adaptation to COVID-19 restrictions and its presence online, its sales leading up to and on Monday were on par with last year.
One factor that may have helped dispensaries is the federal government’s $1,200 stimulus checks for citizens. Many Coloradans received their check not long before 4/20.
When it comes to farming the marijuana that these dispensaries sell, the coronavirus has likely not even been the biggest threat.
On the Front Range, where much of the state’s cannabis is produced, the changing of the seasons has not meant a change in the weather. Some parts of the state, such as Boulder, have seen a record for snowfall this year.
“The biggest issue is mainly weather because most of our stuff comes from the east side of the state,” Voyles said. “The weird weather lately in the mountains has definitely impacted some things. I imagine growers have a lot more space to abide by social distancing laws so you can have one person watering a bunch of plants and a bunch of people harvesting and spread apart.”
Some dispensaries struggled at first to adjust to a world dominated by the coronavirus, but this year’s 4/20 showed that they’ve regained their footing.
“The first couple of weeks of state mandated shutdowns did affect the supply chain and delivery routes,” Shelley said. “Things have now come back and we are in full swing the last couple weeks.”