Cannabis sales boomed this past week the same way toilet paper and sanitizer did during this past … [+]
Antibacterial wipes and toilet paper aren’t the only items flying off store shelves during these days of COVID-19 contagion: In at least four western states, legal cannabis product sales this past week also spiked in a big way.
The supporting data was comparable only to sales for the annual April 20 cannabis holiday, said Liz Connors, director of analytics at Headset, a Seattle-based cannabis data intelligence company. “Outside of predictable holidays like 4:20, I’d say for sure I’ve not seen anything like this before,” Connors said in an interview.
Among the data points her company collected over recent days were:
· In Washington State, sales of adult use cannabis on Friday, March 13, were up 23%, up 14% on Saturday the 14th and up 33% on Sunday the 15th – compared to those days the prior week.
· Average baskets [analytics lingo for transactions] in Washington State on Sunday the 15th were $33.70 before taxes, up 22% over the previous weekend, and up 28% compared to shopping days in January and February. Edibles seemed a particular hit, with a 51% boost in sales, with flower products up just over 20%.
· Also for Edibles individual products soared: Craft Elixirs jumped 90%, and 420 Bars, 80%.
· In California on Monday, March 16, when officials announced a shelter-in-place order for six San Francisco Bay counties, adult use cannabis sales spiked 56% higher than the trailing four Mondays. On the 16th, too, Edibles had a whopping gain of 107% over standard volumes. This increase was nearly comparable to 4:20 edibles sales last year, Connors said.
What to credit this apparent coronavirus-related product rush to? Maybe it was the anxiety consumers feel. Or perhaps it was just more a matter of stocking up for the possible weed-less weeks ahead. “I think people pick up toilet paper and hand sanitizer and think, ‘That was a rough trip; I should pick up some weed,’” Connors joked.
She should know, considering that Headset, reported the above data points for “legal” dispensary states Washington, California, Colorado and Nevada, as well as for Alberta, Canada.
Headset is a Seattle-based cannabis market-data intelligence company that is connected to just under 1,000 cannabis retailers across the United States and Canada. The company uses point of sale data collected in real time from 65 percent of cannabis retailers in Washington State, for instance, and about 100 in California.
Data are collected for both inhalable (flowers, prerolls, concentrates) and non-inhalable (tinctures, edibles, topicals, beverages) products.
The results help retailers better run their stores, Connors explained. “My team of analysts takes that data and analyze it and create market forecasts,” she said.
Asked to interpret the coronavirus-era cannabis-buying spikes, Connors first used the term “panic buying,” then back-tracked. “I think there is probably a fair amount [of buying] due to recreation; this isn’t all due to anxiety,” she said.
Interestingly, much of the spike is CBD-based, indicating that people may be trying to treat their anxiety rather than get high. “We are seeing [non-THC] CBD rolls grow fast,” Connor said, “as opposed to sativa [products], which were only up 25 percent.”
Eli McVey, a senior analyst with Marijuana Business Daily, also interpreted the Headset data and its causes. The weekend increases might be attributed to normal factors, McVey said, citing Nevada’s tourism-driven market, for instance.
The more recent weekdays were a different matter, he said. “Once we got to Monday, the [influence of coronavirus] was unequivocal. Monday was a huge day for cannabis retailers across those four states. I don’t think there’s any doubt that this was driven by the coronavirus. You talk to retailers; they’ll tell you the same thing: big increase in demand.”
Boredom about being house-bound might be one explanation for the spikes, McVey allowed. But so might questions about what the future will bring. “There’s been uncertainty around: ‘Will cannabis retailers be subject to the same kind of closures that bars and restaurants have been subject to?’” McVey said. For an item like alcohol, consumers can no longer go to a bar but can usually buy alcohol at grocery stores.
Not so cannabis buyers; dispensaries are their only option.
In that context, NORML, or The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law, put out a statement on March 18 calling on officials to designate cannabis dispensaries as “essential” during the coronavirus crisis and therefore able to stay open for medical patients dependent on cannabis products.
Earlier, NORML brought up a different point, with a recommendation, in line with Centers for Disease Control guidelines, “encouraging consumers to consider alternatives to inhaling combustive cannabis smoke.”
Both Connors and McVey said they were on board with this advice and with the notion of people not sharing pipes or joints during the COVID-19 crisis. “I think that’s kind of what consumers are thinking, as well,” Connors said, “so edible sales are really being boosted at this time.
“You don’t have to touch your face very much to take an edible,” she said. “They’re all pre-wrapped, so you can hand a pre-wrapped edible to a friend.”