Pandemic anxiety and mounting concerns about vaping have helped shift sales of cannabis products.
Ben Emerson had never tried cannabis edibles before his birthday in April. He was raised in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which he left five years ago, and marijuana was “this thing that I had never really even thought that I was allowed to do,” he said.
“And then I’m like, ‘Wait, I can actually make up my own mind about this.’”
For his first foray, Mr. Emerson, 38, chose strawberry-flavored gummies, which he ordered online and picked up curbside at a dispensary near his home in Portland, Ore. “I’m not super-interested in smoking anything,” he said. “But as soon as I decided I wanted to try cannabis, I wanted to try something edible.”
Anxious times (say, a global pandemic) call for palliatives, like meditation, exercise or, in some cases, weed. More than a dozen states declared cannabis stores and medical marijuana dispensaries essential businesses, along with pharmacies and grocery stores, as the coronavirus sent millions of Americans home, with or without jobs.
Since March, the cannabis industry has seen an influx of new customers: Eaze, an online cannabis retailer, told The Associated Press that first-time purchases of cannabis were up more than 50 percent in early March. And as fear of inhaled products has risen — spurred partly by studies of “vaping illness” and exacerbated by respiratory risks associated with the coronavirus — many consumers have opted to enjoy cannabis in edible form.
When the Apothecarium, an upscale dispensary with locations in California and Nevada, moved from in-store retail to curbside pickup in March, Cali Manzello, the general manager of its San Francisco flagship, noticed a change in the size of orders.
“One of the first orders that printed out from the pickup machine said 25 packages of this gummy on it,” she said. “And we all kind of giggled. We were like, ‘Ooh boy, here it goes. It’s starting.’”
“It did not stop,” Ms. Manzello continued. “People were ordering, you know, up to the legal limit, which can be up to 80 edibles in some cases.” Ms. Manzello said that the company’s edible sales are up 16 percent, while vape sales have fallen by 19 percent.
“Edibles every year have been taking up a bigger slice of the pie,” said Alex Levine, an owner and joint C.E.O. of Green Dragon, a dispensary that operates 15 locations in Colorado. “Right before corona hit, edibles were basically at 20 percent of our sales. That was a huge increase over the past couple of years.”