The new coronavirus isn’t stopping Coloradans from buying weed

Sales are pretty solid, at least according to two local cannabis companies. But there are concerns about supply.
5 min. read
Simply Pure dispensary in Denver’s Highland neighborhood, March 19, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

This year's 4/20 festival was supposed to be a big one. For a festival obsessed with those three numbers, this year's event was especially fun: 4/20/20.

Then COVID-19 happened, and the massive gathering at Civic Center Park was canceled.

Yet the outbreak hasn't had much impact on overall marijuana sales, which are on the rise, at least according to two marijuana companies in the state.

Euflora marketing director Lindsay Hanna said Wednesday it's seen an uptick in sales over the last week. Euflora, which was the 4/20 festival's primary organizer, offers recreational marijuana sales in its six locations and employs about 125 people.

Hanna said customers are also buying up weed anticipating dispensaries will close. They're buying edibles and prerolls to make sure they can relax during what Hanna called "these crazy times." As of Wednesday, there was no specific order from Denver or the state calling on these kinds of businesses to close.

"A lot of people are out there 'stocking up' just in case they are quarantined, they want to have their supply of the things they like on hand," Hanna said. "It's also medicine for a lot of people. So we want to be able to be here for those customers that need this."

Hanna said they've primarily seen sales upticks in their stores outside Denver, including storefronts in Aurora. Hanna said its store in the RiNo Art District and another on the 16th Street Mall didn't see as much of an increase, with the location on 16th Street actually seeing fewer sales. Hanna said the trend might have something to do with less foot traffic around (Denver has banned gatherings of 50 or more people).

Inside the Green Solution's grow facility in north Denver. (Courtesy of Green Solution).

The Green Solution CEO Steve Lopez oversees one of the state's largest recreational marijuana businesses. The company operates its own grow facilities, including a massive warehouse in north Denver. He said he noticed a bump in sales starting last Thursday.

"Talking to some of our folks that are in the same business, not only in our market but in other markets, everybody is up," Lopez said. "(I'm) not sure if it's because everybody's worried about supply, they're just prepping, making sure that they have enough product."

At least one worker from the front line isn't so happy with the bump.

A woman who works at a dispensary in Aurora said many workers there are frustrated with the recent jump in sales. The woman asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from her employer.

"We're seeing people come in and buy weed like toiler paper," the woman said.

The store she works at regularly approaches or even surpasses the foot traffic usually only seen during 4/20. The woman said she has preexisting health conditions that would make her more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. But upper management is not allowing her or other workers to take precautionary measures like wearing face masks or gloves.

The woman said she has not worked long enough at the company to have sick time or vacation time. She said workers are scared about job security if they were to call out sick.

"It just seems like money is the priority here, not the employees," the woman said. "It doesn't feel good to feel disposable. It feels like crap."

Edible marijuana, in gummy form. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Lopez suspects the uptick in sales is connected to people suddenly stuck at home; people are practicing self-isolation or working from home because of the outbreak.

Hanna said their dispensaries haven't had any issues with getting the product from their suppliers. Lopez said while he thinks their dispensaries will be well-stocked, he has concerns about the industry-wide impact for smaller dispensaries.

"A lot of these ma and pa's, they're not vertically integrated, so they have to go to the wholesale market to get any of their products," Lopez said. "With this bump in sales, we think that's going to erode the inventory pretty quickly, and it's going to cause another shortage in the market, which is going to cause prices to spike."

Lopez said he thinks the longer people stay at home, the longer sales will likely continue to increase. He cautions that there is too much uncertainty about the new coronavirus and its spread to make accurate predictions.

Dispensaries are taking additional measures to prevent further coronavirus spread.

Green Solution spokesperson Sidney Stewart said staff there has always had limited contact with its marijuana flower. Employees at the company's grow facilities are required to wear protective gear, including gloves. Lopez said the company's packing system drastically reduces handling for products and individually packages edibles and flowers.

Trimmer Daniel Newkirk works inside Verde Natural's grow facility. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Since the outbreak, Stewart said it has "dramatically stepped up" cleaning at each retail location, with disinfection happening every four hours. Stewart said high-touch surfaces are constantly disinfected.

Euflora and the Green Solution employees reporting symptoms are being told to stay home. Hanna said employees who recently traveled were asked to stay home and are encouraged to speak up if they're sick.

Both companies want more people to place orders online. You can't get your weed delivered, but placing your order online and then picking it up in-store will help get you in and out of dispensaries quicker.

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