In response the coronavirus crisis, regulators began allowing the curbside pickup of weed in most legalized areas.
Editor’s Note: The practice is slowly being disbanded in Canada, but continues across the US with the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The enterprise, which covers recreational and medicinal in most areas, has been largely positive, with a few hiccups and false-starts. And, while some customers are itching to stand across from a budtender once again and browse a collection of cannabis chemovars they can see and smell, the curbside pickup of weed has produced some very big upsides.
But, while dispensaries from California to Quebec have been able to adapt to the crisis and stay in business, are these new strategies going to cause problems in the long term?
From Farm to Your Doorstep
While regulations are slightly varied across provinces, states, and cities, the gist of most new rules are the same: Keep customers out of the stores as much as possible. To accomplish this, many cannabis shops have asked their clientele to order online or by phone. Once the order is placed, the dispensary either sends out a driver to deliver the product or gives customers a time to swing by the store and their order is shuffled out by a masked employee, who checks ID then makes the drop off.
It’s not a perfect system. One wrong order or miscommunications can cause backups and keep cars waiting on their curbside pickup of weed and snarl traffic outside. But for the most part, the practice seems to run effectively.
For example, Ontario allows all cannabis shops, private and public, to operate curbside pickup of weed from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. Consumers in New Jersey now have the option to avoid waiting in long dispensary lines. Ohio, a state that has only legalized medical cannabis, issued rules April 3 allowing for the curbside pickup and drive-thru options.
How Coronavirus Affects The Cannabis Industry
The Covid-19 boom hasn’t crippled the cannabis sector like it has so many other businesses. Many states labeled it essential. Instead of closing up, shops had to find ways to adapt and thrive during the crisis.
But the early days were still rough. Before curbside pickup of weed was allowed, many locations limited the number of customers allowed in the store. That led to long lines, excruciating wait times, and clusters of strangers in close proximity for extended periods of time — prime ways to spread an airborne virus.
Instead of becoming vector hotspots for the disease, which is a real concern for medically minded dispensaries, cannabis shops needed a way of getting medicine to patients that didn’t put their health in jeopardy.
Curbside pickup was launched, and by all accounts, business is thriving. While vice industries, such as alcohol, always do well during economic downturns and periods of uncertainty, the cannabis market doesn’t fully follow its ups and downs. Because cannabis is a medicine, one that inexpensively replaces several others, it may also see an uptick in sales during health and economic crises.
In fact, things may be going too well. Thanks to increased demand during times when supply chain disruptions are common, consumers could see a cannabis shortage soon.
Could the Curbside Pickup of Weed Continue After Covid-19?
The success and relative ease of curbside cannabis has already brought calls for extending the practice beyond the crisis.
After all, medical cannabis customers aren’t all going to suddenly be in perfect health after the pandemic ceases. Many people with compromised immune systems would still find benefit in curbside, drive-thru, and delivery options for cannabis. Many of these are options that weren’t always available before the health scare. For many cannabis customers and dispensaries, however, it’s too early to tell what regulators may do.
More states are opening up their economies. During this, cannabis shops have the option of shifting their business from curbside pickup of weed to in-store sales. That could put employees and clientele at greater risk, but could also help patients who feel unsure about weed products and want to talk through recommendations with a knowledgeable staffer.
Some places, such as Ontario, have put sunset timelines into their new regulations, meaning things will return to normal soon. Other places, however, will have to take official action to remove or restrict their newly allowed practices. It’s impossible to say how things will go. But, if the success of the last few weeks is any indication, curbside pickup could be here to stay.
Coming Full Circle
Curbside pickup of weed has buoyed the cannabis sector during the coronavirus outbreak, but there’s something about the new practice that feels, well, familiar. Think for a minute: You call a supplier. You meet at a certain time. They hand you a baggy at your car or your door. It seems is awfully reminiscent of the days before legal cannabis.
Is it possible that illegal weed dealers had the best system this whole time? Could it be that the way to compete with black market cannabis is to offer all the same benefits? Home delivery, convenient pickup times, less hassle? The Covid-19 pandemic may provide us with knowledge we didn’t know we needed. We could discover better ways to expand access to cannabis. And that may be the brightest silver lining on the dark cloud of these times.