Although we learned the U.S. economy entered a recession before the pandemic caused March shutdowns, the massive layoffs following March, April, and beyond haven’t impacted weed sales in Oregon, it seems. In fact, sales in March broke records as well. What’s the deal with record-breaking sales amidst a pandemic? Although Oregon isn’t bucking any trends, it might be surprising to some to find out that marijuana sales are doing well amid unrest and anxiety. Then again, if you’ve been following why pot has been legalized, this may be no surprise at all but the natural consequence of having readily available remedies to anxiety.
Not only were weed sales in Oregon on a 3-month growth streak, the year-over-year gains were phenomenal. Sales grew 60% YOY from April 2019 to April 2020 — even more incredible given the utter inability to hold public 4/20 celebratory events at that time. This should have been a banner year for weed events, but COVID-19 had other plans. A lot of event planners lost money on those events, but it seems dispensaries were not impacted negatively. Quite the opposite!
The Willamette Week gives the numbers, reporting $103 million in sales for May 2020. That third consecutive record month is somewhat less explainable, since previous months could be attributed either to the “holiday” of 4/20 or panic buying ahead of the pandemic effects. Instead, it seems pot buying may be up for other reasons, or related ones regardless of supply-side fears.
Right now the world is experiencing massive shocks to its systems, economic and societal. With an economy that is uncertain at best, it’s not without historical precedent to find people flocking to inebriants to manage anxiety. In the past, that’s usually meant beer and liquor, or pills. Today, residents, like those in Oregon, have easy access to marijuana. Whether it’s for diagnosed anxiety issues or smoked for recreational reasons, there’s likely a sociological reason why sales continue to skyrocket — and it isn’t population growth.
One thing that has helped dispensaries in Oregon: “essential” business classifications. Although some politicians have used this as an example of “government gone amok,” the truth is that dispensaries are just as much an essential business as pharmacies. At least, to medical patients they are. Which is why it only makes sense that dispensaries — selling pot either way — were allowed to stay open during the pandemic.
What will be interesting to watch is whether sales continue their upward trajectory as time presses on and a host of societal problems continue to fester. Is it anxiety that’s causing the growth in sales, or is this just reflecting pent-up demand after years of prohibition? Time will tell.