How COVID-19 changed the Cannabis industry
Since the start of the pandemic, consumers have been experiencing heightened anxiety over looming fears – their jobs, their health, economy, food, etc. The cannabis industry recognized an opportunity and transformed itself by demonstrating resiliency, business maturity, and establishing itself as a member of the community and economy.
There are still small cannabis start-ups that are less likely to survive in this climate; drying up cashflow through investments or loans. Those that are stable enough to survive are thriving. In a time of crisis people are looking to buy more cannabis products, not less.
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A major milestone for the cannabis industry was business classification. The industry demonstrated maturity and has been established with the likes of grocery stories, pharmacies, and liquor stores. The industry’s response to the pandemic was equally as swift as say groceries or take-out. Dispensaries across the US began mandating the same safety measures other businesses were implementing such as curb-side pick-up or limited in-store shoppers.
By reclassifying as “essential” business, it removed any negative bias against users. Treating dispensaries as pharmacies legitimized the need for cannabis consumption.
The Cash Problem
The cannabis industry is a brick and mortar industry. There is no Amazon of cannabis that will ship to your door in 1 day (perhaps one day this will not be the case). The WHO and CDC have warned that the exchange of cash could transmit COVID-19. Most troubling, we cannot use credit cards to transact – it’s mostly cash business. The classification on the federal level as “essential” however being federally illegal doesn’t make sense. In the short term, there are cash problems for health and business survival reasons. In the long term, this could be a valid argument to legalize cannabis at the federal level – not like we need any more arguments.
COVID-19 could have opened Pandora’s box for the federal government to legalize at the federal level. In some states cannabis businesses COVIUD-19 have received federal relief funds. These are muddy waters for the federal government however it begs the question: where does legal cannabis begin and end?
Long Road Ahead
The key takeaways are that the cannabis industry is much like every essential service industry – there are some companies that have seen positive sales growth while others have shuttered their doors. Unlike grocery or retail stores which have more runway to innovate or pivot their sales funnel to digital marketplaces, the cannabis industry needed to innovate within itself. The essential service classification has propelled the industry forward. The lines between the federal government and the cannabis industry are even more blurred. What was once considered criminal activity, is now recognized as essential products for people with health conditions.
Covid-19 has really elevated the cannabis industry to the mainstream.
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