Arizona’s medical cannabis dispensaries raked in plenty last month, despite coronavirus shutdown


Bethan Rose Jenkins , Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that has caused hundreds of countries to impose a “lockdown” seems to have had a positive impact on the cannabis industry at large. In particular, Arizona’s medical cannabis program is benefiting from the craze of panic-buying that has erupted since the COVID-19 crisis started in the United States this year.

Based on the latest state figures, Arizona’s medical cannabis program welcomed an influx of qualified buyers in March; 17,095 pounds of cannabis was snapped up during the entire month. When compared with sales revenue from February, purchases increased by 15 percent – or 2,200 pounds – last month.

These impressive sales figures – which are the highest ever to be recorded by the state – represent the sheer size of Arizona’s medical cannabis program. Consistent growth has been noticeable since the first dispensary opened its doors in December 2012 and, as of 2020, Arizona’s medical cannabis market is believed to be the third-largest in the U.S.

Arizona’s cannabis dispensaries remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic

Although cannabis businesses in Arizona are allowed to continue operating while the coronavirus “lockdown” is ongoing, there are a number of restrictions in place. For example, patients are required to leave a six-foot gap between one another when they queue up outside dispensaries. Another safety precaution that has been imposed by many of Arizona’s dispensaries amid COVID-19 is cannabis delivery; although some retail stores were already offering cannabis delivery services prior to the pandemic.

Some job positions have also been switched up to ensure Arizona’s medical cannabis market continues running smoothly, with individuals who were previously working at events now assisting with distribution, packaging, production and/or budtending. However, the hiring process for new cannabis industry workers has been halted, since background checks and drug testing facilities have been shuttered.

Timing of record-high medical cannabis sales in Arizona is a key factor

March wasn’t a typically “normal” month for Arizona’s medical cannabis industry. Why? Because it was at this point that the coronavirus pandemic blew into full force. Fearful that supply chains could be further disrupted – or worse, closed – cannabis consumers and everyday shoppers have been purchasing their goods in larger-than-normal quantities. A stay-at-home order for Arizonans was announced by Gov. Doug Ducey and enacted on March 31. Two weeks before its enactment, patients flocked to dispensaries and purchased their bud in record numbers; likely to prepare for the looming lockdown.

More than 40,000 cannabis sales were recorded in Arizona on Friday, March 13. This is according to the Department of Health Services, which publishes a monthly report of the state’s sales figures. When put side-by-side with March 2019, this year’s figures were 32 percent higher. Year-over-year (YoY) sales figures for February also inflated by 29 percent this year. Although promising, supply shortages have occurred as a result of increased demand for what Dicey says is “essential business” amid COVID-19.

Dispensary owners are advised to adjust and adapt to the unpredictable economic landscape during the coronavirus scare. This is especially important, because there’s a possibility that the governor will extend the social distancing measures throughout May. If anything, the fact that cannabis has become an essential household item for many Arizonans indicates that recreational legalization could gain a whole host of new supporters once the pandemic is over.