420 Brings Sales Bump Despite Social Distancing

By Terrance Turner

This year, what was anticipated to be a bigger-than-ever 420 was tamped down due to coronavirus. Large gatherings were forbidden; only eight states allowed recreational pot businesses to remain open. But April 20 brought a bump in recreational sales, despite social distancing requirements.

Today, new data emerged from a “regulatory compliance technology company” named Akerna. (According to investors.com, Akerna sells compliance software to cannabis companies. It also provides software to state government regulators that want to track the industry.) On Monday, recreational cannabis sales were up 23% compared to 4/20 last year.

Headset, a cannabis business intelligence firm, showed a decrease in sales compared to 2019. However, weekly sales have increased: Headset data from California, Colorado, Nevada, and Washington showed that sales on April 20 were up 65% from April 13. In California, the results are particularly notable. Driven Deliveries, Inc. is the first publicly traded cannabis delivery service in the United States. That company, based in Southern California, reported its largest single sales day in history on April 20. The online retailer announced that it had exceeded its last sales record by 31%. PR Newswire reported that Driven’s promotion campaigns had sales over $100,000 in just 12 hours.

It is California where this story originally began four days ago.

The following content was written on April 20, 2020.

Exactly one month ago today, Yahoo! News highlighted California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order to shelter-in-place for all 40 million state residents. (That meant stay home unless you’re seeking basic necessities or medical care.) Surprisingly, among the “essential businesses” that Newsom designated to remain open — with grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and hardware stores — were dispensaries. By the time Newsom issued his order, California’s sales had already shot up 159 percent (!!!) over the previous March.

According to SF Weekly, the situation was not unique to Cali. In Denver, public officials initially decided that liquor stores and dispensaries had to close under its stay-at-home order. The result was lines wrapped around the city’s pot shops (with some disregarding the six-feet-apart rule). As Colorado Public Radio reports:

When he announced the city’s stay-at-home order on March 23, Hancock said recreational marijuana dispensaries, as well as liquor stores, would not rise to the level of “essential.” The Denver residents who quickly formed long lines at liquor stores and pot shops disagreed […] Throngs of people rushed stores, contradicting Hancock’s earlier advice not to “panic buy.” The mayor’s office issued new guidance just a few hours later and told Denverites to get out of line and go home.

With lines and “panic buying” setting in, Denver mayor Michael Hancock amended his order. “All marijuana stores with extreme physical distancing in place will be exempt,” he wrote on March 23. According to Denver news outlet Westworld, Denver’s dispensary sales jumped 392% from noon to 4 p.m. on March 23. The lines returned after stimulus checks were issued the week of April 15. Westworld quoted data tracker Flowhub, saying that recreational sales in Denver increased on April 15 in dispensaries nationwide.. That day, Denver dispensary Seed and Smith reported a 49% jump.

In Oregon, too, sales soared ahead of a March 23 stay-home order. The Motley Fool stated that users in Oregon bought $84.5 million worth of (licensed) product in March. The sales were over 30 percent higher than they had been in March 2019.

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