By Linda Williams
Despite the increased legalization of its recreational use, the ever-popular green flower has remained stigmatized in society. However, despite concerns by anti-drug advocates, this psychoactive flower is here to stay. As herb-enthusiasts overcome negative stereotypes and embrace its relaxing beneficial qualities, the budding industry has exploded. In states where recreational smoking is legal, local economies have flourished. In California specifically, 500 successful dispensaries rake in up to $2 billion annually.
As California remains an epicenter for the COVID-19 virus, the state has confined marketplaces and individuals to quarantine. The government has allowed essential services like medical facilities, grocery stores, and financial services to remain open to the public. Among the list of qualified businesses are dispensaries, which have kept their services up and running through widespread closures.
Adapting to the enduring pandemic is an obstacle every essential business and community must refine or risk failure. In addition, legality and regulation will continue to shape the future and rapid growth of the herb market, pushing industry leaders to innovate. For flower lovers in states where recreational use is legal, dispensaries receiving the stamp of approval from government officials is a breath of liberating air. However, if you’d prefer to stay indoors, delivery services are available, and equipment sites like MJ Arsenal will have the necessities on your doorstep in no time.
Essential services have become a saving grace for the pandemic-stricken LA County, and there’s a reason dispensaries are joining the short-list of businesses allowed to remain open.
Advocates showed their support
In 2020, several advocacy groups came together to support the dispensary market during the heat of the pandemic. Entities like Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Veterans for Natural Rights drafted an open letter to the governor and legislative leaders, arguing the benefits of herb and urging leaders to deem dispensaries essential.
Cannabis has become a consumer staple
Years of legality and normalization have expanded the cannabis consumer base. For thousands of LA County residents, smoking or ingesting herb is much like indulging in a cold glass of beer or winding down using melatonin. In times fraught with uncertainty and anxiety, more people are turning to flower for relaxation and reprieve.
The black market would expand without dispensaries
If legal dispensaries shut down for months at a time, consumers would inevitably turn to other illicit methods of purchasing bud and concentrates. The repressed black market would see a dangerous surge, and untested strains of leaf would make their way to unsuspecting consumers. Unregulated products could disrupt the market for years to come, long after the pandemic ends.
Dispensaries can operate safely
When the California governor declared dispensaries an essential business, he enforced several safety measures in rapid succession. Following social distancing guidelines and limiting store capacity to ten shoppers are just two of the numerous precautions dispensaries take to keep patrons safe. Many businesses have established curbside pickup and delivery services to discourage in-store shopping, and most practice rigorous sanitation of surfaces and frequent touchpoints.
It’s big business
Los Angeles has the largest municipal cannabis market on the planet, with revenue doubling from $8 million in 2018 to $18 million in 2019 and steadily rising throughout the pandemic. Sales tax on recreational bud is exceptionally high in LA, coming to a whopping 34.5%.
The state allocates hundreds of millions of dollars each year from this market, which they funnel into public safety grants and wildlife restoration programs, to name a few. If dispensaries were to close during this period of economic uncertainty, the state would lose a significant lifeline and risk further instability.
The bottom line
Although the conversations surrounding legality are still controversial, an increasingly large number of individuals have begun to rely on nature’s flower to relieve stress and anxiety. With dispensaries considered essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are experimenting with recreational smoking and concentrate use, giving government officials reason to keep the doors open indefinitely.