Hopefully, you’re reading this from home with plenty of groceries, and either a job you can do from home, or paid leave. I realize that’s not the case for a lot of you, and my heart is with you. The world has changed, and no one knows what’s going to happen.

Seattle was the first place in the U.S. to get hit with Coronavirus. In Washington state alone, at the time of writing, at least 52 people have died from COVID-19, and there are over 1,000 confirmed cases. 

Gov. Jay Inslee ordered restaurants, bars, and entertainment and recreational facilities, as well as events with over 50 people, to close. The new orders went into effect at midnight on March 17 and will be in place through at least March 31.

“If we are living a normal life, we are not doing our jobs as Washingtonians,” Inslee said in a statement. “We cannot do that anymore. We need to make changes, regardless of size. All of us need to do more. We must limit the number of people we come in contact with. This is the new normal.”

Cannabis Stores are Still Open

 On the upside, cannabis stores are allowed to stay open. 

Rick Garza, Director of the WSLCB sent an email to cannabis licensees in Washington advising them about changes to accommodate medical cannabis patients.

Curbside Service

  • Applies to: Cannabis retailers, qualified medical patients with a valid authorization and recognition card and designated providers.

At this time, cannabis retailers are not required to close due to the coronavirus restrictions. However, to promote social distancing for qualified patients, the LCB is temporarily allowing cannabis retailers to sell to qualifying patients or their designated providers outside of their business but within the licensed property line. This is the same allowance provided to approved alcohol licensees during this time.

Restrictions

  • Drive-through windows are not allowed;
  • Qualified patients must be entered into the Dept. of Health medical marijuana authorization database and have a valid recognition card.
  • Designated providers must be entered into the Dept. of Health medical marijuana authorization database and have a valid designated provider recognition card.
An Abundance of Caution

Some retailers are taking additional precautions. Uncle Ike’s, whose owner Ian Eisenberg cannabis storesowns The Sesh, has taken additional precautions. 

The retailer is urging customers to preorder so they’ll limit the amount of time and contact in stores. Customers are also made to wait in line outside to keep the indoor capacity minimal, with 6-foot chalk squares drawn where the line is.

Uncle Ike’s locations electronically sanitized all of its locations. Additionally, sales and custodial staff have intensified sanitation procedures. 

“Our facilities crew are our real rockstars,” Ian Eisenberg told The Sesh. “Cleaning and disinfecting all day long.”

Not Just Surviving, Thriving

Cannabis stores aren’t just staying open, they’re reporting strong sales. Cannabis producers are similarly reporting steady orders. 

“We are seeing steady sales,” Matthew Friedlander owner of Skagit Organics, a cannabis producer told The Sesh. “Some stores are ordering a little more than usual and a few stores have decided to close, or aren’t seeing runs on product, so it’s mostly evened out for us.”

When it comes to the big picture for Washington state cannabis sales, Friedlander provided insight.

“On the state level there is definitely some stockpiling happening,” Friedlander explained. “I think total sales are up a little as well. But again, some stores have gone to online ordering only or closed, while others are seeing some larger than normal purchases.”

In a time when many jobs are laying people off, Uncle Ike’s is hiring for part-time seasonal sales associates at all locations. 

Whether the increased sale is because people are stocking up so they don’t have to leave and buy more, or because people are staying home and consuming more is hard to say. Likely a little bit of both. 

The Future

There’s no way to know how long this shut down will last, or how long cannabis retailers will be allowed to stay open. The Sesh reached out to Gov. Inslee’s office for comment on whether cannabis stores will continue to stay open through the shutdown. 

“My understanding is that if it is grab-and-go, like the purchase of alcohol in a grocery or convenience store, that it can continue,” Tara Lee Deputy Director of Communications for Gov. Inslee told The Sesh. “As long as people are not consuming onsite.”

Cannabis retailers are open for now. Cannabis delivery is not on the table, but that may change. In the meantime, customers can help by preordering, buying a little extra at a time to reduce trips, and practicing social distancing while purchasing their cannabis. 

Stay home and smoke weed! Your government thanks you.