Dean Ernst is the Co-Founder of Essential Company, a brand of all-natural hard candies infused with pure essential oils and...Read more
I am a Florida medical cannabis consumer and cannabis is essential to my ability to participate in my own life on a daily basis. I use cannabis as a successful part of my medication routine, and I have been fortunate enough to stop taking 19 medications, including opioids. I can walk again without assistance. You could say cannabis is indeed essential to the quality of my daily life. And I am not alone.
For me and thousands of others, medical and adult-use cannabis dispensaries are essential businesses. Luckily, the majority of states agree. COVID-19 has undoubtedly transformed the cannabis industry and the metamorphosis is spectacular. Cannabis evolved at warp speed. Not only have the majority of cannabis companies started thinking outside the box, but they have also constructed a better box along the way. Our current COVID-19 pandemic has created essential cannabis, but it has also served to accelerate medical cannabis patient interface innovation and increase cannabis product supply and inventory—all while adapting to the crisis.
In his insightful April 13, 2020 article, “How the coronavirus crisis is reshaping the cannabis industry for the long term,” Adam Schaneman discusses the issue at length:
“Consumers’ purchasing habits are changing, including the method they use to buy cannabis products. Online ordering, delivery, curbside pickup and drive-thru lanes are likely here to stay as customers recognize their ease of use.”
After first clarifying the need for cannabis throughout the complex patchwork of state laws, the cannabis industry proceeded to excel at anticipating patient and consumer needs and meeting them. The vast majority of cannabis companies promptly and effectively improved online ordering across the board. In turn, the industry’s main cannabis players are meeting increasing patient demand with expedited seed-to-sale supply and stocked inventory.
And as the pandemic ramped up across the states in mid-March, a marked change occurred in cannabis consumer buying habits and preferred delivery methods. Now more than ever, buyer behavior is driving the current cannabis market.
Product changes related to buyer behavior
Cannabis products such as atomizers, patches, tinctures are replacing inhaled, respiratory-related products. As a result, vape cartridges are waning in sales. On the other hand, concentrates are selling at a higher volume than ever. Why? Consumers can use concentrated cannabis for everything—from cooking edibles to creating topicals to making capsules.
Since the pandemic social distancing requirements, consumers don’t want to share a pre-roll with friends. The cannabis industry quickly adapted, however, offering pre-rolls in prepackaged, smaller or individual sizes.
Patient interface changes related to buyer behavior
Many states have carefully reviewed current cannabis rules and regulations, opting to implement telehealth measures to serve the medically vulnerable patients who do not feel comfortable leaving their homes. Some states have enacted policies that would extend the expiration date of medical cannabis registrations. Still other cannabis-legal states have allowed consumers to purchase more products at once to reduce the number of necessary store visits.
As for physical cannabis dispensary storefront interactions, companies are doing their part to help patients and consumers. If an in-store visit is required, dispensaries have taken a number of significant actions, such as designating shopping hours for medically vulnerable or immunocompromised consumers like me to shop in a more safe and healthy environment.
In the midst of this 2020 crisis, the cannabis industry has excelled in innovation and effectively adapted and transitioned to mainly online and contactless transaction businesses.
Cannabis industry strategies related to buyer behavior
On April 19, 2020, John Hudak published, “Essential’ Cannabis Businesses: Strategies for Regulation in a Time of Widespread Crisis,” for Brookings, in which he highlights “essential cannabis” as a whole. Speaking as a patient, I think states across the country should pause, reevaluate cannabis programs and take a revolutionary page from the cannabis industry’s pandemic instruction manual: build a better, sturdier box.
States must contemplate making some of these changes permanent in order to continue the same level of patient access and safety that the cannabis industry has so efficiently delivered during the COVID-19 crisis. For now, each state in which medical cannabis is legal has passed some form of emergency orders or guidelines that guarantee continued access to safe medical cannabis for patients and consumers during the pandemic. Moving forward, however, cannabis remaining an essential business is crucial to serving medical patients and the majority of adult-use consumers who rely on cannabis for their relief and their health.
In my opinion, access to cannabis through state programs is vital to ensuring all consumers continue to obtain cannabis legally and safely.
READING FOR CONTEXT
¹ The New York Times: Is Marijuana an ‘Essential’ Like Milk or Bread? Some States Say Yes
³ Rolling Stone: Passing That Joint, Top Marijuana Reform Group Says Amid Coronavirus