There was a time when a cannabis user had to jump through hoops to get their products. Since the state of California has become a lot more cannabis-friendly, getting it has gotten much easier with the emergence of delivery companies that bring orders to your door.
Not surprisingly, many in the cannabis industry saw a growth of sales once the coronavirus pandemic hit in March and most of the world isolated in their homes. While some delivery businesses initially took a small hit when the virus crisis began, all have since made up for with increased demand across the board.
“Our business has actually grown,” said Jeanne Martin, co-owner of South San Francisco’s The Loaded Bowl. “I don’t know to be happy or sad about that. I’ve got mixed emotions.”
With people stuck at home, either unwilling or unable to leave, and the stress and anxiety built up by days, weeks and months of isolation, many people turn to mechanisms to help them cope with the stresses of dealing with the pandemic. For some, that comes in the form of exercise. Others may look to a beer or cocktail to “take the edge off,” while many are now also turning to cannabis as a legitimate form of therapy.
The owner-operator of another San Mateo County-based delivery service said she had a customer come to her because, “she said she was turning into an alcoholic. She wanted something else,” said Joni, who did not want to give her last name because she is not exactly sure of her standing in the business community. Despite the legalization of cannabis for recreational use in 2016, there is still a vast gray area in which many still operate.
But Joni believes in the benefits of cannabis so much, she is willing to do what she can to meet the needs of her customers, while working to change the licensing regulation in her city.
“None of us wants to operate in this gray area,” Joni said. “We’re going to continue to do what we’re doing because we have such a high demand.”
Licensing is key
The Loaded Bowl, on the other hand, is a legally licensed cannabis delivery service which means it doesn’t have to lurk in the shadows.
“I have no worries. I’m completely legit,” said Dalvin Martin, co-owner of The Loaded Bowl and Jeanne Martin’s grandson.
Cliff Nichols of Juva Delivery in Redwood City, said being licensed makes their job and business so much easier to run.
“We don’t have to hide. We’re out in the open. We’re in constant contact with the police department,” Nichols said. “The license, there is no other way to go.”
But even those working the fringes of legality, as well as those officially licensed, are offering legitimate cannabis products. If you’re new to the world of cannabis — or returning — this is no longer a bunch of weed rolled up in a sandwich bag. This is not Cheech and Chong’s grass. Marijuana available at the retail level is hand-crafted and of high quality with a number of different effects, tastes and flavors, much like one would find in a craft beer or liquor. Additionally, there are now various ways to ingest cannabis products — including prerolls, edibles, flower, vape products, tinctures and extracts.
And today’s user is not the typical long-haired, brain-dead Jeff Spicoli wastoid looking to get locked to their couch. Many people who partake are mature, educated professionals who are simply looking for a way to unwind at the end of the day.
“I’ve been using all my life, since my 20s, about 30 years,” said Joni, 56, who added she took a break for about six years while pregnant and raising children.
“Eighty percent of our customers are over the age of 40. We pretty much appeal more to the mature user. Most of our customers want to be functional (after ingesting cannabis),” Joni said.
Delivery of cannabis products has been going on since it was allowed for medicinal purposes in 1996, having been refined as the laws and regulations in the state have changed and evolved. Since it was approved for recreational use in 2016, the potential customer base expanded exponentially.
Tourism business down
But some county delivery services saw a dip in sales when the shelter-in-place went into effect as a segment of their customer base — business travelers and vacationers — dried up when travel was more or less halted.
“I’d say 30% of our business was from hotels,” Joni said.
Martin said it’s not uncommon for travelers to ask for deliveries directly to the airport — “meet me in front of baggage claim” kind of requests.
Those types of requests are against the law.
“Airports are federal property,” she said. While selling and usage is legal in California, it is still against federal law, which governs airports.
Martin said she will suggest to the customer to meet at the hotel where they are staying or any other agreed upon location.
Those orders, however, slowed to a trickle.
Other business up
Other orders, though, more than picked up the slack. The Martins are The Loaded Bowl team. In the weeks following the initial shelter-in-place, they were run ragged with orders and deliveries. While they had a steady supply from their vendors and never were left wanting for products, there came a point they were simply overwhelmed.
“We never stopped delivery because of the virus,” Jeanne Martin said. “We worked for about 2 1/2 months straight. We just ran out of gas. We were exhausted. We were open six days a week, but we [were working seven days a week] because of the volume of calls.”
Martin said she noticed customers who normally would go to a dispensary outside of San Mateo County, would instead call to have their orders delivered to their homes. People were either scared of going to the store or didn’t want to deal with the hassle of doing so.
“We got a lot more business that way, where customer normally went to a dispensary and came to us instead — or folks like us,” Martin said.
Joni’s service did not necessarily see a big uptick in new customers. Instead, she saw regular customers ordering products more often as it seemed people were looking to stock up on cannabis like any other grocery item.
“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of consistency (from our regular customers),” Joni said. “And orders are getting much bigger.”
Juva Delivery’s Nichols said the small uptick in sales his company saw came along with stability for many of the company’s employees. In fact, Nichols said Juva Delivery is looking to expand its workforce.
“Luckily we haven’t had to let anyone go,” Nichols said. “In fact, we’ve been hiring more people.”
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