As people stock up on toilet paper and canned tomatoes, some locals are adding another item to their lists: cannabis. DC-area dispensary owners and Initiative 71 vendors say they’re experiencing a boost in business while adopting new safety strategies.
Up the block from Big Chair, Southeast dispensary Anacostia Organics saw a surge in sales over the last week and a half. Patients are buying in higher volumes, says owner Linda Mercado Greene. She’s also seen an increase in both new patients and out-of-state patients (DC dispensaries accept medical marijuana cards from 27 states).
The dispensary is taking steps to practice social distancing, especially pertinent because many medical marijuana patients are immunocompromised. Only ten people are allowed in Anacostia Organics at a time, including staff and security, per CDC guidelines on gatherings. Staff members also wear face masks.
Mercado Greene anticipates the city will recognize medical marijuana dispensaries as essential, as local authorities did in San Francisco and New York. “We provide our medications to patients who have various illnesses and anxieties, so we don’t expect to close during this crisis,” says Mercado Greene.
In Maryland, Rockville dispensary Potomac Holistics has seen a similar increase in business.
“Some of these medicines that reduce anxiety and help to reduce depression are vital in a scenario where we have a national pandemic, where anxiety and depression are exacerbated,” says owner Bill Askinazi. “That’s why the demand, I think, has gone up.” In addition to strains treating anxiety and depression, patients have also shown greater interest in strains with the terpene mycrene, believed to have anti-inflammatory effects.
Unlike DC’s medical program, Maryland allows dispensaries to deliver medical marijuana to their parking lots. In order to qualify for delivery, patients must call into the dispensary to provide the necessary identification and patient registration number. Potomac Holistics also supplies a home delivery service with an $85 minimum purchase.
It’s not just medical cannabis outfits seeing a boon—Initiative 71 gifting services are also experiencing an uptick in sales.
District Derp, an online art gallery that also delivers gifts of cannabis, has seen not only an increase in the amount of orders it receives, but also an increase in the average value of its orders, says its CEO, Chris (who does not publicize his last name). “I think that people are getting a little bit panicked that all businesses are going to shut down,” he says. “Cannabis is a great tool or accompaniment to those situations. People like to sit back and think about things or relax.”
District Derp has taken preventative measures—its delivery people now use gloves when handling cash and don’t shake hands with clients, it regularly cleans its work surfaces and vehicles, and it’s making no-contact deliveries possible. (Federal regulations still make it next to impossible for I-71 businesses to accept credit card orders, so customers have to find a way to leave cash for delivery people—it can help to have an understanding doorman.) The company also pays sick employees when they have to stay home.
Like District Derp, I-71 vendor Baked DC saw an immediate increase in orders. Before the coronavirus crisis, a smaller order typically consisted of an eighth of flower. Now customers are ordering in bulk, inquiring about the largest amount of cannabis legally allowed to be gifted at a time (one ounce).
Baked DC will not accept new customers while the gifting service attempts to navigate the fluctuating landscape, says Baked DC representative Jack, who requested his last name be omitted. Since last Thursday, Jack estimates Baked DC satisfied orders from almost its entire existing client base.
As Baked DC avoids new customers, clothing brand Pink Fox has been fielding a swarm of first time inquiries, says founder Mark Nagib. He’s also seen a change in the order routines of preexisting consumers as they adjust their schedules to new norms.
Pink Fox has adjusted, too. No more than five people can attend a single appointment, and all appointments are spread 30 minutes apart. To accommodate the new precautions, Pink Fox added an extra hour of appointments in the morning. Nagib also minimized the number of employees allowed in headquarters at a time.
Even before the pandemic, the Pink Fox kitchen used gloves while cooking treats, keeping surfaces clean to avoid cross contamination with gluten and peanut butter. In light of the coronavirus crisis, the team has doubled down their sanitation efforts.
“Just imagine cleaning for cleaning’s sake,” says Nagib. “Whatever cleaning cycle you’ve done, just start it again.”
Additional reporting by Andrew Beaujon