Covid-19 Pandemic and the State-Legal Cannabis Markets

Dan Brown

Dan Brown

Vice President, Rhine Laboratories

Many state governors have deemed cannabis dispensaries as essential during widespread Covid-19 shelter-in-place orders. What does this tell us about the stability of the cannabis market?

The rapid ascension of cannabis in the mainstream reached a new milestone in recent days. An increasing number of state governors and public health officials have designated cannabis businesses as essential operations for society, and necessary to remain open during the current global covid-19 pandemic.

This dramatic shift in lawmakers’ views of the industry have come after years and years of efforts by key activists, organizations, and businesses. Less than 10 years ago, purchase of cannabis in the vast majority of states would have been met with arrest and prosecution. Yet today the market flourishes, even despite the current widespread shelter-in-place orders.

In fact, many markets saw dramatic increases in sales as consumers prepared for self-quarantine. Recreational sales in California soared 159% on March 16th over the previous year [8]. This jump was followed by a similar increase of 100% in Washington and 46% in Colorado [8]. This data, compiled by cannabis analytics company Headset, Inc., attributed the revenue jump to larger purchases (rather than new buyers).

Similarly, Leaflink and Weedmaps saw increases in revenue of 48% and 350%, respectively. Weedmaps also noticed an interesting shift in consumers choice of product. With flower orders falling, the growth of the market stemmed primarily from increases in purchases of edibles. Only time will tell whether or not these increases represent a momentary spike in business, or if the increase in work-from-home culture will have a lasting effect on the market.

In order to ensure that medical patients would have access to cannabis products during shelter-in-place orders, multiple advocacy groups, such as Americans for Safe Access quickly reached out to officials on the eve of the pandemic [2]. Especially given the uncertain nature as to the duration of these orders and expectations, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that patients have access to medication. Many patients self-medicate through their state-legal recreational market, which has pushed governors to keep recreational cannabis businesses operational as well. For instance, Pennsylvania ordered dispensaries to remain open, as they are considered in the same classification as pharmacies [3].

cannabis dispensary empty during covid-19 Curbside pickup at dispensaries allow them to continue operations, while adhering to social distancing. [Photo by Alex Person on Unsplash][/caption]

Complicating matters is the fact that many state-legal cannabis markets outlaw delivery services of cannabis products for recreational or medicinal consumers. Given social distancing protocols in place across the country, this has made officials scramble to find ways to allow dispensaries to remain open. Michigan, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, Illinois, and Washington have all issued temporary orders to allow curbside pickup at dispensaries. These policies ensure that cannabis companies are able to continue operations, while adhering to social distancing guidelines [4][5]. Some states with delivery services, such as Massachusetts and New York, have allowed cannabis businesses authorized for delivery to temporarily expand those services without written approval [7].

Additionally, states with medical programs are expanding how and when patients can interact with their physician. States such as Florida and Massachusetts have looked to telemedicine, using online conference calling for the purpose of doctor visitation, to provide their solution.

States working to maintain legal cannabis access during the Coronavirus Pandemic include the following:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington


During these trying times, it is important to look back at how far this industry has come over the course of the past decade. These state initiatives to protect and support their new and growing industries highlight the stability of an industry that still struggles with mainstream acceptance and federal approval. It is easy to focus on all that is wrong and difficult in the world today, but here is a reason to take a second to reflect on all that has been accomplished. For yes, “the times they are a-changin”, but the cannabis market is here to stay. Learn more about our Services!

For all of you out there, stay safe, stay secure, and keep the course. In time, like all things, this too shall pass.


  1. Angell, Tom. “Coronavirus Crisis Shows Marijuana Is ‘Essential’ And Mainstream.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 Mar. 2020,
  2. Adlin, Ben. “Medical Marijuana Group Urges Governors To Protect Patient Access Amid Coronavirus Outbreak.” Marijuana Moment, 17 Mar. 2020,
  3. Wood, Sam, and Michael Klein. “Restaurateurs Stunned by State’s Request to Close; Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Remain Open.” Https://, Staff, 15 Mar. 2020,
  4. Burns, Gus. “Michigan Temporarily Allowing Curbside Marijuana Pickup amid Coronavirus Concerns.” Mlive, 16 Mar. 2020,
  5. Marotti. “Dispensaries Halt Recreational Weed Sales as Illinois Allows Curbside Delivery to Medical Users.”, Chicago Tribune, 18 Mar. 2020,
  6. “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.”, 2020, .
  7. “Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Registered Organizations.” MJBizDaily, 2020, Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Registered Organizations.
  8. Owrman, Kristine. “Like Toilet Paper, Pot Attracts Panic Buyers: Cannabis Weekly.”, Bloomberg, 2020,

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