Reefer Madness: COVID19 Fuels Pot Hoarding
Many businesses are struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. And that wind carries the pungent aroma of marijuana.
Legal marijuana sales in several states have soared in recent days, as quarantined consumers stockpile recreational and medical marijuana. Many states and cities have designated marijuana dispensaries as “essential businesses” and allowed them to stay open, even as a wide variety of other businesses are shuttered by government fiat.
With restaurants, bars and movie theaters closed, consumers are turning to marijuana, which they can legally enjoy in their homes. Amid travel restrictions and the shunning of airlines, consumers are flying by other means.
Around the globe, images are appearing on news sites and social media of long lines outside of dispensaries. Marijuana products of all types are flying off the shelves. Dispensaries are reporting sales surges of anywhere from 20% to 50%, as virus-rattled marijuana users go on a buying binge.
With many consumers afraid of leaving the house because they might get sick, dispensaries that provide home delivery are experiencing their best business ever. The coronavirus is a “black swan” event that has devastated most industries, but it has turned out to be a lucky break for the marijuana sector, coming just when cannabis needed a catalyst for growth.
It’s an old investment adage: During downturns or crises, so-called sin stocks (alcohol, tobacco, etc.) tend to outperform. Cannabis is no exception. Meanwhile, the demand for novel health treatments won’t abate regardless of the economic cycle, lifting medical marijuana stocks.
Recreational pot sales in major marijuana markets such as Colorado, Oregon, California, Washington state, and Nevada have spiked in recent days, according to data by cannabis analytics company Headset.
Let’s look at the world’s biggest marijuana market, California. As the following chart shows, increased sales of recreational marijuana have resulted in lower inventory levels:
According to Headset, both genders drove major increases in marijuana spending, but females have accounted for more than double the sales growth of males. Males make up about two thirds of cannabis spending. It appears that females are more likely to feel a sense of urgency to stock up during the pandemic.
To be sure, the coronavirus pandemic has proven an impediment to marijuana legalization efforts, as legislatures close down and lawmakers become preoccupied with stemming the outbreak.
But those legalization efforts will resume, once the pandemic wanes. In the meantime, consumer anxiety is proving good for the marijuana sector’s top and bottom lines.
Hoarders get busy…
It’s not just recreational marijuana. Consumers around the country also are stocking up on medical marijuana, because they fear shortages. During a pandemic, people don’t just hoard toilet paper and light bulbs. They also stock up on pot, especially if weed is necessary to treat an illness or alleviate pain.
Several medical cannabis groups have pressured state and local governments to allow cannabis dispensaries to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic, as if they were regular pharmacies. There were concerns that already beleaguered cannabis companies would go out of business if forced to close because of the virus, depriving patients of the medical pot that they need.
This burst of COVID19-triggered pot sales also is a victory for government officials who have feared the encroachment of underground illegal sales. The flexibility shown by states and localities in allowing pot shops to remain open during the pandemic, in some places around-the-clock, is a blow to the marijuana black market.
These sales trends come as welcome news for struggling dispensaries, some of which have suffered a cash crunch as consolidation and falling equity prices wrack dispensary chains. This sudden infusion of sales, many for home delivery, is throwing a lifeline to struggling pot retailers.
Indeed, many dispensaries are reporting 24-7 orders from quarantined consumers, who are requesting home delivery or curbside service. A slew of states and localities are allowing special “contactless” curbside delivery during the pandemic. These sales boosts are lifting beaten-down share prices of publicly traded pot companies.
Marijuana stocks have plunged in recent months. However, the trend toward marijuana decriminalization continues unabated, as more and more U.S. state governments lift prohibitions to varying degrees.
If you own inherently sound marijuana investments but they’ve taken a beating lately, hang on and remain patient. The recent surge in pot sales during the coronavirus pandemic is further proof that marijuana has evolved into a mainstream consumer industry that’s here to stay.
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John Persinos is the editor-in-chief of Marijuana Investing Daily.