Marijuana, The New Consumer Staple

In a surreal sight that this correspondent never could have imagined, anxious buyers wearing face masks are forming long lines at thousands of legal marijuana dispensaries around the country, with the goal of stockpiling pot. These consumers fear that the coronavirus pandemic will kill not only people but also marijuana supply.

To quote The Grateful Dead: What a long, strange trip it’s been.

In a clear sign that marijuana has become a mainstream consumer product, several states and localities have deemed recreational and medical pot as “essential,” amid a coronavirus pandemic that’s devastating the retail industry as a whole. Accordingly, pot sales are surging to record highs amid the outbreak.

I recently wrote about this marijuana sales trend, which continues to gather momentum as the coronavirus spreads. The official embrace of pot as essential is a tectonic cultural shift that should cheer marijuana investors.

Read This Story: Reefer Madness: COVID19 Fuels Pot Hoarding

According to the marijuana research web site Kryptoszene, online and physical retail cannabis sales in the U.S. rose roughly 90% in March compared to February. Cannabis companies reported sales increases on 22 out of 26 days last month. Online retailers of cannabis products recorded a 66% increase in demand in the second week of March, compared to the previous week. Kryptoszene says these are record sales numbers for marijuana.

As the coronavirus pandemic cripples social and economic life in the United States, consumers are flocking to marijuana to treat their ailments or to relieve the stress of quarantine. Many are hoarding weed, worried that the health crisis will cause supply to dry up. As I’ll explain below, the fear of a marijuana shortage is unfounded.

The disconnect with equities…

You might assume that this surge in buying has boosted marijuana stocks. You’d be wrong. Paradoxically, the shares of publicly traded companies in the marijuana sector aren’t getting the full benefit.

One factor behind the disconnect is previous overproduction. During the marijuana boom that created the pot stock bubble in 2019, cannabis companies got too ambitious and boosted production to unsustainable levels.

Many of these companies are sitting on huge stockpiles, as well as considerable financial debt. Tons of marijuana is lying around in warehouses, unused.

But these inventory levels are getting whittled down, as coronavirus panic drives greater consumption. The crisis is helping restore supply-and-demand equilibrium, which will benefit marijuana investments over the long haul.

Needful things…

The coronavirus crisis also has brought another benefit to the marijuana industry: it has helped cement its status as a mainstream business.

According to a new poll, a majority of Americans believe that medical cannabis dispensaries should be kept open as “essential services” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Research group YouGov conducted the new online poll, which involved nearly 5,400 people, on March 20. Fifty-three percent said medical cannabis providers should be regarded as essential, 26% said they shouldn’t, and 21% said they didn’t know (see chart).

As state and city governments across the U.S contend with the coronavirus outbreak, officials have had to make tough determinations about which businesses are critical enough to remain open and which should be temporarily shuttered. Retailers in a broad range of niches have been forced to shut down.

And yet, marijuana is winning the day. In many states with legal cannabis, including California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey, officials have determined that marijuana dispensaries are, in fact, essential services that can continue to operate. That represents a massive attitudinal shift from the old paradigm during the War on Drugs, when marijuana was viewed by the establishment as “the devil’s weed.”

But it’s not just medical. Many states have also bestowed the “essential” designation on recreational marijuana stores. To foster social distancing, some of these stores have implemented curbside pickup.

In related marijuana news this week…

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed an executive order authorizing curbside pickup of medical cannabis, allowing doctors to issue recommendations via telemedicine, extending patient certification expirations, and allowing temporary caregivers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Illinois regulators extended curbside medical cannabis sales through April 30. The Land of Lincoln is evolving into a huge market for marijuana. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) this year pardoned more than 11,000 people for past marijuana records.

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John Persinos is the editor-in-chief of Marijuana Investing Daily. You can reach him at: