Pot Shops Should Celebrate 4/20 ⎯ By Closing for the Day

Gary Moore | Moore Lowdown
Pot Shops Should Celebrate 4/20 ⎯ By Closing for the Day

image by: RODNAE Productions

April 20th is a sort of Black Friday for the cannabis industry, with pot users flocking to dispensaries to celebrate the closest thing they have to a national holiday. But in the midst of COVID-19, that’s exactly why dispensaries should just say no.

I may not be Snoop Dogg, but I get it. Pot is a regular part of my life. Not like water regular, but somewhere between coffee and alcohol lies cannabis, a beautiful substance whose benefits I have enjoyed consistently for more than two decades.

Although I may not understand the numerology-like attraction the number “420” holds for many devotees, I get a small kick from the idea that the cannabis nation has its own annual holiday. And there were a few years circa 2010, when medical marijuana dispensaries were first allowed here in Long Beach, California, that I availed myself of the various 4/20 specials around town, going from dispensary to dispensary making minimum purchases so as to benefit from the “goodie bag” giveaways that came along with them. A free joint, a bit of hash, a small edible, a grinder, a free gram⎯it was always the best time to stock up for the long haul.

It’s also a good day each year to be in the cannabis business. A great day. The best. In 2018, for example, USA Today reported that Denver dispensaries enjoyed a 51% jump in sales for the day. And that’s nothing compared to the 300% increase reported to CNN Business a year earlier by a Portland dispensary. “This is our industry's Oktoberfest and New Year's Eve all combined into one,” said Dr. Stuart Titus, CEO of California’s Medical Marijuana, Inc.

With cannabis dispensaries on the short list of “essential business” allowed to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis is proving a popular tool for coping with uncertainty, fear, and stay-at-home orders. According to ABC News, “legal marijuana sales in California skyrocketed 159% on [March 16] compared with the same day in 2019.” Reuters reports that average sales increased roughly 50% across multiple states March 16–22, a number that comports with what I’ve heard from dispensaries I’ve visited since then.

There’s every reason to expect, then, that April 20, 2020, can be a major moneymaker for dispensaries.

Nonetheless, they should close for the day.

The reason is obvious: public health. Right now people are being asked to stay home as much as possible to limit the spread of COVID-19, to “flatten the curve” so as to avoid or at least minimize a spike in cases that could result in unnecessary deaths due to the overtaxing of medical resources. The more people who go out⎯in general, let alone visiting the same establishment on the same day⎯the greater the spread of COVID-19.

April 20th falls right in the middle of a crucial period for many states. Health officials in Los Angeles County, for example, are currently urging residents to desist even from grocery shopping as much as possible. More areas should expect the same in the upcoming days and weeks.

A lot of customers flocking unnecessarily to a single business on a single day is the last thing we need right now. And however necessary cannabis may be⎯and I say this as a firm believer in its medicinal and therapeutic value⎯no-one needs to buy on a particular day just because it lines up with a particular number. By remaining closed on 4/20, dispensaries can spread out their customers’ visits⎯some might come instead on 4/19 or 4/21, some a week earlier or later⎯thus reducing the viral load they (and the dispensary staff) come into contact with. The less the load, the less likely you are to become ill.

Although the marijuana business⎯like any other⎯has its share of mercenaries, many pot proponents tout their product as a public good. Here’s a chance to put that talk of concern for public welfare into practice. The cannabis industry has already gotten a boost from COVID-19. There is no need to chase even more extra dollars at the expense of public safety. Stay closed on 4/20, and more of us will live to smoke another day.

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