Sticky’s Pot Shop has returned to Hazel Dell, a year and a half after the shop was forced to shut its doors to comply with a ban on marijuana shops in unincorporated parts of Clark County.
The cannabis shop began operating in 2014 and directly challenged the legality of the ban. After a four-year court battle, the Washington State Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Sticky’s, leaving in place a lower-court ruling.
The county council voted last summer to end the moratorium, effective at the start of 2020, prompting several local cannabis retailers to begin eyeing potential new sites outside of Vancouver and Battle Ground. Sticky’s announced that it would return to its Hazel Dell storefront as soon as possible.
After several weeks of preparation, the shop made its official return on March 28.
Sticky’s is back, but the shop has re-emerged into a very different business landscape than the one it left behind in 2018. Washington’s statewide stay-at-home order has shuttered hundreds of businesses to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and while cannabis shops are allowed to continue operating as “essential” businesses, the pandemic has changed the nature of cannabis shopping.
Local cannabis stores adapted to the new reality during the final weeks of March, first by instituting social distancing measures to space out customer traffic and later by creating new curbside pickup options.
The curbside system has resulted in a big swing toward online sales, according to Adam Hamide, co-owner of Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver. In the first week of March, the store fulfilled 709 online orders. In the week of April 14-21, it fulfilled 8,303, and that increase was matched by a corresponding decrease in walk-in traffic. More than half of the store’s customers are now using online ordering and curbside pickup, he said.
The pandemic has also changed the nature of what is often one of the industry’s biggest sales days: April 20. Cannabis shops typically approach the day like a major holiday, with promotions and sale specials sometimes extending through the full “4/20 Week.”
Not this time.
Earlier this month the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board released a memo reminding cannabis stores about safe operating guidelines and urging them to tone down the usual sale offers to make sure they don’t draw large crowds.
The Washington Cannabusiness Association industry group put out similar advice last week, urging its members to make sure their stores stuck by health guidelines on the big day.
The industry appeared to take that advice to heart, with most local stores either avoiding 4/20 specials, spacing promotional deals out over a longer period of time than usual or changing up their approach to the big day.
New Vansterdam on Mill Plain organized a food drive that will run through next Tuesday, with the store promising to match all donations made during that time. Donations will go to the Clark County Food Bank.
The store offered discounts only to customers who ordered online and used curbside pickup, according to manager Tran Du.
Main Street didn’t run any 4/20 promotional sales this year, Hamide said, and the store’s April 20 sales traffic ended up being about 25 percent lower than the year before.
Even so, Hamide said, the store is still coming off a record sales week that saw a 50 percent spike in sales. The bulk of that traffic came last week, he said, likely due to the federal coronavirus relief stimulus checks rather than strictly 4/20 enthusiasm.
“The last week has been absolutely insane since the stimulus checks hit,” Hamide said. “We’ve seen massive spikes in sales and transactions. Monday the 13th is when we first started seeing that.”