“We are not banned, and we are indeed open to serve you!”
That’s the recorded message that greets callers who contact The Herbery cannabis shop, another data point in the rapidly changing business landscape as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread.
Cannabis retailers in Clark County have reported an uptick in traffic because consumers have been rushing to stores to stock up during the virus outbreak. The pot industry is seeing the opposite problem of most businesses, which are announcing voluntary closures and cutbacks to their hours, and pot shops are adjusting their practices to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We’ve had much higher than average sales since last Friday,” said Jim Mullen, co-owner of The Herbery, which operates two location in Clark County.
It’s not just a question of higher customer traffic, but also greater individual sales. State law limits how much cannabis individual consumers can purchase, and Mullen said many customers have started to push their tickets right up to that limit.
“People are stocking up,” said Adam Hamide, co-owner of Main Street Marijuana, which operates two Vancouver locations. “They don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The average number of items per customer has risen by about 50 percent since last week, he said.
There’s also been a shift in types of cannabis items people are purchasing, although the change appears to vary by location. Hamide said Main Street Marijuana has seen a slight uptick in sales of edibles, but it’s been a very minor bump. On the other hand, Mullen said there’s been a visible shift toward edibles at The Herbery.
“Those shelves have been hit pretty hard in the last few days,” Mullen said.
Ana Ordaz, 27, drove to the downtown Vancouver Main Street Marijuana on Tuesday afternoon to stock up with a month’s supply of marijuana.
“You never know what is going to happen,” she said.
Ordaz said she’s never seen the dispensary so busy.
“The line is usually very fast and quick,” she said. “Today, there’s a line. I think it’s going to get busier.”
The line at Main Street has been visibly long in recent days, sometimes stretching all the way around the building and down the block, but Hamide said the length doesn’t necessarily reflect an overwhelming increase in customer traffic — rather, it’s the result of the social distancing measures that the store has implemented in response to the outbreak.
Main Street has begun regulating customer traffic using a “one in, one out” policy that limits the total number of customers in the store at a time to a dozen at most, Hamide said.
On Monday, store staff took a roll of red duct tape and laid out strips along the sidewalk at 6-foot intervals to help people in line maintain the proper recommended distance from each other.
“The line might look like it’s long, but it’s spread out,” he said. The actual wait time to get into the store has only been about 10 minutes on average, he said.
Mullen described similar policies at The Herbery — a limited number of customers in the store at a time and a stepped-up cleaning effort to regularly wipe down cash registers and ATMs.
The staff who check IDs at the front door have also begun to wear gloves and carry cleaning supplies, he said.
Hamide and Mullen both said they didn’t expect the current surge in customer traffic to last, partly because customers will presumably stop coming for a while once they’ve stocked up, but also because the outbreak itself could begin to cause disruptions.
Both owners said they’ve been in contact with their respective producer and distributor partners, and so far there have been no disruptions to the supply chain and they can easily keep up with the heightened demand. But with the outbreak situation continuing to evolve daily, there are few guarantees.
“We’re all going to try to keep it together,” Mullen said.