From Illegal to Essential: How the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Boosted the Cannabis Industry

Once taboo, the cannabis industry has since gone mainstream across the United States. 33 states now allow the sale and consumption of cannabis in some form or another. Consumers no longer must hide in basements or fear persecution.

But the cannabis industry hasn’t just become normalized. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the industry is now considered essential. In 2016, Massachusetts, California, Maine, and Nevada approved ballot measures to legalize recreational cannabis. Now, in just four years, the industry is deemed essential for everyday life.

As the coronavirus strain COVID-19 has spread across the country, state leaders have been tasked with protecting the public while limiting undue hardship, which has led to judgement calls for which types of businesses should be essential. In a move that was surprising to many, 20 states, including Massachusetts (medical only), have listed cannabis dispensaries as essential businesses.

Joyce Gerber, creator and host of The Canna Mom Show podcast, says, “There is a quiet revolution in our midst and I think that the world is finally listening. Having failed to get what I want many, many, many times I know that pivots are possible with a shift in perspective.” 

With state governments backing the needs of consumers, Joyce is right – it’s clear our country is ready for this pivot.

In Addition to Cannabis, What Businesses are Considered Essential Right Now?

Essential business definitions vary from state-to-state, but in Massachusetts, essential services include: 

  • Food and beverage
  • Healthcare
  • Utilities
  • Transportation and infrastructure
  • Communications
  • Law enforcement

By preventing many businesses from opening, the goal is to keep as many people at home as possible without negatively impacting daily life and wellness. Restaurants and bars remain open, provided they offer take-out and delivery options that keep patrons and workers safe.

Grocery stores and pharmacies still allow customers to shop for what they need. And licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts are still providing products (flower, vaporizers, concentrates, edibles, topicals, tinctures, and more) to those who need them to manage health conditions.

Garden Remedies 100th premium cannabis harvest team

How the Cannabis Supply Chain is Impacted by the Coronavirus

Because cannabis is easily grown and often locally sourced, the coronavirus should have minimal impacts on the supply of cannabis products, but the COVID-19 outbreak has boosted demand, and some dispensaries are seeing product shortages as a result.

Marijuana sales have spiked in March 2020 as most people are confined to their homes. In fact, one California cannabis delivery service saw orders jump 500 percent after lock-down orders were announced. Panic buying isn’t limited to just toilet paper and canned foods – it’s also hit the cannabis market. People have been stocking up!

To keep up with unprecedented demand, many dispensaries are even ramping up hiring while other industries shutter. As such, laid off and furloughed workers are now finding jobs with marijuana retailers as the need for delivery drivers and warehouse staff continues to grow. Unintentional pun.

And, while many publicly-traded companies have seen plummeting stocks and market volatility, some cannabis industry stocks are surging.

What Do Cannabis Businesses Need to Know?

Because cannabis regulations vary from state to state, it’s important for marijuana retailers to understand the local laws and abide by current safety measures. In Massachusetts, only licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are considered essential businesses – recreational retailers are not.

Resinate medical marijuana delivery driver, Matt


As a cannabis business owner, you should ensure you’re following state guidelines while working to keep workers and customers safe. Deliveries and pick-up options without physical contact are a great way to minimize exposure.

Online payments are generally safer than handling cash, so consider modernizing your sales process when possible. Ultimately, as an owner you must look for ways to minimize person-to-person contact, practice social distancing, and provide workers with protective equipment like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.

Tap into the Demand with an Experienced Partner

Looking to keep up with today’s demand or tap into the surging customer base? Cannabis Creative is a full-service cannabis marketing agency dedicated to helping you gain the digital edge to elevate your brand online. We help our clients reach their target audience and increase sales through performance-based cannabis, hemp, and CBD marketing campaigns in conjunction with ecommerce and dispensary website design.

Our team has decades of ecommerce website design, SEO, and PPC experience, and our cannabis clients know that with performance-driven cannabis marketing solutions, it’s all about lead generation. Whether you’re in need of other services like branding, strategy, packaging, social media, or email marketing, we’ll get your cannabis business foremost in consumers’ minds.