How marijuana dispensaries evolved during the pandemic

While the pandemic stalled growth across several economic sectors, it seemingly fertilized the cannabis industry.

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How marijuana dispensaries evolved during the pandemic


The Future. While the pandemic stalled growth across several economic sectors, it seemingly fertilized the cannabis industry. In the process of experiencing a boom in sales, marijuana dispensaries have begun to rapidly evolve to meet the demand and tastes of consumers. With legalization efforts underway across several states, one has to wonder if there will ever be a “Starbucks of weed”?

Smoking through the pandemic
For many Americans, weed was the only thing that got them through the pandemic. In states like Michigan and California, marijuana businesses, including recreational dispensaries, were deemed essential. More people are smoking weed than ever before (recreational marijuana is legal in 17 states).

  • In Denver and Portland, marijuana dispensaries outnumber Starbucks locations nearly 2-to-1.
  • In 2020, more than 73% of adults said stress and anxiety relief were the reasons they smoked more weed during the pandemic.
  • Naturally, cannabis sales were booming during the pandemic, as sales grew by 38% and reached nearly $20 billion in global sales.

On New Year’s Eve 2020, the cannabis industry made around $90 million. Sales on 4/20 are expected to top $95 million.

Dispensaries are at a tipping point
The rise in revenues allowed dispensaries to become profitable and diversify their offering of edibles, for example, which are more expensive to produce and package. Edible use has actually gone up (about 20%).

And dispensaries didn’t just upgrade their menus, they also pivoted to virtual consultants, curbside pickup, local deliveries, and more social media marketing (especially to women, who spent 50% more during the pandemic than they had before it).

  • Planet 13, which has a weed superstore on the Las Vegas Strip, grew even bigger by transitioning to delivery.
  • Dispensaries dedicated 50% of their 4/20 ad campaigns to appeal to women.
  • Columbia Care — which runs several dispensaries across the U.S. — started a new virtual shopping experience called Virtual Care. They now deliver in nine states.

The pandemic has accelerated the growth of dispensaries across the country.  What we’re currently seeing is the industrial revolution of cannabis.

  • The biggest cannabis retailer in the country? ​​Curaleaf Holdings in Massachusetts, which has an expected annual revenue of around a billion dollars.
  • Curaleaf owns 70% of the U.S. cannabis market with 41 retail locations in 11 states.

Even as M&A deals shrank during the pandemic, Curaleaf swallowed up 15 different companies. If (or when) cannabis is legalized at the federal level, we may have a Curaleaf on every corner or perhaps as a menu item at your local Starbucks.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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