By Emily Ledger
The Coronavirus pandemic is now in full swing, with non-essential retail businesses being ordered to close in a number of countries around the world. Included are legal cannabis dispensaries in countries like the US, Canada, and the Netherlands, where customers are queueing in order to stock up.
Coffee Shops in The Netherlands
The famed coffee shops of the Netherlands have been forced to close along with many other non-essential retail outlets, bars, and restaurants. The Dutch Health and Education Ministers announced in a televised press conference on Sunday (March 15th) that all such public spaces were to close by 6 pm on the same day.
Just minutes after the announcement, queues of cannabis users could be seen gathering outside many of the country’s coffee shops. Customers were hoping to stock up on their favourite strains before closures took hold. However, all cannabis dispensaries have since been closed in the Netherlands due to Coronavirus prevention measures – perhaps for weeks.
Following the order for cannabis ‘coffee shops’ and cafes to close in the Netherlands until April 6th, the Dutch government recently announced a U-turn. Cannabis coffee shops were ordered to close their doors, alongside schools, bars and restaurants, amid fears over the spread of the Coronavirus.
Cafes and coffee shops slowly began to re-open in the Netherlands only the day after the initial closure order. They are now permitted to operate a ‘takeaway only’ service to customers. Consumption inside the premises themselves remains prohibited until the original date – April 6th. However, it is expected that restrictive measures will continue past this date.
State-Legal Dispensaries in the USA
In the US, the picture was somewhat similar. Many legal cannabis dispensaries in US states have seen a spike in sales as fears of closures loom. Some dispensaries, like New England Treatment Access in Brookline, Massachusetts, have ceased taking walk-in orders. Instead, the dispensary will only serve customers who place orders in advance. Staff in many dispensaries have begun wearing latex gloves and providing hand sanitizer at check-out points.
Many areas of the country have already been affected by the closure of public places. Bars and restaurants in Boston, Massachusetts have been ordered to close by 11 pm. Bars and restaurants in Ohio were also ordered to close on Sunday. It seems that many cannabis users are expecting the measures to be extended to dispensaries in the coming days.
Cannabis delivery services have also seen a significant spike in sales in California.
Many Cannabis Dispensaries in legal states across the country have been deemed ‘essential’ as many other businesses face lockdown.
On Thursday (March 19th), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a ‘Safe at Home’ order, urging all residents to remain in their homes. However, certain businesses – deemed essential – are exempt from the order, allowing them to remain open.
The city’s Department of Cannabis Regulation released the following statement in a COVID-19 update:
“Under the Mayor’s ‘Safer-at-Home’ Order cannabis businesses are deemed essential and those with temporary approval are authorized to stay open in the City of Los Angeles.”
Similar measures have been introduced in other US cities with legal cannabis dispensaries.
Legal Dispensaries in Canadian Provinces
Legal cannabis outlets in Canada are no exception for customers looking to stock up in the face of a possible lock-down. Dispensaries in Ontario and Quebec have reported a significant rise in sales over the last few days. One business, the Ontario Cannabis Store reported an 80% increase in sales on Saturday, in comparison to an average day.
The spike came just before the Canadian government closed its borders to most foreign nationals in a continued attempt to curb the spread of the disease.
It remains unclear how cannabis dispensary closures due to the spreading of Coronavirus could affect medical cannabis patients.
Canadian territories are yet to face any official lockdown measures in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, some jurisdictions are taking more steps to promote social distancing.
Cannabis dispensaries remain open in British Columbia, but in an attempt to control crowded retail spaces, authorities have allowed dispensaries to operate ‘click and collect’ services.
This allows customers to reserve non-medical cannabis products, either through the dispensary’s website or by telephone. Customers will still be required to pay for and collect the products in person at the dispensaries. However, it is hoped that the service will decrease the need to linger in public places.
The revised policy from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch states:
“This policy change now allows licensees to offer reservations of non-medical cannabis products available in their store to customers via their website or by telephone.”