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What Those with a Cannabis Distribution License Should Know About COVID-19


The coronavirus pandemic has changed the ways that consumers interact with cannabis. Between accommodating social distancing while purchasing cannabis products, changing the frequency with which they visit stores, and sharing research on cannabis’ interactions with the disease, there are several ways that cannabis culture is shifting. 

Cannabis retail professionals are knowledgeable about retail management, inventory management, store design, and staff development. These adept experts are skilled at anticipating and managing retail problems, but the coronavirus may present problems beyond the scope of what these industry insiders are familiar with. Read on to educate yourself on the breadth of the ways cannabis retail is crossing the path of the pandemic.  

How the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Impacting Cannabis Sales 

When the pandemic started breaking national news late in March, it caused a wave of anxiety and uncertainty to resonate through the population. Cannabis stores across the nation reported a sudden influx in sales, with an increasing amount of people purchasing larger amounts of cannabis products than typical from government-licensed retail stores and online services. 

Seemingly defying this trend, Canadians surveyed at the beginning of April did not report a large increase in cannabis consumption: 

  • 6% reported an increase in consumption 
  • 4% reported a decrease in consumption 
  • 90% of people’s consumption remained the same 

What was likely behind the increase in sales was stockpiling behaviour, due to concerns around the supply chain closing. This behaviour was also witnessed in other areas of commerce, notably in relation to toilet paper sales. In Ontario, sales returned to pre-pandemic levels after March 24th, when the government classified cannabis stores as essential businesses. 

The beginning of the pandemic caused stockpiling behaviour among consumers

The provincial government backtracked its designation in the beginning of April, and asked cannabis stores to close for two weeks as part of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, now well into the summer, professionals with a cannabis distribution license can see that sales levels are stable and normal. 

Can Cannabis Interact with Coronavirus? 

Rumours are abundant on social media about the potential coronavirus-fighting ability of cannabis. Before cannabis retail professionals become excited about this, they should know that these claims are wanting for evidence. The research on the impact that cannabinoids have on viral illnesses in general is very limited

On the family of coronavirus illnesses specifically, there have not been any investigations on how cannabinoids might interact with them. It is unclear to researchers whether the anti-inflammatory activity of THC and CBD would be advantageous or disadvantageous in fighting the coronavirus disease.

There is no evidence that cannabinoids can fight the coronavirus

On the contrary, professionals who operate a cannabis retail business should be aware that as with any smoke, the inhalation of cannabis smoke can be harmful to the respiratory system:  

  • Cannabis smoking can have negative effects on lung health, including greater incidence of chronic cough and phlegm production
  • A compromised respiratory system may increase susceptibility to COVID-19 
  • A compromised respiratory system might worsen the effects of the coronavirus disease 

Professionals in the cannabis industry should remain aware of any new research involving the interactions of cannabis with the coronavirus. 

Safely Operating a Cannabis Retail Business During COVID-19 

As with any other retail store operating during this period, cannabis retail stores should integrate protocols to help slow the spread of COVID-19. There are several ways retail stores can operate in a way that’s safe: 

    • Adhere to social distancing guidelines by controlling the number of customers in the store
    • All employees and all clients should be advised to wear masks while in the store 
    • Employees should exercise proper hygiene, washing hands frequently and avoiding touching their faces 
    • Employees should be advised to remain home if they are exhibiting any symptoms of the coronavirus, or have had contact with others who have tested positive 
    • Methods of contactless transactions should be instituted 

      All retail stores should implement social distancing guidelines

Luckily for cannabis retail stores, their typical sales methods are particularly conducive to these guidelines. As customers do not touch products until after their purchase, attempts to limit contact should be easier to maintain. 

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