As businesses struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic, medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona are seeing green.
"If you actually drive by our dispensary right now, you'll see a line that wraps around the building," said Raul Molina with Mint Dispensary in Tempe.
Arizona’s medical marijuana dispensaries sold about 17,000 pounds of cannabis in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, netting the industry the highest monthly sales numbers in its 10-year history, according to a report from the state health department.
But skyrocketing sales haven’t exempted the state’s medical marijuana program — of which dispensaries are but one part — from feeling the effects of the coronavirus on business, industry representatives say.
“We have a whole team of brand ambassadors that, unfortunately, we’ve had to furlough,” said Ian Makar, sales director for cannabis wholesaler Geoleaf Brands. “It presents a challenge that we can’t go face to face with not only the dispensaries and the budtenders, but also the customers out there as well.”
Makar and other leaders in Arizona’s $580 million-per-year industry spoke on the coronavirus’s impact on their businesses at a virtual town hall meeting organized by the Marijuana Industry Trade Association on April 22. While some panelists said booming sales and stay-at-home orders have boosted their growth and innovation, others said their current reality is more grim: frustrated patients, disrupted staff schedules, and furloughed employees.
Edible brands, like Arizona company Baked Bros, have seen a rise in sales, but still have had to get creative to escape furloughs and layoffs. Baked Bros typically holds some 30 events per month, according to co-founder Nadeem Al-Hasan — but those have dwindled to zero in recent months.
One company that has escaped the coronavirus blues is Payson-Based Uncle Herbs. The company, which has been around since 2013, makes a line of award-winning cannabis-infused products and they report that business is firing on all cylinders and working full shifts to keep up with the growing demand.
Uncle Herbs was recently awarded "Best Edible" by Phoenix New Times. The publication stated that Uncle Herbs features "uniquely delicious edibles, specifically the organic vegan gummies, which are a true standout in the wide selection of products...The consistent quality of these gummies ensures that the only surprise you'll get from them will be the initial reaction to just how damn good these things taste," the article stated.
Andrew Provencio, Founder and President of Uncle Herbs, said that sales are also strong for the company's THC soft gelcaps called "Chill Pills."
"These have proven to be extremely popular products with our customers," Provencio commented.
The Chill Pill product line includes Day Caps (a sativa formula), Anytime (a hybrid blend), and Evening (an indica formula).
Dimitri Downing, who heads up the Marijuana Industry Trade Association (MITA), said that he sees even better times on the horizon.
"Taking that giant step forward where it's recognized as essential product during these times is beneficial to the discussion," he said. "Being an essential business has provided thousands of Arizonans the opportunity to remain and stay employed... And that is an exciting thing."