The Coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic has brought many challenges to our society: unemployment, unease, financial instability, and profound loss. There have also been showings of great humanity and cohesiveness: renewed contact with longtime friends, neighbors helping neighbors, less pollution in our skies, nightly songs, howls, and cheers for healthcare workers and essential workers.

All of this change and unease has brought about an unprecedented increase in marijuana sales. During the first half of March 2020, sales of recreational marijuana in California increased by 159%. In Washington state, sales of recreational marijuana increased by 100%, and in Colorado, sales of recreational marijuana increased by 46%.(1)

Interestingly, March 2020 sales of marijuana in the U.S. were dominated by women. There was a 31.7% growth in purchases by women as compared to a 15.6% increase in purchases by men.(2)

From a generational perspective, marijuana sales to Generation Z increased the most – by 42.1%. Generations X-ers came in 2nd, at a 34.5% increase in sales. Millennials had an increase in sales by 29.2%. Baby Boomers, which includes people born between 1944 and 1964, actually decreased their purchases of marijuana in March 2020, by a decrease of -2.1%.(3)

So what is driving these increased sales?

Stocking Up

As the country began to adhere to Stay-at-Home orders by state and local governments, customers began to worry about whether or not marijuana dispensaries would remain open to the public. As a result, during the first half of March, many people stocked up on their marijuana supply in order to see them through the worst of the pandemic.

Anxiety and Depression

Marijuana has been known to ease anxiety and depression in those who partake. Given these unprecedented times, many people are feeling an increased sense of anxiety and depression. As of March 11, 2020, 16% of U.S. adults were very worried about COVID-19, 41% of adults were somewhat worried, 33% were not very worried, and 10% were not worried at all.(4) However, by late March, as a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed, 19% of respondents felt that worries and stress as a result of COVID-19 has had a majorly negative impact on their mental health. 26% of adult respondents felt that COVID-19 has had a minor negative impact on their mental health. This means that nearly half of respondents have felt a negative impact on their mental health due to worries and fears surrounding the novel coronavirus.

A 2017 study by Susan A. Stoner, PhD at the University of Washington found that “Many people report using marijuana to cope with anxiety, especially those with social anxiety disorder.” Therefore, it is no surprise that people are turning to marijuana to ease their anxiety and depression.

Since we do not know how long COVID-19 will affect our national health and economy, it is difficult to say how long this boost in sales will last. However, marijuana dispensaries are quickly becoming leaders of their communities in finding ways to provide product and necessities to their customers, including easily-accessible cash through dispensary ATMs.

 (1) Marijuana Business Daily. (March 18, 2020). Sales growth of recreational marijuana due to coronavirus pandemic in the United States in March 2020, by day [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved April 29, 2020.

(2) Headset. (March 24, 2020). Sales growth of legal cannabis during coronavirus outbreak in the United States in March 2020, by gender [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved April 29, 2020.

 (3) Headset. (March 24, 2020). Sales growth of legal cannabis during coronavirus outbreak in the United States in March 2020, by generation [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved April 29, 2020.

(4) YouGov. (March 11, 2020). Percentage of U.S. adults who were worried about coronavirus (COVID-19) as of March 11, 2020, by gender [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved April 29, 2020.