Only a couple of weeks into the Covid lockdown of March 2020, cannabis dispensaries were deemed “essential”, which meant that they were allowed to continue selling medical and/or recreational products in states where those transactions were already legal. As consumers rushed to grocery stores to stock up on toilet paper and disinfectants, many made detours by their local dispensaries as well, at least according to data presented in a March 16, 2020 Headset report that showed a noticeable boost in sales from the week prior. Flowhub’s sales numbers also showed a sharp increase following the designation of Covid as a ”pandemic”, with a second spike occurring after many statewide mask mandates were lifted in 2021.
Progress has not been lost as restrictions continue to ease. Rather, Flowhub’s data shows cannabis sales stabilizing at a higher “new normal”. Sales figures from six months after the one-year anniversary of the pandemic reflect a 23% increase in comparison to the pre-pandemic average total sales per dispensary. The boost in sales, particularly at the onset of 2021, was supported by stimulus checks and other government-supported programs that helped keep money flowing through the economy. As that aid began to dry up and prices rose across the board due to supply chain issues and inflation, the rate of growth has slowed considerably. Jane Technologies, Inc. showed Year-Over-Year growth for 2020 at 777%, up from 210% in 2019, while 2021 showed only 53% growth. LeafLink’s Year-over-Year numbers for 2020 (120.1%) and 2021 (61.6%) show a similar pattern of growth that has slowed but not stalled.
But sales aren’t the only sector of the cannabis market to experience co-current growth and challenge over the course of the pandemic. Scot Lee, Chief of Operations at Theory Wellness, reflects on challenges related to operations as well as human resources and staffing. Lee cites finding resources to keep retail locations safe and clean and managing issues related to employee vaccination status as significant obstacles presented and overcome over the course of the pandemic.
According to US cannabis employment estimates provided by cannabis recruiting platform Vangst, there were an estimated 315,000 full-time employees and 31,500 part-time employees in the cannabis industry in 2020. The full-time number jumped by 400,000 in 2021 to 415,000 and is projected to grow by over 100,000 more by 2022. With jobs on the rise and sales on a positive, if less dramatic trajectory, the cannabis industry’s prospects for the remainder of 2022 remain stubbornly bright despite inflation, ongoing supply chain issues and tighter budgets, at least for now.