We’ve all seen the horror stories: Grocery carts overflowing with toilet paper, aisles completely devoid of hand sanitizer. But there’s something else Seattleites can’t make it through quarantine without: weed.
Despite the fact that dispensaries have remained open throughout the COVID-19 crisis—even after governor Jay Inslee’s March 23 “Stay Home, Stay Safe” announcement—sales have spiked at pot shops across the city. Dockside Cannabis, which has four shops between SODO and Shoreline, has seen purchase totals go up about 50 percent since the start of local virus concerns. Sales at Uncle Ike’s five Seattle locations were up about 30 percent a couple weeks ago, roughly coinciding with other panic buying (though they’ve since tapered off to typical numbers).
Fears of an increasingly strict quarantine seem to drive the increased sales. Uncle Ike himself, Ian Eisenberg, has spent time talking with customers as they wait in the shop’s socially distanced line; he estimated that about 70 percent were stocking up in preparation for a long stay at home. The rest, he said, were among the nearly 350,000 Washingtonians laid off in the wake of statewide bar and restaurant closure.
Customers are pretty much sticking to supersized versions of their typical orders, though Uncle Ike’s has seen a spike in vape products (which skirt around apartment smoking rules), and Dockside has seen a similar increase in sales of edibles and tincture (marijuana concentrated into a liquid). Dockside also noticed a small increase in purchases of the actual marijuana flower, which can be bought in quarantine-friendly larger quantities.
Under Inslee’s stay at home mandate, cannabis retailers are not required to close. In Washington, there is no retail separation between medical marijuana sales and adult consumption sales, so dispensaries fall under the “other medical facilities” section of essential businesses. Pot shops can be retail only, but the vast majority in Seattle are medically endorsed like Dockside and Uncle Ike’s, meaning they sell both. “Most people use cannabis for anxiety,” Eisenberg says, “and I can’t think of a more stressful and anxiety filled time.”
But they're still making adjustments. In accordance with the Liquor and Cannabis Board’s COVID-19 response recommendations, cannabis retailers should now have an employee at the door visually checking IDs and allowing only a few customers in at a time to help ensure they can remain six feet apart. Uncle Ike’s and other local dispensaries like Satori also offer a separate fast track line for customers who pre-order online, which the shops encourage.
Unlike those toilet paper hoarders, you’d be forgiven for stocking up your stash a bit in the name of social distancing. But if there’s one silver lining in all this, Seattle, it’s that even under the strictest orders, your local pot shop will likely still get the green light.