Is it any surprise that in a year in which the fabric of time wrinkled irrevocably, in which staying on your couch and eating takeout could be seen as a beneficent act, we bought more pot?
“I had a gentleman come in this morning and buy 26 canisters of Moxey Mints,” says James Fields, the manager at Dockside Cannabis in Shoreline, one of the company’s four locations. Mr. Moxey's Mints are basically weed Altoids—20 mints to a tin with five milligrams of THC per mint. So the guy bought 520 mints. When Fields mentioned that was a sizable buy, the customer said, “Well my wife doesn’t want me going out of the house as much.” They’d been having everything delivered, but in Washington you can’t have marijuana delivered, so he was stocking up.
Fields has been in the cannabis industry “legally since the medical days. Illegally, since high school. I was the honor roll student who sold weed to all the rest of the class.” After that, he worked as medical marijuana grower, then as a security guard and buyer for Cannabis City, then as a budtender for Seattle Cannabis Company, where he became a manager. He moved to Dockside just over a year ago. He says since the start of the pandemic more people are buying in bulk. “Normally a person would come in and buy a gram or an eighth. Now they’re looking for quarters, halves, and ounces.”
That’s partly because, like that mint devotee, people are trying to shop less frequently, and partly because we’re just buying more weed. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board recently released the marijuana sales numbers for the 2020 fiscal year (from July 2019 to June 2020). Total sales hit $1.27 billion statewide, up from $1.05 billion in 2019 and $973 million in 2018. According to Marijuana Business Daily, Washington customers’ average total purchases jumped in March, from $27 a basket to $35 (and still hovered at $34 a basket at the end of August). Total trips have dipped in that time.
Fields has witnessed those numbers firsthand. He says in March, when lockdowns began, “we went through a three-week period where we were pretty much selling everything in the store.” Sales haven’t slowed much since, but customers are making fewer trips. The sales spike he says is a combination of regular customers who’re buying more and new customers “who are trying cannabis for the first time or tried it back in college and want to see what it is like” now that they’re sitting at home.
Yet outside of changes that have become standard for any conscientious retailer—hand sanitizer everywhere, limits on customers in the store, deep cleaning, masks—he says his role hasn’t changed too much. He runs the shop's day to day. Dockside did institute curbside service for higher risk patrons, where they can order online and have a budtender meet them at their car. And like plenty of retailers Dockside gave its employees a hazard pay bump, but instead of rolling that back when we realized this would go on for a while, the company made the raise permanent.
Though they were hardly mentioned in any of the “heroes” rhetoric that grocery store workers got back in the spring, the job comes with many of the same stresses. Cannabis shops were deemed essential and have remained open. On top of that Fields runs a “cannabis friendly Airbnb.” And he’s hosting a weed-oriented cooking show called Cann A Cook, which will come out through Roku. Fields says he’s handled the year’s difficulties by immersing himself “more in family time, hanging out with my fiancee and my two kids, taking small road trips to see the state.”
When he’s at work and anxieties of this year hit, he steps off the floor, takes some deep breaths, and reminds himself that “everybody is stressed out, everybody is having a hard time, everybody is going through this, and not just me personally.” When he’s not at work, he gets a little assist from the focus of his career, keeping an “even keel of THC in my system,” usually combined with a CBD edible.
Updated on December 22 to reflect the correct spelling of Mr. Moxey's Mints.