When COVID-19 first registered as an international threat, most of the states in the USA shut down. Every brick and mortar building other than those with necessities was closed. However, after weeks of uncertainty in the cannabis industry, some of the states where recreational or medical marijuana was already legal deemed cannabis businesses as essential, allowing them to re-open. Despite restaurants, bars, and other businesses in the food and beverage industry being shut down in many of these same states, cannabis dispensaries continued to operate.
While the “essential” designation allowed businesses to continue earning revenue, it did not dispel the associated anxieties and jobs began to disappear. At the same time that the CARES Act was providing a lifeline to other industries around the country, cannabis businesses were specifically barred from receiving any of the federal stimulus money or having access to emergency funding leaving them to fend for themselves with whatever limited resources they already had.
It was a paradox of sorts. As Shawn Hauser, Partner and Chair of the Hemp & Cannabinoid Practice Group at Denver law firm Vicente Sederberg told Forbes, “They’ve made progress to now be considered essential businesses, but they’re not treated the same as other essential businesses.”
In addition to their financial struggles these businesses were also facing the same logistical setbacks as everyone else. During the peak of the quarantine, they had to deal with lapses in cannabis dispensary supplies in the same way that grocery stores and other essential businesses did, waiting on cleaning and disinfectants products and PPE in order to operate safely.
Despite the new obstacles created by COVID-19, the industry appears to be rebounding quickly. The creativity that has served the cannabis industry so well when dealing with the complex laws and policies that govern it is now helping them to adapt. Jobs are coming back, and investors are showing renewed interest.
Projections are skyrocketing amidst a looming election that some believe will open the door for national legalization. New markets like Florida and Oklahoma are expected to surpass $1 billion each on their own by 2021.
While no one can predict what the world will look like in the months and years that will follow this initial COVID-19 outbreak, for now, the cannabis industry is not only surviving, it is thriving.