Legal cannabis sales rose as much as $ 17.5 billion during the pandemic


  • The pandemic initially disrupted the legal cannabis industry, but it saw record sales of $ 17.5 billion in 2020.
  • Pharmacies navigated their way through changing regulations and markets to find new ways to reach customers.
  • A Las Vegas cannabis producer told the New York Times that Nevada sales could top $ 1 billion in 2021.
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Shortly after officials in Nevada announced that licensed cannabis stores and medical dispensaries could reopen after the lockdown, Nicolas MacLean said the cars waited five blocks for pickup on the side of the road.

Like many industries in Las Vegas, the cannabis industry relied on tourists for sales, but that changed when the pandemic broke out, MacLean, who serves as CEO of Las Vegas-based cannabis producer Aether Gardens, told the New York Times.

“The locals are very demanding – they want something they can’t find on the black market,” said MacLean. “Especially when you’re stuck at home.”

According to cannabinoid research firm BDSA, 2020 saw exceptionally strong sales of legal cannabis in the US, up 46% from 2019 to a record $ 17.5 billion.

“I expect this will be the first year Nevada has sold cannabis over a billion,” MacLean said. “And it was done on the basis of what I thought no one expected.”

In western Massachusetts, where recreational cannabis use is legal, Meg Sanders, CEO of Canna Provisions, said government restrictions and later social distancing requirements forced them to radically change their sales strategy.

Initially, only medical pharmacies were allowed to remain open, while retail stores had to close for recreational purposes.

“It was surprising and unfortunate that liquor stores were considered essential rather than adult cannabis – especially when the Massachusetts law regulated cannabis like alcohol,” Sanders told the Times.

When Canna Provisions was allowed to reopen, the special personal shopping experience of the boutique-style shop had to change in favor of pre-orders over the phone.

“Our county is an internet desert,” she said.

Now when customers call, they are talking to a salesperson who can answer their questions and guide them through the available topics, edibles, and tobacco products – a method, she said, “works” for the business.

“At our Lee store, pre-orders are almost 100 percent of our business, so we’ve bought more phones, hired more people to answer the phone, and our sales have increased,” she said.

In Florida, Fluent Cannabis Care’s creative director, Oswaldo Graziani Lemoine, said his company’s 19 locations could remain open to the state’s roughly half a million residents with medical cannabis cards. (Recreational use is illegal in the state of Florida.)

“For us, it was less about the in-store experience and more about offering our customers deals and easy pickup,” he told the Times.

Graziani not only offers special discounts, but says that future locations will be designed with pre-orders and sales in mind – no counter, no lobby, just green.

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