Business

Denver Pot Sales Jump 392 Percent During March 23 Shutdown Scare

Inside Lucy Sky, a Denver dispensary.
Inside Lucy Sky, a Denver dispensary. Scott Lentz
Remember those long lines at recreational dispensaries on March 23 after the City of Denver said that they would be closed from March 24 to April 10 as part of a stay-home order? Before Mayor Michael Hancock rescinded the inclusion of pot shops (and liquor stores) from the order a couple of hours after the initial announcement, those herds of panicked pot buyers shelled out some serious money.

According to marijuana sales tracker Flowhub, Denver dispensary sales jumped 392 percent from noon to 4 p.m. on March 23, almost quadrupling the average afternoon sales rate for a Monday in 2020. The mid-day sales boom was almost 130 percent higher than during the same time period on the previous Monday — and pot sales were no slouch that week, either, with coronavirus-inspired stockpiling already taking place at dispensaries across the state.

Here's the short-but-eventful timeline of the chaos: During a press conference at around 2:30 p.m. on Monday, March 23, Hancock announced a stay-at-home order for anyone who wasn't working at or frequenting an "essential" business. When asked if liquor stores or dispensaries were considered essential, a lawyer with the Denver City Attorney's Office said that while recreational dispensaries and liquor stores were not considered essential, medical dispensaries were; the language of the original order confirmed that answer.

Within minutes of news breaking that stores would be closing in just over 24 hours for the next seventeen days, lines grew outside of dispensaries and liquor shops; many of the customers waiting to make purchases hung around after Hancock reversed the decision around 5 p.m. that day.

Despite the back-to-back weekly boost in sales, dispensaries could start seeing a drop going forward, according to Flowhub and several dispensary managers. Not only are many regular marijuana users stocked up now, but all recreational dispensaries in the state are now limited to only curbside and pick-up sales until April 17, and stores are already seeing fewer customers.

"The decrease in sales is not because people are buying less, but because people are going to the store less often," notes Flowhub. "The overall daily number of transactions is down 19 percent compared to an average 2020 pre-COVID Wednesday. Colorado was hit the hardest, with a drop of 27 percent."

If there's anything to learn from the restaurant and bar industries, both of which were confined to curbside pick-up before dispensaries were, it's that layoffs and maybe even permanent closures could be on the horizon, depending on how long these orders last.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell