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Stimulus Checks, the Unofficial Federal Aid for Weed Shops

Customers wait outside of Kind Love dispensary to pick up to-go orders on Wednesday, April 15.EXPAND
Customers wait outside of Kind Love dispensary to pick up to-go orders on Wednesday, April 15.
Thomas Mitchell

The marijuana industry won't receive any official aid from federal business bailout packages, but it still received an assist from the first round of stimulus payments, which came just in time for the plant's biggest holiday.

Colorado's marijuana dispensaries reported significantly higher sales this week, the same week that many Americans started receiving $1,200 payments that are part of a federal stimulus package to limit the economic impact of coronavirus. Long lines — appearing even longer because of social distancing measures — were spotted at multiple pot shops around Denver on April 14 and 15, and references to stimulus checks and jokes about the feds paying for weed were commonplace in those lines.

According to dispensary ordering platform I Heart Jane, 1,300-plus dispensaries across the country saw an average 48 percent increase in sales dollars on April 15 compared to an average weekday. According to Flowhub, another dispensary data tracker, recreational sales in Colorado were up 57 percent and medical marijuana sales up 39 percent on April 15 compared to the prior Wednesday.

"We were joking that this was just in time for Uncle Sam to participate in 4/20," says Lindsey Mintz, co-owner of the Smokin Gun Apothecary in Glendale. "We expected the rush once we heard the [payments] were about to get released."

Mintz says that her dispensary's sales doubled on April 15 compared to the week before, and the Smokin Gun wasn't alone in enjoying a bump. Denver dispensary Seed and Smith reported a 49 percent spike in sales on April 15, while the Clinic, a dispensary chain with four stores in the Denver area, reported the most orders in a single day since March 23, when the City of Denver announced that recreational dispensaries would soon close for seventeen days (the decision was reversed just hours later, but in the meantime, sales were astronomical).

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Two factors besides the stimulus checks could have contributed to that spike, according to Hannah Munsterman, the Clinic's general manager: 4/20 is less than a week away, and pot sales the previous week were impacted by recent changes to dispensary shopping rules. For a few days in late March, all recreational stores in Colorado were limited to curbside and to-go sales only, and while they were soon allowed to reopen, the switch created a lot confusion for customers, Munsterman says.

"It's been an accumulation. We've definitely seen more customers this week," she explains. "People didn't necessary know how the dispensaries were working after everything that happened in March. Now they know we're open, but to call ahead."

Although dispensaries are grateful for a bump in traffic, proper social distancing and employing enough staff are challenges for any business right now. The spike in customers over this past week is expected to be followed by an even bigger rush over the weekend and into Monday, April 20. To avoid problems, Munsterman, Mintz and other dispensary workers are asking that customers pre-order online or over the phone before visiting stores.

"It's hard on our staffing, because there are these big spikes and lulls. We're facing the same struggles like a lot of businesses. Spikes are great, but lulls hurt, as we're trying to keep staff on board," Mintz says. "It's forced us to adapt. We have online ordering now, and we can take payment online, as well. It cuts down time in the shop and moves people faster."

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