Whew. A lot of pot-shop and liquor-store customers and owners were worried plenty.
In panic buying in recent weeks because the coronavirus might shutter both types of shops, they reported sales increases of 20% to 30%, and sometimes more.
But good news!
Pot shops and many, if not most, liquor stores in this state are considered “essential businesses” and can stay open under Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order issued Monday.
There is Michael Olvera, 27, who on Monday was at Bob’s Liquors in Lake City. He bought two bottles of Crown Royal and two six-packs of Red Hook Long Hammer IPA.
“I’m definitely stocking up,” he says. “We still don’t know what’s going to happen. If they close, it’s gonna get (here he uses a certain term for ‘messed up’).”
These days, a clerk at an REI store, he’s at home as the outdoor-goods giant told employees to go home at full salary. “I’m chillin’,” Olvera says.
There is Arianna Laureano, 28, a clerk at PCC, the regional food cooperative that started in 1953.
Monday she was calling Uncle Ike’s, the pot shop with five locations in the area.
“I was at work and I caught Inslee’s statement. I kinda panicked,” she says.
Laureano explains why she panicked.
“I developed epilepsy when I was like 19. I moved to Washington state from the East Coast because it has a more progressive policy,” she says.
Twice a day, Laureano puts 10 milligrams of a THC oil in her tea. “I haven’t had a seizure in six months,” she says.
You can bet that those in pot and liquor very carefully read the 13 words in Inslee’s proclamation:
Essential: “liquor stores that sell food.”
Essential: “Workers supporting cannabis retail and dietary supplemental retail.”
At Burien Liquor & Wine, night manager Nick Engrissei says, “We sell non-alcohol products and snacks. I think we’re going to be OK.”
Sheri Sawyer, a senior-policy adviser for Inslee, says the governor’s proclamation of what was essential was based on federal and California state regulations.
She says the governor’s office, at some point, will look at liquor stores that don’t sell food. There is no timeline, she says.
Meanwhile, about liquor stores that may be selling chips to count as food, Sawyer says, “I imagine they’ll get creative.”
Engrissei sees his shop’s role as a public service: ‘I’ve got wives coming buying a whole case of wine because they’re stuck with the kids all day.”
The increase in sales for pot and liquor stores are estimated from those places. There is a lag in figures the state compiles, and none is available showing sales since the coronavirus outbreak.
Julian O’Reilley, managing director of four Seattle Dockside Cannabis stores, says that in recent days, the average transaction increased by 50%.
“They are simply buying more to get ready to hunker down,” she says.
The stores of both kinds say they enforce a 6-feet-apart rule for customers, sometimes taping the distance for easy reference. O’Reilley says that Dockside allows six shoppers in at a time, has greeters at the door to manage the flow of customers, has surfaces sanitized hourly and that the staff wears gloves, with hand sanitizer provided for customers and staff.
With open windows and plants, not “traditional head shop black light posters,” she says the stores want to make women comfortable.
O’Reilly provided this suggested list of pot supplies that “an average mom might need:”
For example, Lavender Dream mints that “help with sleeplessness and anxiety,” and a Fairwinds 20:1 CBD tincture that “takes the edge off racing thoughts.”
In case you’re wondering about the pandemic somehow increasing drug problems, just make sure “you’re cautious about making assumptions,” says Bryan Hartzler, senior research scientist at the University of Washington Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.
“Citizens are stockpiling on all kinds of things,” he says.
According to the state, 446 pot stores have a staffer approved by the state Department of Health to help customers in selecting medical marijuana; 58 are simply retailers.
One liquor store reports it has struggled. It is Downtown Spirits on Seventh Avenue in Seattle.
It used to do big business with deliveries to Facebook, Zillow, Amazon and other digital businesses. “That’s dried up,” says Marques Warren, president. “I’ve never seen it this dark and empty,” he says about the downtown locale.
Warren says that now the shop is making 40 to 60 deliveries a day, when at the peak before coronavirus it was “upward of 70.” He wants to keep the 16 employees working. “I don’t know how things will get resolved,” Warren says.
Meanwhile, the shoppers keep shopping.
At the Belltown Have a Heart, Elad Allweil, 32, recently bought “these Gummy Bear kind of things,” enough to last him a couple of weeks. He doesn’t like inhaling pot — “bad for the lungs.”
Allweil says he managed a couple of Middle East cafes, in Seattle before they closed because of COVID-19. Unlike some of his friends, he says, he’s got savings.
These days, he says, “I do a lot of art, play music.”
Certainly, that ease for getting pot is considerable compared with Idaho, where marijuana laws are harsh. There, possession of under 3 ounces carries a potential penalty of up to year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.
Pot shops on the Washington side of the border have long benefited from those customers coming across the state line. There’s a nice cluster of them around Spokane.
Now, says Sydney Bradley, manager of Kush21 in Spokane, about her Idaho commuters, “They’re buying their limits.”
Just better not get stopped and questioned what you are doing out during lockdown.