The marijuana industry had barely recovered from the vape crisis of 2019 when the coronavirus pandemic delivered a fateful blow to the world economy in the first quarter of 2020.
North American cannabis companies laid off hundreds of employees up and down the supply chain. Investor funding—already in short supply—all but evaporated. Mergers unraveled. And the marijuana industry was excluded from the U.S. government’s $2 trillion rescue package known as the CARES Act, eliminating what could have been a financial lifeline for many companies.
For an industry often seen as flying an airplane while building it, the past several months have been like flying that airplane and then getting hit by lightning before encountering a hurricane.
The marijuana industry’s experience with the vape crisis could shed light on the future: Many companies emerged wiser and stronger. And while a number of cannabis companies might not survive the coronavirus fallout, there is reason to believe that many will exit leaner, savvier and nimbler.
In fact, the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated early on that the cannabis industry has learned a few things since the previous calamity. Unlike the vaping crisis, when many marijuana advocates were hesitant to forcefully challenge vape bans—despite evidence pointing to products from the illicit market as the culprit—this time around, cannabis businesses fought for and often won the right to be declared “essential” and continue serving the public in a crisis environment.
The pandemic has demanded that cannabis executives be composed and quick-witted enough to make innovative pivots, such as raising a squadron of delivery drivers in a weekend or employing FM transmitters to reach customers when cell phones failed.
The crisis also required restraint and responsibility, which translated into marijuana executives limiting the number of customers allowed in stores, taking only cashless payments and providing curbside service and home delivery.
As Marijuana Business Magazine goes to print, it’s impossible to forecast when an end to the COVID-19 outbreak will allow the cannabis industry—and the rest of the world—to return to normal.
But what is certain is that this experience, and the way marijuana companies have responded, has left executives with scores of valuable lessons they can employ going forward. The following stories are intended to provide readers with tools to remain safe, socially responsible and successful: