As the infectious new coronavirus grinds global commerce to a halt, essential businesses can’t just stop, and that includes medical and adult-use cannabis.
'We’re trying to protect legal cannabis users from having to go back to the dark ages.'
For California and Colorado’s licensed cannabis stores—which regulators have deemed essential—that means rolling out curbside pickup, drive-thrus, and delivery services to try and break the virus’ chain of transmission.
Since March 17, about a dozen of California’s 600 or so dispensaries and delivery services have received licenses to conduct curbside pickup. Similarly, every adult-use Colorado dispensary must offer curbside pickup or close, as part of emergency orders from Gov. Jared Polis to enable better physical distancing. Washington added curbside pickup options this week as well. Oregrown in Oregon is now curbside pick-up enabled. More localities and states are likely to follow.
“Highly recommended this over standing in line, especially for older folks,” said Caliva curbside customer Hector Villasenor in San Jose.
“I love it!” said Isis Balboa, a customer at The Greenhouse Collective in Los Angeles.
How does curbside cannabis pickup work?
Here’s generally how curbside fulfillment goes:
- Customers are encouraged to place an online order, or phone in an order to their local licensed dispensary that offers curbside pickup
- Next, you get a text or call when your order is ready
- Then you drive down to the store
- Park in a designated pickup spot
- A clerk runs out to your car and verifies your valid ID, and order, and takes cash
- She comes back with your cannabis products, and you drive away
- The process limits customer and worker exposures to each other’s exhaled aerosols, as well as any droplets on any surfaces
Why is curbside cannabis pickup now legal?
States have deemed cannabis “essential” and exempt from stay-at-home orders, because cannabinoids can be life-saving medicine. Legal medical access is supported by 90% of US voters, and the plant has many wellness uses, including managing anxiety, stress, and boredom. You don’t have to smoke it, or get high, and many choose to consume cannabis over more dangerous drugs like alcohol, tranquilizers, and opioids.
Cannabis businesses are evolving to serve customers without spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the serious disease COVID-19. “We’re trying to protect cannabis users from having to go back to the dark ages,” said Debby Goldsberry, operator of Magnolia Wellness in Oakland, CA.
On March 16, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control invoked emergency rules designed for earthquakes and fires, and suspended a ban on drive-thru service, thus enabling curbside pickup. Several stores promptly applied for a curbside pickup license, and regulators issued the first temporary licenses to conduct the activity by March 18. For stores with a site plan, approval can take as little as 15 minutes.
Magnolia Wellness in Oakland, CA, just off Interstate 880, began curbside orders on March 18.
On Tuesday, a steady stream of customers pulled into Magnolia’s blacktop driveway. Most went inside, but some stayed in their cars as a security guard radioed in for a store runner.
About 10% of customers are using curbside pickup at Magnolia, and the store is handing out flyers to patients to boost participation. Many people still crave human interaction. For others, online ordering and curbside cannabis is too new, said Goldsberry, Magnolia’s operator.
'We’re going to learn that curbside is something we should have had available for a long time.'
Customers have gone from the prohibition days of texting their dealer, to the future of online ordering, virtually overnight.
Berkeley Patients Group in Berkeley, CA, started curbside pickup on March 18. Fendrick said BPG has been very busy for the past two weeks.
“Safer access is important in normal times but, in times of crisis like what we’re dealing with today, it is absolutely essential for dispensaries to continue serving patients and the community at large,” she said.
“Everybody should be taking social distancing seriously and encouraging it in every possible way,” Fendrick added. “Curbside and drive-thru is obviously a more sanitary means to do a transaction.” (On March 26, the city of Berkeley reversed course and banned curbside pickup, reports indicate.)
The dispensary chain Harborside has three California stores that have been offering curbside pickup since March 19. The Harborside store in Palm Desert, CA, actually has a proper drive-thru window. Harborside co-founder Stephen DeAngelo said he gets enthusiastic tweets and Instagram posts from happy curbside customers.
“I think we’re going to learn that curbside is something we should have had available for a long time,” he said, “and it’s hopefully something we can retain afterward.”
The Ganjery, a cannabis store in rural McKinleyville, CA, posted a video of its new drive-thru window to Instagram. “Allow terp-side or curb-side pick up to be your dispensary shopping experience of choice,” wrote the Ganjery staff.
Curbside pickup varies by county in California. For example, the city and county of San Francisco banned curbside pickup, according to store reports there. We’re tracking local fulfillment options on the Leafly page, Is my dispensary open? which is updated twice daily.
Colorado says: Go curbside, or shut down
While curbside is an option in California, in Colorado adult-use dispensaries now must offer curbside pickup, or close, Gov. Jared Polis said on March 20.
Over at Terrapin Care Station—a six-store Colorado cannabis chain—curbside launched on March 24, for two days of trial runs.
“I truly believe this whole COVID-19 outbreak is going to change consumer purchasing habits not just for cannabis but in general,” said Terrapin Care Station Communications Director Peter Marcus. “Those people still want cannabis in a time of crisis, but they don’t want to go into the stores.”
While Terrapin’s store orders are up 44% since March 10, online orders are up 1,800%, he said.
Most folks, “didn’t know online ordering even existed” before, Markus said.
“The idea to the average cannabis consumer that there would be a day where you could order it online and pay with a debit card is new to them,” he said.
Curbside pickup purchasing tips
Order online, or call to place a phone order.
Use Leafly Finder to place a “Pickup” order during normal business hours. Alternately, visit your dispensary’s web page and order there. Got questions? Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone, and get a budtender on the line to help you fill your basket.
Monitor your phone for confirmation and pickup time.
Set a reminder and don’t forget to get the weed you just ordered when it’s ready. It may be several hours until you get a call or text, due to heavy sales volume at dispensaries.
Bring your valid ID.
No valid ID, no THC. Sorry. Some rules are rules, even in an emergency. Expect to show ID, and order confirmation.
Bring cash. Exact change even better.
Cannabis is mostly an all-cash business, so expect to pay cash for your stash. Some stores do take debit, just ask. Don’t have exact change? That’s fine, you should be tipping massively these days anyway. Throw in 30% for your budtender, they’re de facto healthcare workers right now.
Check your order.
Verify the order was packed correctly. It’s busy. Mistakes can be made. You don’t want to get all the way home to realize the clerk forgot something, or gave you the wrong thing.
Keep it clean.
Ideally, pay with exact change and tip—in an envelope or plastic baggy—to minimize contact with potentially contaminated cash. The virus that causes COVID-19 can live for at least a day on cardboard, and several days on other surfaces.
Bring your own hand sanitizer and/or disinfecting wipes. Use them before and after you handle cash and products. Don’t even think about touching your face. Immediately wash your hands when you get home. Wipe down and disinfect product packaging.
Spread good vibes, not COVID-19
Help onboard others to our newly sanitary way of living. Share your order experience, encourage others to stay out of physical stores as much as possible, and help them navigate the online ordering process. We’re in this together.
How are stores keeping things clean?
It’s great that we’re all staying in our cars, but what is going on inside the store?
Stores must follow local, state, and CDC protocols for workplace sanitation, including keeping sick employees home on paid sick leave. Dispensaries must halve store occupancy, enforce minimum distances between employees, as well as customers, and use cleaning and disinfecting rules to defeat aerosol and surface transmission of SARS-CoV-2. They wear latex gloves. Limit handling of money. Coughs and sneezes must be covered. Hand washing must be frequent. Hand sanitizers are everywhere. Even more protocols are coming as stores adapt to rules in real-time.
Leafly will have a full story on how stores are boosting sanitation in the age of COVID-19 later this week.
Here’s a list of stores in California offering curbside pickup:
- Magnolia Wellness, Oakland, CA
- Harborside Oakland, San Jose, Hayward, and Desert Hot Springs
- Caliva, San Jose, CA
- Solful, Sebastopol, CA
- The Higher Path, Los Angeles, CA
- Purple Star, San Francisco, CA