Over the past week, U.S. federal, state and local governments began issuing their responses to curb the spread of the coronavirus. At the same time, Grassroots Cannabis saw an increase in traffic to its stores across the country, said Talley Wettlaufer, the company’s vice president of retail.
Grassroots operates 35 stores—most of them under the Herbology brand—in nine states: Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Vermont, Wettlaufer said. Grassroots also cultivates in Illinois, North Dakota, Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
"Consumer behaviors are changing rapidly as the country digests the news and guidance coming from the various government agencies,” she said. “We're doing our best to adapt and meet the needs of the customers while protecting our staff. That's something that we are looking at on an hourly basis.”
Demand is across all product categories, Wettlaufer said. In some areas, flower supply continues to shrink, which she said was already happening in Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania. As this occurs, vape and edible purchases are increasing.
Based on regulations that states formerly had put in place for their cannabis markets, as well as coronavirus measures that those states have recently issued, Herbology is offering a variety of retail options to its customers. For instance, Illinois and Michigan recently temporarily allowed for curbside pickup, and Wettlaufer said Herbology is “quickly implementing” curbside pickup in those states. (Curbside pickup in Illinois is limited to medical patients.)
In states where delivery and preordering are allowed, Herbology is doing it, Wettlaufer said. They are currently working to set up delivery in Michigan, which recently allowed it in response to the outbreak.
In addition, the dispensary chain is cleaning high-trafficked areas in its stores every 30 minutes, she said. “Then, across all of our locations, we suspended any use of sniff jars, along with deli-style sales, where we were allowed to do them, anyway,” she said. She explained that “deli-style” refers to when customers pick individual flowers and choose specific weights aside from the standard ones, such as eighths.
Herbology hasn’t seen any disruption in the vape or packaging supply chain based on manufacturing constraints in China, Wettlaufer said. Many suppliers had already increased production ahead of the Chinese New Year in January and had an early look at the coronavirus and its life-changing effects after it originated in that country.
Herbology is prioritizing the health of patients and employees during the evolving coronavirus outbreak, Wettlaufer said.
“I think, at times like this, it's an opportunity for all of us in the industry to band together and coalesce around the movement we've worked hard to build,” she said. “As a company, I've already seen how our teams have banded together and adapted to constant change. I look forward to seeing that happen within the industry as we continue to face unique and challenging times, to say the least."