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Calls for social distancing spark demand for online cannabis sales in Colorado

Americans can purchase pet supplies, medication and even alcohol online, so why not marijuana?

That thought is crossing many Coloradans’ minds as calls for the general public to practice social distancing have spurred a trend in online shopping for cannabis products.

On March 16, Terrapin Care Station, which operates six dispensaries throughout the Front Range, saw an 1,800% increase in online sales over the same day a week prior, according to Communications Director Peter Marcus. Historically, online ordering accounted for a fraction of the company’s sales, as consumers preferred to peruse cannabis selections in person to decide what to buy.

“Clearly people are demanding cannabis during this crisis,” Marcus said — even if they’re hesitant to be close to other people.

As Coloradans made a run on groceries and toilet paper in recent weeks to prepare for possible, coronavirus-induced quarantines, cannabis dispensaries had largely been unaffected. Some said they experienced an uptick in business, but others reported normal traffic or a decrease due to a lack of tourism.

But that changed in recent days, when news of the virus’ spread shut down schools, ski resorts, bars and restaurants throughout the Centennial State. Most marijuana dispensaries are permitted to remain open as an essential service, alongside grocery stores and pharmacies, though some such as Organic Alternatives in Fort Collins have opted to close to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19, the respiratory illness it causes.

According to Steve Lopez, CEO of The Green Solution, the company’s 23 dispensaries have seen an 80% increase in sales volume since March 12, including a 30% uptick in online ordering.

Customers fill their digital baskets with marijuana flower, edibles and oils, and register an account like any other online service. Colorado prohibits the delivery of adult-use marijuana products, so they must be picked up and paid for in person.

At The Green Solution, customers approach an express window in the dispensary’s waiting room to receive their goods, so they don’t need to enter the main dispensary floor.

“It’s all about customer experience,” said Lopez. “A lot of our customers are repeat customers, so they know exactly what they want.”

Whole Meds in Denver’s RiNo district had previously offered online shopping, but discontinued it due to lack of demand, said General Manager Daniel Egusquiza. On Wednesday, the shop re-launched online ordering and had five orders within the first hour.

“Considering this whole virus scare… we want to do everything we can to keep the area sanitized and clean,” Egusquiza said.