It’s been some months since we last spoke, dear reader. The last time I was here, the new novel coronavirus still seemed like some unreal boogeyman. I’d just finished binge-watching Will Forte’s masterpiece “The Last Man On Earth” and had been harboring secret apocalypse fantasies when I first heard the rumblings of quarantines in China. I’ve felt very guilty about those fantasies ever since.
The other thing I’ve felt guilty about has been the gusto with which I’ve taken to quarantine life. I went to ground and blocked out everything but my collection of terrible ’90s television. Every few weeks I’d venture out to the grocery store to arm wrestle over bath tissue and listen in on conversations. This was my main source of news for most of the lockdown. But while most of us were pulling down the drapes and watching “Seinfeld”, the world of cannabis carried on without us.
Like hardware stores and food suppliers, cannabis dispensaries (even recreational ones) were considered “essential” in most of the states where marijuana is legal. As you can imagine, cannabis sales have not suffered during the pandemic. Unlike many industries marijuana has continued to rake in the dough. In Oregon and Washington, cannabis sales saw a major surge in May, while California, Colorado and Nevada saw a dip. This is significant because Oregon and Washington’s cannabis markets are less dependent on tourism than the others. It’s also notable that in the states that saw a loss, in-state consumption actually rose, indicating an increase in overall adult consumption rates. It’s believed that this means consumption rates across the country have risen during the pandemic.
Here in the Land of Enchantment, sales of medical cannabis in the first quarter of 2020 rose a whopping 43 percent over last year according to Ganjapreneur. That was right before the pandemic got serious, though. We’re still in the second quarter. But if national trends are anything to go by, then it will likely follow suit.
Co-founder of CB1 Capital Todd Harrison recently reported that while other industries are watching their stocks tank, cannabis companies are watching their stocks jump up and dance. He attributes much of this success to the “essential” qualification of dispensaries in most states and the inclusion of federal banking provisions for cannabis companies in the HEROES Act.
Harrison wrote, “The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many lives and industries, but it’s also brought certain realities to bear; among them, the need for a legal and regulated global cannabis industry and the tax-revenues and jobs that come with it.”
Near the end of last month, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was asked about recreational cannabis legalization in New Mexico during a live-streamed COVID-19 update. “Let’s end on a high note,” she said, making the entire state cringe. She pointed out that many of the capitol projects that were vetoed or downgraded would have been able to continue as planned had lawmakers passed the cannabis legalization bill earlier this year.
“The [cannabis sales] projections are nearly $100 million of recurring revenue into the budget,” she said. “And if we want economic support and economic relief, then we have to use every economic idea.” She blinked with exasperation. “And I want to point out also that the vast majority of New Mexicans favor recreational cannabis.
“We have an opportunity. This special session is really going to be focused on dealing with the budget gap. … I think that all of our policy makers need to think clearly. … We have to pass recreational cannabis in this state.”
She looked quite smug—swinging a heavy Bill Clinton thumb—and I don’t blame her. I’ve been celebrating my own I-told-you-sos these past few weeks. Because the writing’s on the wall, and it’s clear to everyone that New Mexico is all set to turn into Thunderdome thanks to the seemingly inevitable economic recession looming on America’s horizon. If the state doesn’t do something fast, there won’t be a state left. And as we’re seeing, cannabis is one of the only coronavirus-safe industry options we have left available to us. At this point, there is very little choice left to lawmakers, though I’m sure we’ll still see plenty of opposition. It is 2020, after all.
Sen. Bernie Sanders recently made an impassioned appeal to legalize cannabis at the federal level to help address racial disparity in our nation’s policing policies.
While speaking about police reform on the Senate floor last week, Sanders strongly encouraged cannabis law reform. “We need to legalize marijuana,” he said. “In the midst of the many crises we face in this country, it is absurd that under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is at Schedule I along with killer drugs like heroin. … We must end police officers continuing to arrest, search or jail the people of our country—
For some reason, this issue hasn’t been raised all that much in the current discussions revolving around racial injustice in America. The Drug War (or the War Against Some Drugs) has been compared to a conveyor belt that was designed to deliver young black men into modern slavery at the hands of the nation’s private prisons. Without a doubt, the constant threat of incarceration for minor cannabis offenses that’s been hanging over the heads of our citizenry for the last century has done tremendous damage to citizen-police relations. It’s hard to place your trust in the very people who are actively trying to lock you up for the rest of your life over a joint.