Coronavirus: Besides food, are people stocking up on cannabis?

In many countries in lockdown around the world the authorities are reporting a number of cases of people breaking the regulations to contain the outbreak to buy cannabis.

An employee checks cannabis plants at a medical marijuana plantation in northern Israel March 21, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
An employee checks cannabis plants at a medical marijuana plantation in northern Israel March 21, 2017
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
As the coronavirus pandemic intensifies in the US, with the country’s death tally of 3,400 surpassing that of China, and increasingly restrictive measures being implemented, the marijuana industry is experiencing an unprecedented boom.
According to Politico, almost all of the 33 states where the use of the substance has been legalized for medical or recreational purposes have classified marijuana-related business as essential, thereby allowing them to remain operational.
The report added that some states are witnessing a surge in sales up to 20%, while many companies are hiring extra workers to meet the demand, such as Bay Area-based Harborside, which saw an increment of 45% in its delivery requests and expanded its staff by 10 people.
Authorities In numerous countries in lockdown are reporting cases of people breaking the regulations to contain the outbreak in order to buy cannabis.
Does all of this mean that besides for food and toilet paper, citizens are also stocking up on marijuana?
In a new survey conducted by the portal American Marijuana on 990 US marijuana consumers, almost half of the respondents stated that they had ensured supplies of weed to face the lockdown and the pandemic. Of those who did, 55% stated that they did so to calm themselves during the crisis. Moreover, the vast majority of the respondents said that in light of the situation, their priority went to items such as food, toilet paper and hand sanitizers (between 83% and 95%); however, 28% of them claimed that they considered marijuana more important than face masks.
As explained to The Jerusalem Post by Dr. Maya Lavie-Ajayi, director of the Israeli Center for Qualitative Research of People and Societies and a lecturer at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in the past decade Israel has seen a sharp increase in the use of both medical and recreational cannabis, with the latter still illegal although decriminalized.
“Ten years ago, about 2,000 people had a license to use medical cannabis in Israel. Today they are almost 30,000,” Lavie-Ajayi said, adding that a personal license is required to be allowed to use the product. “Moreover, in 2017 a study conducted by the Anti-Drug Authority found that 27% of the country’s adult population declared that they had used marijuana in the previous year. In 2009, it was 8.9%.”
The researcher highlighted that when it comes to an issue like cannabis, people’s answers need to be taken with a grain of salt, since there is a tendency of not disclosing the adoption of an illegal behavior, but that, despite this, the data are still relevant to prove the significant increase both in use and in normalization.
“The normalization of the use of cannabis is dependent on many factors, from the political discourse, with political parties including it in their agendas, to the fact that the substance has become more accessible with the establishment of distribution networks such as Telegrass or dedicated WhatsApp groups,” she added.
As for what is happening now with Israel in lockdown, some reports indicate a growing trend – for example, earlier this month Walla stated that some Telegram groups devoted to selling cannabis showed an increase of orders up to 600% – but comprehensive data are unavailable.
“The impression is that the same way a lot of people rushed to the supermarkets because they were afraid of what was going to happen, a lot of people hurried to buy marijuana,” Lavie-Ajayi told the Post. “I think it’s interesting that in certain places, such as the Netherlands and in some states in the US, they classified cannabis as essential and they kept the stores open.”
The academic said that even though most studies focus on the influence that cannabis has to relieve physical pain, there are also some which highlight how it has a positive impact on people’s psychological well-being, including in fighting anxiety and stress, as well as sleeping problems and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I believe that these are all issues that are relevant now,” she pointed out.
Lavie-Ajayi also warned to be cautious with news related to cannabis.
“A rumor has been circulating about cannabis being able to help COVID-19 patients, which has no scientific basis and can be very dangerous,” she said. “Cannabis has become a sort of magical medicine that can help with every illness, so I was not surprised to hear it. However, it is important to be very careful.”