Amid all the suffering and doom brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is at least one industry that’s thriving — and promising to help those who are not: cannabis.
According to early data from Leafly, the world’s biggest cannabis website, marijuana sales in the U.S. increased at least 67 percent this past year, jumping from $10.7 billion in 2019 to $17.9 billion in 2020.
This came as four states — Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota — voted to legalize weed for adult use, joining the 15 others where it’s legal recreationally and the 33 that have legalized it for medical use.
Bruce Barcott, a senior editor at Leafly and author of Weed the People, believes the pandemic was instrumental in the rise. “The pandemic led people to buy more legal cannabis, period,” Barcott tells Yahoo Life.
“I think people turned to cannabis to help relieve stress, to get some relaxation … a lot of people were sheltering in place and staying inside and they were looking for a little bit of elevation, and cannabis was there.”
Curaleaf, a Massachusetts-based company with dispensaries in 24 states, reported a 195 percent increase in sales by the third quarter of 2020, going from $61 million in 2019 to $182 million in 2020.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen an increase in new consumers at our dispensaries with more people exploring cannabis,” Patrik Jonsson, Curaleaf’s regional president, tells Yahoo Life.
He and others hope that 2021 will bring even more acceptance of a drug that has long been vilified by the U.S. government. “The liberalization of the plant — and the increasing diversity among consumers who enjoy it — will continue as the general public become more interested in incorporating cannabis into their health and wellness routines,” says Jonsson.
“With the 2020 election, the voters have spoken, and we are witnessing the mainstream and bipartisan acceptance of cannabis use nationwide.”