The City of Los Angeles has deemed selling weed an essential service, critical to the health and well-being of those sheltering at home.
ate last month, while President Trump flirted with solutions to the coronavirus—sunbathing with a “very powerful light,” injecting Lysol to clean the lungs—others elected to smoke pot. In Los Angeles, as a queue of cars crept slowly in a two-hour In-N-Out Burger drive-through line, in Hollywood, a string of people, standing six feet apart, snaked down the block outside the MMD cannabis dispensary.
Mishka Ashbel, who co-owns the dispensary with his brother, Slava, said, “We get to provide a little relief to a stressed society.” Los Angeles, which shuttered its beaches and hiking trails, has deemed weed an essential service, critical to residents’ health and well-being. “On 4/20, a lot of people used coming to a dispensary as an excuse to get out of the house, to feel normal again,” Ashbel said. “To stand in that line was like a special occasion. People placed online orders for delivery starting at 4 a.m.” (Seniors get their gummies, organic pre-rolled joints, and edibles delivered free.)
“Vice industries,” such as the liquor business, do well during recessions and crises; in the first days of the shutdown, marijuana stocks outperformed the crashing S. & P. Ashbel does not consider cannabis a vice product. “This is a health product,” he said. “You feel this responsibility to the public here—we’re on the front lines. It’s uncharted territory.”
A former N.F.L. player was reprimanded by the F.D.A. for advocating cannabis as a cure for covid-19, but many have found it crucial in coping with the pandemic. David Lonsdale, the C.E.O. of a hemp-cultivation company called CanaFarma, weighed in by phone from his Manhattan apartment. “People are looking at an over-all wellness program,” he said. “Cannabis becomes part of your daily routine, like blood-pressure medicine.”
“People are used to self-medicating, and it’s medical, yeah,” a Broadway actor who works part time as a budtender said. “But people are also just bored.”
Rudy Schreier, a cannabis consultant, said, “You wake up, you have a good breakfast, you maybe take some vitamins, you do work, you have lunch, do more work, smoke a joint, eat an edible. It’s becoming the norm since we’ve been on lockdown.” Schreier works with dispensaries to help them secure licenses. “A lot of people working from home have more time on their hands now,” he said. “In a world that’s so hectic, everyone’s wish was to have more time, and now that that wish has been granted people are, like, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ That’s where cannabis comes into play.” He went on, “I live in a house with seven other people, and during the quarantine we’ve had a couple of girlfriends here, too, so it’s like twelve of us, and pretty much everyone is smoking every day. People finish whatever they have to do for their job at, like, 2 p.m., and they’re, like, ‘What are we going to do for the rest of the day?’ ”
Schreier rushed out to two dispensaries the day that L.A.’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, advised residents to begin staying home. Since then, he’s put two cloned baby cannabis plants in his back yard. “I think that Lowe’s and Home Depot have a surge in sales, and I assume that part of that is gardening supplies,” he said. “We expect home-grows to go way up.”
There’s a side benefit to the boom: the process of extracting cannabis oil requires ethanol, so manufacturers have started producing hand sanitizer in bulk to supply the dispensaries, for customers to use. “At first, it was like a back-yard drug deal for hand sanitizers,” Ashbel said.
Ashbel thinks that smoking pot is the ideal quarantine activity. “It’s conducive to isolation, and it turns off the sensory overload from the news right now,” he said. His brother, Slava, said, “Smoking cannabis has helped people stay inside for generations!” He added, “I didn’t realize I’ve been quarantined full time since 2006.”
Mark Haskell Smith, a novelist who has written about the marijuana industry, agrees. “How else are you going to play eight hours of video games?” he said. He celebrated 4/20 by smoking a joint during a special holiday Pilates class on Zoom.
Mishka Ashbel makes a point of educating his customers about safe smoking during the pandemic. “We’re telling people, ‘Don’t pass the doob around,’ ” he said. One dispensary’s Web site offers a guide for hygienic toking: “Use protection. . . . Bong condoms slip right into the top of a bong so you don’t have to put your mouth where someone else’s was.” Another thing to watch out for, Ashbel noted: “You might end up eating all of your quarantine food supplies.”
Source: The New Yorker