As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the US economy and retail sector, the legal cannabis industry has needed to rapidly adapt to ensure customers are able to continue purchasing their products. Unlike many companies, however, the cannabis industry has been able to maintain their sales during this period, and in states with legalised cannabis, have in fact increased as much as 50% according to Business Insider. 

This is thanks to the fact that cannabis has been deemed an ‘essential item’ in some states such as California. Whilst sales remain strong, according to Market Watch, the buying process has changed with the rise of online shopping and an increased focus on hygiene. As a result, dispensaries need to adapt to keep up with the evolving retail landscape, and changing customer expectations. 

So, how have cannabis companies continued to serve customers? 

Delivery adjustments

As expected, cannabis deliveries have spiked during the COVID-19 period and have helped many dispensaries survive. Airfield Supply Co, a dispensary in San Jose, added six new Tesla cars to its fleet which helped increase its deliveries by 400 percent, according to the Observer.  Airfield’s head of marketing, Chris Lane, thinks this is the future for the cannabis industry.

However, the delivery process comes with extra precautions, as Caliva dispensary’s chief financial officer, Steve Allen, explains. According to Allen, there is a swathe of protocols that need to be adhered to when delivering cannabis, including scanning drivers’ licences, validating ages and addresses, and ensuring that customers haven’t ordered over their daily, weekly or monthly maximums.

New retail trends changing the landscape for cannabis dispensaries
The rise of BOPIS and curbside pick up

The required shift to digital made apparent by COVID-19 sees retailers continuing to enhance their online presence. Companies are looking at their brick-and-mortar stores and are redefining their purpose and functionalities as we move forward.


Dispensaries such as The Healing Center (THCSD) in San Diego and TruMed Dispensary in Phoenix have introduced BOPIS, whereby customers buy online and pick up their order in store. THCSD even offer curbside pickup, allowing customers to wait in their car while a staff member brings their order to them. 

To ensure their customers know about their new BOPIS-only policy, TruMed have updated the homepage of their website to explain how the BOPIS process works. 

Focus on health and safety in retail stores

Whilst the cannabis industry has been able to maintain, and in some cases increase, sales during the lockdown period, they do face the same challenges as regular retailers as to how they address the health and safety of their employees and staff whilst maintaining a quality in-store experience. 

Much like other retailers, dispensaries have implemented strict adjustments to accommodate health and safety needs including social distancing, providing hand sanitizer, daily professional steam cleaning and sanitizing touch spots being every 15 minutes. 

The retail industry is undoubtedly going through major changes which will impact the way the cannabis industry and dispensaries operate. Recent events have shown that dispensaries are able to indeed thrive under current circumstances, while still maintaining satisfactory health and safety procedures. What’s more, many of these changes may even prove to be successful in a post-COVID world, where customer expectations have adapted to a contactless shopping experience.