The anxiety caused by the lockdown and fear of getting infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) made medicinal cannabis dispensaries report a 100 percent sales increase in March compared to the previous month.
Many medicinal cannabis patients have chosen to supply themselves for a longer period with the products they usually use to treat their physical and mental health conditions, and to cope with the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.
Patients have increased their purchases due to the uncertainty of the curfew and the reduction in the hours to purchase their products from 8:00 a.m. at 4:00 p.m. Prior to the lockdown, the hours of operation for cannabis dispensaries were 6:00 a.m. at 10:00 p.m.
"Medicinal cannabis consumption has increased. Patients are buying supplies for three weeks and up to a month to avoid having to go to the dispensaries more frequently. There has also been an increase in online shopping to then go pick up the product," said Goodwin Aldarondo, legal adviser of Puerto Rico Legal Marijuana, an organization aimed at education on the legal and scientific aspects of cannabis medicine.
The most requested products in dispensaries are flowers and edibles, followed by vaporized oils—which are sold under a strict framework of safety and health and respecting social isolation measures within the stipulated hours.
"We are receiving patients who come, above all, due to anxiety. We work with gloves, masks, and distance between patients," Aldarondo said.
Tropizen, a Canóvanas-based company dedicated to medicinal cannabis growing and manufacturing, is one of those that has experienced high levels of sales during the emergency, so it is expanding its work team.
Marni Meistrell, co-founder of Tropizen, affirmed that their sales in dispensaries have reached the highest levels since they began operations, with a 100-percent increase compared to February.
"Our message to patients is to remain calm. We are recruiting additional staff to increase our manufacturing capacity and continue to supply dispensaries," Meistrell said.
The panorama at Cannacity Clinic, with establishments in Bayamón and Manatí, has also been very positive, as it has seen an increase in the sale of its cannabis products compared to the weeks before the first curfew decreed by the government as a COVID-19 emergency measure.
Giovanni Alemán, owner of Cannacity, said that the dispensary saw a sales boost of 20 percent from March 15 to March 31 compared to preceding sales earlier that month. He added that the company has also seen a "slight increase" in new patients.
"People are very anxious and we are grateful to be able to help them handle the situation naturally. It is important that we remain open because people are going to need it so that they remain calm and not go to the streets to challenge authority," he said.
Alemán concurred that cannabis flowers and edibles are the highest-sold products, but noted that cartridge to vaporize oil, while still popular, has seen a slight sales decline.
"I think it's because people are taking care of their respiratory system, which is affected by the virus," Alemán commented on this regard.
Vanessa Álvarez, a member of the Puerto Rican Dispensary Collective and owner of the Faro Dispensary & Wellness Center in Ponce, has also seen an increase in sales despite the fact that the patient must wait longer to receive the product due to the strict security protocol.
"We keep the same prices and people appreciate it because here now there is an economic situation that affects us all. We have a robust customer base that keeps buying and using cannabis to manage their anxiety... I see that now they are expanding their consumption methods with different products," Álvarez said.
She highlighted the stigma in the use of medicinal cannabis, which—in her opinion— does not treat the patient or the industry in the same way as that of drug prescriptions.
"People buy a lot because they are also afraid of us being closed due to the constant curfew changes. The hours have already dropped... We are open until 4:00 p.m., but we have to close at 3:00 p.m. for staff to take inventory and prepare. We would like [the government] to review that and make it more flexible for the benefit of this population. They shouldn't label us because these products can also be said to be medicinal," Álvarez stated.
According to the P.R. Health Department's data from July 2019, there are 92,499 medicinal cannabis patients, of which 58 percent are men and 42.54 percent are between 21 and 40 years old.
The Metro Fajardo region is the one with the highest concentration of patients with 38.69 percent. At 37 percent, the two most common conditions for the use of medicinal cannabis are anxiety and chronic pain.