Pubdate: Thu, 16 Jul 2020
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2020 The New York Times Company
Author: Alison Stine


Ben Emerson had never tried cannabis edibles before his birthday in
April. He was raised in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which he
left five years ago, and marijuana was "this thing that I had never
really even thought that I was allowed to do," he said.

"And then I'm like, 'Wait, I can actually make up my own mind about

For his first foray, Mr. Emerson, 38, chose strawberry-flavored
gummies, which he ordered online and picked up curbside at a
dispensary near his home in Portland, Ore. "I'm not super-interested
in smoking anything," he said. "But as soon as I decided I wanted to
try cannabis, I wanted to try something edible."

Anxious times (say, a global pandemic) call for palliatives, like
meditation, exercise or, in some cases, weed. More than a dozen states
declared cannabis stores and medical marijuana dispensaries essential
businesses, along with pharmacies and grocery stores, as the
coronavirus sent millions of Americans home, with or without jobs.

Since March, the cannabis industry has seen an influx of new
customers: Eaze, an online cannabis retailer, told The Associated
Press that first-time purchases of cannabis were up more than 50
percent in early March. And as fear of inhaled products has risen -
spurred partly by studies of "vaping illness" and exacerbated by
respiratory risks associated with the coronavirus - many consumers
have opted to enjoy cannabis in edible form.

When the Apothecarium, an upscale dispensary with locations in
California and Nevada, moved from in-store retail to curbside pickup
in March, Cali Manzello, the general manager of its San Francisco
flagship, noticed a change in the size of orders.

"One of the first orders that printed out from the pickup machine said
25 packages of this gummy on it," she said. "And we all kind of
giggled. We were like, 'Ooh boy, here it goes. It's starting.'"

"It did not stop," Ms. Manzello continued. "People were ordering, you
know, up to the legal limit, which can be up to 80 edibles in some
cases." Ms. Manzello said that the company's edible sales are up 16
percent, while vape sales have fallen by 19 percent.

"Edibles every year have been taking up a bigger slice of the pie,"
said Alex Levine, an owner and joint C.E.O. of Green Dragon, a
dispensary that operates 15 locations in Colorado. "Right before
corona hit, edibles were basically at 20 percent of our sales. That
was a huge increase over the past couple of years."

Vince Ning, the founder and C.E.O. of Nabis, a wholesale cannabis
distributor in California, said that, as a possible result of
"health-conscious" consumerism, his company has also seen an increase
in sales of edibles.

"I think cannabis in general is a pretty recession-proof good," Mr.
Ning said. "Much like alcohol," whose sales also skyrocketed as people
prepared to be holed up at home indefinitely.

Chris Beals, the C.E.O. of Weedmaps, an online directory for
dispensaries, said that according to company data, overall sales of
edibles in March were double those in February. He said it could be a
result of increased cannabis consumption among habitual users but also
"new consumers coming in, who were working from home, dealing with the
stresses of Covid."

In the close quarters of quarantine, being stuck with roommates or
family for an extended period of time, consumers may not want to smoke
or vape. "When people are working at home or they're around children
or family, edibles are just more discreet," Mr. Beals said.

Lauren Gockley, a classically trained chocolatier, is the director of
edibles at Coda Signature, whose product line includes truffles and
"fruit notes" (fancy weed gummies). She said consumers may be turning
to edibles during the pandemic for other social reasons, including

"With the pandemic, there's not that same sharing of cannabis the way
there used to be," she said. "There's the phrase 'puff, puff, pass,'
and now it's 'puff, puff, don't pass.'"

"Passing around a tin of gummies is going to be much more acceptable
than passing around a joint or a vape pen," she added.

In April, Mr. Levine said that Green Dragon saw sales of edibles dip.
He chalked that up to customers buying flowers, the smokable part of
the plant (commonly called "bud"), which they could use to make their
own edibles.

"People didn't know how long this was going to last. 'Is cannabis
going to be unavailable for months?' So people bought flowers," Mr.
Levine said. "Flower is always the best value. It's like buying the
raw ingredients, if you will. It's always cheaper to buy the flour and
stuff to make cookies than buying the prepared cookies."

Tee Franklin, a comic book writer and novelist in New Jersey, makes
edibles at home and often uses cannabis oil in her cooking. "Oh, baby,
I make everything," she said. "Every single thing you can think of, I
have made within reason."

That includes "an entire soul food dinner," which she cooked for
herself and her 80-year-old mother: ribs with homemade
cannabis-infused barbecue sauce, mac and cheese made with cannabis
butter, and baked beans and collard greens cooked with cannabis sugar.

Ms. Franklin, who is in her mid-40s, received a medical marijuana card
(another item in high demand these days) in December, after seven
years of living with a disability caused by a car accident. It took
her a month to save up enough money to make a purchase. When she first
tried it, she said, "My pain in five minutes went from a 9, 10 to a 6,
7. Those five minutes changed my entire life."

Ms. Franklin still uses a walker, but she said she can move better and
stand for longer because of the relief cannabis provides her. "I'm not
as slow," she said. "I'm not the Flash, but I got a little pep in my
step, and that's all from marijuana."

"It helps with depression, anxiety, stress," she said. "There is no
way on God's green Earth that I would be able to deal with the
coronavirus and the protests of George Floyd and just me being a Black
woman, period, there's no way."

Ms. Franklin said edibles are the most accessible form of marijuana
for many people, but not for everyone.

Money can be a major barrier, especially since some 20 million
Americans are out of work because of the pandemic. Mr. Levine noted
that at one of the Green Dragon storefronts where he was recently
working, "half of the people coming in had no income. I'm sure it was
even worse than that."

The price of edibles can vary based on the state - and the amount of
THC - but with a package of 10 gummies with 100 milligrams per bag of
THC selling for $20 in Colorado and $18 in California, the cost can be
prohibitive for some people.

Mr. Emerson, in Portland, acknowledged that his own ability to afford
and have access to legal cannabis, for recreation, was a privilege.
"That's not something that a lot of people have been able to do," he
said. "A lot of damage has been done particularly to Black
communities, the communities of color, because of something like
cannabis, which is pretty harmless."

Ms. Franklin echoed his words, noting the disproportionate
incarceration rates of Black people for marijuana possession.

"Dispensaries are an essential business," she said. "It's a
drug-dealing business that is owned majority by white. But the Black
people who were doing the same thing are locked up. The brown folks,
same thing, they're locked up."

"That's the only thing about this whole weed business that I am not of
fan of," she continued. "That's the only thing. Everything else, I am
for it. I'm for it."