Marijuana enthusiasts have for decades celebrated all things marijuana on April 20. No, Hallmark doesn’t yet have a card to mark “420.” But the once counter-culture celebration is now appealing even to button-down Corporate America. (April 19)
While the novel coronavirus has made the foreseeable future quite hazy, one thing is clear: The day dedicated to the dank is almost here.
4/20 is rolling up even as Californians remain under a shelter-in-place order.
“It’s not just 4/20 and cannabis with the COVID-19. The whole month is 4/20 — 4/20/20,” said Mike Bitar, cofounder and vice president of Retail Operations at East of Eden in South Salinas.
The novel coronavirus has already changed the ways dispensaries operate and also impacted sales, which are up across the board at East of Eden, Bitar said.
At CannaCruz in Salinas, the staff is seeing many customers buy low-dose edibles, said owner Grant Palmer.
“People are bored at home. They’re buying a lot more cannabis,” he said. “I am told from a lot of people that cannabis makes Netflix more interesting.”
People are also shelling out more green in one trip to stockpile rather than stopping by more often. Sales of the anti-anxiety Indica strains “are way up” at CannaCruz, he said.
However, at East of Eden, sales of the energetic sativas are much higher, possibly “to be active around the house,” Bitar said. Indica sales, which spiked last month, have “chilled,” he said.
“People are keeping social distancing, but they’re trying to become more active,” he said.
Cannabis businesses are allowed to operate under the shelter in place order because they provide medicinal products to some customers, according to Monterey County Public Health.
But Palmer stresses that consumers, especially those smoking or vaping, should use in moderation. The coronavirus is a respiratory illness, so any smoking or vaping could put people at greater risk.
One idea, he said, is to supplement the high with edibles.
Celebrate 4/20 with a ‘special’ snack
Palmer acknowledged the high differs depending on whether someone is smoking, vaping or ingesting their cannabis.
That’s why he suggests that, if they don’t want to switch to edibles entirely, they should eat an appropriate dose of edibles to supplement the smoking.
“A lot of people are afraid of edibles. (They should) eat one — take a bong hit and supplement it with edibles,” he said. “… You’re smoking way less than you normally do.”
Bitar said customers have told him they’ve changed their habits. He used a regular 34-year-old customer as an example.
“He told me he stopped because of the coronavirus,” Bitar said. “He’s consuming edibles now.”
The ingredients in edibles, beyond any herb used to flavor them, matters a lot, he said.
Sugary treats, such as gummies, will affect users much more quickly than ones containing fats, such as chocolates, rice crispy bars and cookies, he said.
That’s because the sugary treats have the normal version of THC and it will start being absorbed in the mouth.
The fat-based munchies, however, have a stronger version of THC that enters the bloodstream through the digestive tract, so it could take up to two hours to take effect, Palmer said.
Casual and new users should start with the sugar-based treats, he said. In addition, there are options for people on special diets, such as gluten-free and vegan, Bitar said.
“Rabbis are making kosher cannabis products,” he added.
Those switching from smoking to edibles should also take care of dosage, Bitar said.
“You can always go up, but you can’t go down. I’ve had a lot of people, trying to be macho or a hero, and they use too much and are turned away from cannabis,” he said. “When you started drinking alcohol you didn’t go to whiskey right away.”
Both Bitar and Palmer also cautioned that cannabis affects everyone differently based on a range of variables, only some of which are well understood.
“The way flower affects you versus even your twin brother is different. The science hasn’t caught up yet,” Bitar said. “You have 5 mg and your brother has a 30 mg edible — you could still get higher.”
If someone does overindulge, they should remind themselves the risk of overdosing is negligible. They should try to eat something, besides another edible, drink fluids and find a comfortable place to wait the high out, Palmer said.
“If you go to an emergency room for eating weed, you’re just going to make a bad situation worse and crowd our ER at a time we don’t need it,” he said.
For vulnerable populations, East of Eden offers curbside deliveries, Bitar said.
CannaCruz will walk the product out to a customer’s car if that person phones ahead, Palmer said.
“You call up our store and say I really don’t feel comfortable coming into the store. Can you take extra care to make sure product is safe?” Palmer said, adding the staff will then take additional precautions.
As for celebrating cannabis amid COVID-19, Palmer said he’s seen a lot of people doing “ridiculous stuff” with Zoom — a video-conferencing application.
“It’s ridiculous but they’re laughing and having fun,” he said. “You don’t need a large crowd of people to make it fun.”
Going for a walk or on a trail can be a relaxing way to enjoy the high as well, he said.
Weedmaps is also offering a world celebration concert called “Higher Together: Sessions from Home,” Bitar said.
“Just think of it as the Superbowl: People stay home and watch the Superbowl or the World Series,” he said. “Most people are watching from home.”
But not everything, at least at this point, can be helped by cannabis — hemp toilet paper is “probably three to five years away,” Bitar said.
Joe Szydlowski is a multimedia journalist for the Salinas Californian who covers local government, crime and cannabis. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JoeSzyd_Salinas. He can be reached at 235-2360. Help support The Californian’s work: https://bit.ly/2Qo298J
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