Storefront of the Farmacy cannabis shop in Santa Barbara on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (Kenneth Song/News-Press)

Much like local shoppers are rushing to get their hands on toilet paper or fill up their vehicles with gasoline amid the coronavirus pandemic, a local cannabis dispensary has also experienced an influx in demand in recent days.

“Through the roof,” said Graham Farrar, owner of The Farmacy, when asked about recent business trends.

On March 13, as the county declared a local health emergency and issued social mandates, Mr. Farrar said sales were up roughly 30% across his four dispensaries — with the Santa Barbara shop, at 128 W. Mission St., being no exception.

“It seems to be that what society is telling us they want is toilet paper, gas and cannabis, in terms of what they are stockpiling for whatever may come next, which I think is pretty interesting,” he said. “I actually think it’s, maybe not surprisingly, a pretty positive thing that the first time that we’ve had an event like this that we’ve also had legally available cannabis and it seems to be that it’s important to people.”

Mr. Farrar pointed to the increase in stress level given the unknown outcome from the global pandemic, which oftentimes results in sleep deprivation.

“Not getting sick is the foundation of a strong immune system,” he said. “A strong immune system is low stress and good sleep.

“Cannabis can help both of those.”

Sales have been up across the board, though items such as edibles and tinctures — both non-smoking items — appear to be in high demand. Both products have different effects than cannabis, as tinctures are often used to reduce stress or anxiety.

“I think we’re kind of seeing people in that — it’s less of a ‘Friday night party mode’ and a little bit more of a ‘relax, lower the anxiety level and maybe watch something on Netflix and get a good night’s sleep-mode’ and the tinctures and edibles are both tracking well,” Mr. Farrar said.

The store has also implemented some safety measures recently, including limiting the number of customers allowed in the 1,400 square foot storefront to 10 at a time. At least one employee is tasked with wiping down countertops and other frequently used surfaces. In addition, The Farmacy offers delivery service locally for customers who might not want to leave their homes.

Are customers buying more product to save it in case of a full-scale lockdown? Or has consumption increased because of the pandemic?

“It looks like a little bit of both,” Mr. Farrar said, describing it as a “flight to cannabis” of sorts.

“California has a 21-plus year history of looking at cannabis as medicine, and frankly we’re seeing people use it just like that on a broad basis. We want to make sure that we’re there for the consumers who it could be beneficial to.”

With delivery services in place, Mr. Farrar is confident that The Farmacy will remain open in the near term. Places like San Francisco, Sonoma and San Jose have defined cannabis as an essential need, he said.

“We’re seeing all the other spots that may be ahead of us on their quarantine procedures exempting cannabis businesses from any kind of forced closure,” Mr. Farrar said. “Santa Barbara County just asked bars to close and restaurants to go to take-out only. We are pretty equivalent to a restaurant doing take-out; there’s no consumption or anything happening on site. We have web-order pickup where you can order online and just come in and pick it up and go. I think we’re pretty equivalent to that kind of approach and feel comfortable that we’re keeping the public and our employees safe with what we’re doing right now.”

Mr. Farrar also operates a number of greenhouses in Santa Barbara County where they cultivate year-round. Agriculture is also considered an essential business, so little operational impact is expected as the farms will continue to prioritize employee health.

Mr. Farrar realizes how lucky he is to be in an industry that may not be getting hit as hard as others.

“Our dispensary is busy while the restaurant is having to close down and we want to be respectful of that,” he said.

As a result, The Farmacy has announced a giveback program that will benefit the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. With local public schools closed for the foreseeable future, Mr. Farrar wants to ensure that kids will continue to be fed.

In addition, the group CARP Growers started the “93013 Fund,” named after the Carpinteria zip code. The local cannabis farmers group made a $20,000 donation to the fund, which will be distributed to various restaurants and community groups affected by the safety measures. Mr. Farrar hopes that other large corporations in Carpinteria will also donate to the fund.

“I grew up here, so the community is near and dear to my heart. I very much feel a part of it and my kids are a part of it,” Mr. Farrar said. “I feel for people who are impacted potentially even more than we are and I think we’re in an industry which is one of the few that aren’t just absolutely getting hammered by this.

“I think that’s really just being an extension of being a good member of the community. Sometimes you need help and sometimes you get the opportunity to help others.”



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