It’s standing room only for cannabis retailers because of coronavirus


A line of customers wraps around the building at the cannabis retailer, Green2Go, on March 18. According to business owner, Steve Lee, customers are told to stand three to six feet apart in line and are limited to 10 or fewer people in the building at a time.

A line of customers wraps around the building at the cannabis retailer, Green2Go, on March 18. According to business owner, Steve Lee, customers are told to stand three to six feet apart in line and are limited to 10 or fewer people in the building at a time.

jking@tricityherald.com

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The line of customers at the Finley cannabis retailer Green2go wrapped around the side of the building Wednesday morning.

“There are quite a few folks turning out to make sure they aren’t on the bad end of a state-mandated closure,” said business owner Steve Lee.

Other cannabis stores in the area also were seeing a jump in business.

A manager at Altitude said the Prosser store was much busier than usual with customers hoping to avoid standing in long lines at other outlets closer to the Tri-Cities.

The state on Wednesday said licensed cannabis retailers do not have to close but they needed to promote social distancing, in particular for patients who buy medical marijuana.

No drive-up windows are allowed, but the state is permitting the businesses to sell to customers outside as long as they are on the business’ property.

Lee, Kennewick’s mayor pro tem, said his store has always prided itself on being an industry leader for cleanliness. And now they’ve added other precautions:

  • People need to stand 3 to 6 feet away from one another while waiting outside.
  • Limiting the number of people inside the building to 10 at a time.
  • Shutting down every other cash register to create additional space between customers.
  • Making sure both cashiers and bud tenders wear gloves when handling cannabis and cash — the only way payments can be made.

Altitude is a smaller shop and hasn’t had to worry about a crowd but also plans to limit customers inside to just 10 at a time and has been disinfecting surfaces every hour.

Rachelle, the purchasing manager at the store, who asked that her last name not be used for security reasons, said they started stocking up their inventory last week in anticipation of the surge.

“It’s an unprecedented time, … I just urge everyone to take it seriously,” she said.

Curbside pickup for patients

Altitude is already offering curbside pickup for medical marijuana customers.

Green2Go has designated an hour before the store opens exclusively for seniors and community members who are at an increased risk of infection to minimize exposure.

And on March 19, the store will start curbside pick-up for patients.

In San Francisco, where the strictest lockdown is in place, the mayor has verified cannabis retail as an essential business. Lee said this precedent gives him hope that he will be able to keep his doors open for customers and employees alike.

“As things change, we are trying to adapt and adopt as quickly as possible,” he said.

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Prosser’s Altitude remains the Tri-City area’s only legal retail marijuana store. Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland have all banned marijuana-related businesses. Sunnyside City Council recently decided to renew a six-month moratorium on pot businesses. The temporary ban already has been in place for 11/2 years.

One advantage that Lee said the cannabis industry has over others is that rules and regulations were constantly changing before the outbreak, so cannabis retailers are used to adjusting quickly to ever-changing circumstances.

Another advantage that the cannabis industry in Washington has is a closed-loop supply chain in which the entire seed to sale process happens within state borders. For that reason, Lee says, cannabis supply should remain uninterrupted even if the state enters lockdown and borders close.

While his employees wear gloves when handling money, Lee hopes that customers will be allowed to start using debit cards for cannabis transactions to cut back on unnecessary contact with cash.

Lee also hopes that the state will expand pick-up and home delivery for all customers.

Follow more of our reporting on Full coverage of coronavirus in Washington


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