Cannabis culture has always been alive and well for the past number of years and rightly so because it celebrates what marijuana can do and what it has to offer. This is a global movement of sorts that has come to mean more than simply consuming cannabis and spans understanding and support from different parts of the world.
From being used recreationally, for medication, for religious purposes, and many others, it cannot be denied that the cannabis culture is rooted in the belief that cannabis can enhance one’s life, health, and general wellbeing. As a matter of fact, numerous people view marijuana as an essential part of their lives that having this on hand has been deemed as essential as stocking up on precious toilet paper.
The coming of the global coronavirus pandemic has put the United States and the rest of the world at standstill. With countries shutting their borders to others and governments issuing health mandates and guidelines to help stem the virus, including shutting down businesses and staying at home, this has undoubtedly left people struggling to live out a sense of normalcy they once had.
At the center of this, all is cannabis consumption. Cannabis has been a central figure in the lives of people and has been a part of their everyday experiences, rituals, and traditions. While there are those who use these for medical purposes, there are also many others who rely on the plant as a means to relax, unwind, and escape the harsh realities of life for a while.
Over the past few years, marijuana has no longer been synonymous with stoner culture, thanks in large part to the legalization movement taking over the country and the rest of the world by storm. Despite this, cannabis culture has always been associated with sharing communal experiences with one another.
At a time where social events and large gatherings are deemed unsafe, this leaves many marijuana users and enthusiasts wondering how they can safely navigate this social space, particularly one that emphasizes sharing and community. This article seeks to answer this and shed more light on the new normal today.
Rising of Cannabis Consumption During the Pandemic
The lockdowns, coupled with rising medical concerns, the loss of jobs and homes, lack of healthcare accessibility, has led individuals, particularly those who are in isolation, to have increased stress and anxiety, as well as a bevy of other mental health-related concerns.
These have also given way to mental health issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and many other pressing concerns. It is no wonder, however, that these thoughts have been on the minds of many people, what with many of us being cut off from social activities and support networks, as well as many others, grieving not just over the loss of the lives they once lead, but also loss of their loved ones.
This is no different from cannabis users who find solace and community from like-minded individuals and who often meet to celebrate the wonders of the plant. Forced to navigate an altogether new landscape, it is easy to see how challenging this was not just for the community, but for all people around the world.
To help cope with the effects brought on by the virus pandemic, people and communities have turned to cannabis use. This came at an all-time high when people were forced to stay at home due to the government mandates, as well as when schools and work have adopted a remote experience.
Apart from dealing with the aforementioned experiences, there are also individuals who continually had to use marijuana to deal with their existing conditions, such as chronic pain, debilitating illnesses, and the like. There are also people who relied on marijuana use to help with their sleep issues and anxieties.
This may be the reason why cannabis use has drastically increased at the height of the pandemic. College students, in particular, are among the most affected group that have been found more reliant on cannabis usage during the new normal.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
The changes and the rise in the number of users came as the global health crisis forced many individuals to change their day-to-day way of living. Apart from dealing with social distancing measures, people were living on a remote experience, contributing to a strain not just on their mental health, but also their physical and emotional wellbeing.
As mentioned, college students are a huge part of this population. In 2020 alone, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that 44% of students used and turned to marijuana use for the year. This number increase drastically from 2015 by six points and up 14 points from the low of 30% in 2006.
Meanwhile, a Forbes article reveals that a study from the Journal of Addictive Diseases notes that approximately 91% of people with mental health issues and conditions use cannabis to deal with stressful situations, including the likes of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most participants who took part in the said study used cannabis daily or on an almost daily basis.
Impact of the Pandemic on the Cannabis Industry
The global health crisis has undoubtedly impacted the cannabis industry. Across North America, particularly in the United States and in Canada, marijuana was considered an essential item, especially to individuals who relied on it for medical use and consumption. A number of states have even deemed it accordingly, even saying that it is just as important as milk, bread, and even toilet paper.
With cannabis being considered an important aspect of a person’s wellbeing, many states in the United States alone saw an increase in cannabis sales. These include the likes of New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Colorado, California, Washington, and many others.
As such, it comes as no surprise that these states and areas that have deemed cannabis essential, and by extension, have made it legal and accessible to users, have garnered increased support from cannabis users and enthusiasts as well. Those who already had an established following or customer base in the state or region usually garnered increased sales.
In fact, Denver saw a whopping 392% increase in sales before a stay-at-home order was given out. Meanwhile, a Reno-based cannabis delivery service experienced a massive 400% increase after state-mandated cannabis retail dispensaries were ordered to close for in-person purchases.
California, on the other hand, has amassed more than $1 billion in tax revenues for the year 2020. Illinois has also continued to make record-breaking sales, even seeing a $127.8 million sale for July 2021 alone.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for all states and businesses. There were also other dispensaries that had to let go of their employees, while some had resulted in reducing their employees’ working hours. There were reports of cannabis tourism locations suffering from a lack of customer base, especially at a time when traveling and movement was still restricted.
Among the affected locations include Las Vegas and Massachusetts. While the state of Massachusetts has already legalized marijuana use and consumption, it has temporarily halted the sale for a time to lessen the number of people potentially coming from out of town to purchase cannabis.
Measures Taken by States
It is also worth mentioning that the legalization movement that has taken numerous states by storm has helped contribute not only towards destigmatizing the plant and furthering education around what it can do but also increasing access for people who really are in need of marijuana.
To keep up with the changing times and the need to follow social distancing measures, local cannabis dispensaries adopted different methods of providing services to customers. With the counter-style dispensary temporarily out of the question due to the growing number of cases, businesses had to quickly shift gears.
One of the measures taken by these dispensaries is taking orders online or through the phone and having customers pick their orders curbside or through the parking lot – all, of course, to observe social distancing.
In addition, online-based ordering has also become more emphasized to keep interactions to a minimum. There are, however, some dispensaries that keep their telephone lines open for those customers who are not exactly technically adept with the internet world and technology. These calls, however, brief, also offer a form of interaction and education reminiscent of days before the pandemic.
Deliveries and transactions are not just limited to curbside pick-ups. Dispensaries have also expanded some of their services to include at-home deliveries.
Dispensaries are not the only ones to make changes in their services. Governments have also put-up evolving practices and regulations surrounding the use, possession, cultivation, and even legalization. For one, the state of New York has finally made cannabis legal, but sales have yet to commence in the state.
To help medical marijuana users and businesses alike, authority figures such as state representatives and lawmakers have proposed ways to keep shops open. On the one hand, Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark called on state Governor Charlie Baker to reopen adult-use cannabis shops to help provide military veterans access to cannabis when needed.
Similarly, Illinois State Representative Sonya Harper introduced a new bill in the state allowing dispensaries in the area to make at-home deliveries. Newly appointed Governor Kathy Hochul has likewise hastened the process of making a cannabis group of appointees in order for the state of New York to proceed with the body making rules and regulations surrounding the use, sale, and more of cannabis in the area.
How to Get High Amidst the Changing Times
The global health crisis is still very much underway and other coronavirus variants are seen evolving over time. While the fight against this virus is still strong, with numerous vaccination drives and health measures being taken, it should be emphasized that the virus is still out there.
With this in mind, it does not hurt to take certain precautions, especially to protect yourself and your loved ones. One of the measures you can take is, of course, celebrating cannabis culture away from your friends and family. You can do this via a socially distanced gathering or even through Zoom meetings online at the comfort of your own home. There are also cannabis virtual events and conferences that you can attend and bask in the community that you are in.
Cannabis culture is heavy on sharing and the overall communal experience. If physical gatherings cannot be avoided, you may want to avoid sharing joints, bongs, and other marijuana paraphernalia. This avoids contamination of materials, as well helps you avoid getting and spreading the virus in return.
It also helps to prepare your own cannabis during this time as an extra safety measure. Cleaning your tools on a regular basis, preferably after every use, should also be the case.
It seems that numerous brands and dispensaries are even jumping in and making effort to keep up with the times. You can see that edibles have been highlighted even further to keep away from smoking cannabis while still getting the high that the plant can give. Vape sales have also likewise decreased.
It appears that the steps taken by brands and dispensaries are all in support of not only boosting your health and wellness but also strengthening your respiratory system.
As you know, your lungs and respiratory system are one of the first to be attacked by the coronavirus, so keeping away from vapes and other cannabis-smoking paraphernalia can actually give you better chances of surviving and thriving.
Smoking and vaping are both damaging to your lungs as it is. However, coupled with a bout of coronavirus infection, this can further exacerbate existing conditions and increase the likelihood of affecting your lungs.
If you are looking for alternatives, going for edibles as well as tinctures is the best way to go. Besides the traditional brownies, you can experiment with edibles that you are fond of consuming, from gummies, cookies, teas, and many others.
The Bottom Line
The light is definitely at the end of the tunnel, and in a few months’ or years’ time, who knows, you might just find cannabis culture alive and well just like before. In the meantime, however, be sure to observe these practices so that you can safely navigate the changing of the times while still enjoying your marijuana session.