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Coronavirus changing the cannabis game ahead of 4/20 marijuana celebration

4/20 is the biggest holiday of the year for the cannabis industry. Because of COVID-19 and the stay home order, businesses say this year will look very different.

PORTLAND, Ore — (The video above is from a March 27 story about marijuana sales as the coronavirus pandemic grows.)

4/20 is arguably a pot smoker's favorite holiday.

It's also a day when Oregon's pot shops see a huge spike in sales, and a day the industry plans and prepares for months in advance. 

This year, in 2020, all of April is technically 4/20, and it was set to be dope. The industry was really leaning into the marketing of 4/20/20.

But then, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a stay home order a month before April 20, closing businesses and urging Oregonians to stay home. Marijuana retailers were allowed to remain open.

So Oregon dispensaries are still gearing up for 4/20, in anticipation of customers visiting their storefronts the week leading up to the holiday and April 20 itself.

"This was supposed to be the biggest 4/20 that we’ve ever seen - or that’s been available for legal business - and with coronavirus it took all of that and threw it to the wayside and everybody’s been in a guessing game of how this is going to work," Cannabis Nation Regional Manager Tony Fritts said, "How can we do it socially responsibly or in a responsible fashion? It’s honestly taken all our plans thrown them out the window and now we’re kind of just trying to do something helpful for everybody that's not adding on to the problem."

RELATED: ‘We’ve been having 4/20 every day’: Oregon pot shops see spike in business with new curbside delivery

RELATED: Where did the term 4/20 originate

Many pot shops have seen a steady increase in sales from March through April compared to months prior. 

According to the Oregon Liquor and Control Commission (OLCC), sales surged in the first couple weeks of March. More people are also taking advantage of weed delivery services and the temporary rule allowing people to pick up their products at the curb.

Credit: Cannabis Nation
Let's Do Our Part signs at Cannabis Nation stores

"We contribute so much in just daily revenue, straight to taxes. So as an essential business, or just being cannabis in general, we give right back into our state," Fritts said. "As we have that increase, so does the state. So that's best for our economy, at least in Oregon."

Fritts says he doesn't quite know what to expect for 4/20 this year. They originally had plans to host parties with DJs, food trucks, raffles and giveaways. 

"We’re going to try to control the volume and the masses but we assume it’s going to be like prior years or it could be completely opposite," Fritts said. "I think it's going to be an underwhelming year. If they can’t purchase online or don’t know how to go about it or that’s just not their thing we’re still going to see quite a few people in the shops."

They've spread their deals out over the entire month to reduce foot traffic and time spent inside stores on 4/20.

RELATED: These essential businesses can stay open during Washington's stay-at-home order

Dispensaries are encouraging cannabis consumers to go the online route to avoid crowds. You can order your products from home, head to your favorite dispensary and swing by to pick your pot up inside or at the curb.

Many retailers are also offering delivery to your doorstep. That way, you never have to come into contact with anyone and cannabis workers are protected as well.

Ahead of the holiday, Cannabis Nation is putting stickers on the floors of its shops, marking six-foot distances. 

Credit: Cannabis Nation

Cannabis Nation assigned someone at all of its shops to manage the flow of customers, as well as roam the floor and encourage to help people stay six feet apart. On April 20, Fritts says customers will also find a DMV-type ticketing system in their stores.

"For 4/20 we are going to have an agent controlling how many bodies are in the facility and it's going to be under ten, hopefully, is what I’m pushing for. Some people do one in and one out but we’re going to just control it much like the stores do and have a very limited number of bodies in the store," Fritts said.

On 4/20, employees plan to educate customers about online ordering options moving forward.

In the meantime, like other dispensaries we've heard from including Bridge City Collective and Nectar, Fritts says Cannabis Nation has its staff consistently sanitizing surfaces and containers every hour. Public-facing employees are donning gloves and cloth masks as well. 

Dispensaries are putting hand sanitizing stations around the shop for customers and employees.

"As we are open and have employees here to serve you, please try to do your part in helping protect us in staying open and reducing COVID-19 across the board," Fritts added.