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Cannabis retailers on Central Coast take health precautions amid sales increase

Posted at 6:18 AM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 15:39:20-04

The restrictions imposed due to the spread of the Coronavirus have slowed business for a number of restaurants, bars and cafes, but a Central Coast cannabis retailer is seeing a wave of new customers.

"We're seeing huge unexpected increases, people stocking up and an influx of new customers," Coastal Dispensary Operations Manager Ryan Bishara said.

Retail cannabis industry on a sales high in SLO and Santa Barbara amid Coronavirus restrictions

Bishara manages Coastal Dispensary, which operates a storefront in Santa Barbara and delivery service in San Luis Obispo and Lompoc.

He expected storefront sales to slump but he said customers continue trading green for green both in person and through delivery.

"We thought (deliveries) would cannibalize the retail but it's not something we've seen, we've seen consistent growth in retail at this time, as well," Bishara said.

In response to the wave of new business, Bishara said his business is boosting its sanitation procedures to ensure both customers using cannabis for recreation and for medical reasons continue to have access to the product.

At the Santa Barbara storefront, a glass window separates customers from sales personnel. The delivery service drivers are also taking special precautions.

"Sanitizing vehicles, making sure any product handled by someone with gloves and wearing a mask," Bishara said.

With the recent shelter at home order announced in San Luis Obispo and the temporary halt of alcohol sales at California bars issued earlier this week, dispensaries in California and across the country have begun seeing an increase in business.

Ocean Hye Club in Lompoc is one of several cannabis retailers answering a flood of calls.

"We did receive a high volume of phone calls this morning and we just reassured them we're open until we get the word - if we ever get the word - to close," Ocean Hye Club Manager Veda Ornelas.

Bishara believes the increased time away from work and friends is motivating new customers to experiment.

"My observation is a lot of people are now on vacation or for an extended amount of time at home and a lot of people who haven't had the opportunity to experience what's become mainstream cannabis are taking advantage of that free time," Bishara said.