Marijuana sales bloom during COVID-19 outbreak

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Walled Lake — Call it a silver lining. Call it fortuitous timing.

Whatever it is, one thing is clear: If ever there was a business for these troubled times, it might be ones like The Greenhouse.

The marijuana dispensary and others in Metro Detroit have watched their sales bloom during the coronavirus outbreak. At least until Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's recent edict for residents to stay home.

Employee Michelle Ficyk brings an order to a driver waiting curbside on Walled Lake Road at The Greenhouse marijuana dispensary in Walled Lake.

"I'm going crazy here," said co-owner Jerry Millen.

Greenhouse, which has 14 registers, was so busy one day last week, it had to call in more workers, he said. It was his busiest day since opening the shop last year.

Sales slowed the next day with Whitmer's stay-home order, which also limited the sale of marijuana to deliveries and curbside pickup. But the dispensary still was handling about 500 cars a day, Millen said. The steady procession of vehicles continued Monday.

“It’s a relief,” customer Jeff Bailey said about his favorite drug. “It’s scary what’s happening.”

Greenhouse isn’t the only one enjoying a boost as the disease circles the globe.

The 76 marijuana retailers in Michigan finished their most profitable week ever earlier this month, which also is when the state reported its first case of COVID-19.

Recreational sales jumped more than 20% from $4.7 million to $5.8 million during the week of March 16, according to the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Medical sales rose 27% from $6.2 million to $7.9 million.

The figures weren't yet available for last week, but businesses said the closing of their interiors cut sales by nearly half after the initial boom.

Most of the demand has been for recreational marijuana, according to Metro Detroit merchants. Customers have told them about being worried about the pandemic.

A worker at the Flower Bowl, a dispensary in Inkster, said its phones last week were ringing constantly.

Pot shop owners said they were buoyed by Whitmer’s order, which allowed their businesses to remain open, along with others deemed critical to the state’s well-being.

It was another step in marijuana’s transformation from its old image of illicit sales, merchants said.

Employee Jarred Brooks brings an order to a driver waiting curbside on Walled Lake Road at The Greenhouse marijuana dispensary in Walled Lake.

“That gave us more credibility,” Millen said. “It speaks volumes that we’re allowed to stay open.”

Ironically, the scene at the Greenhouse last week was reminiscent of the old days of marijuana.

Cars pulled up to the business, which once was a two-story home. After receiving a bag from a worker, the motorists drove off.

Buyers wearing masks added to the old-timey feel.

Customer Richard Mack said he wasn’t worried about catching the virus. At 31, he said he didn’t feel his health was at risk.

But Mack said he was glad Greenhouse was open. He likes pot, he said.

“It just makes me feel good,” he said about the herb. 

The dispensary, which sits along a busy intersection in a shopping district, converted its parking lot into a pick-up area. It also doubled the number of parking spaces from 20 to 40.

Orders were placed on its website.

The business had planned to have a blowout party earlier this month to mark its expansion to recreational sales. It was going to feature bands, fireworks and food trucks.

Jerry Miller, owner of The Greenhouse marijuana dispensary in Walled Lake, March 26, 2020.  A stay-home edict by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer limited marijuana sales to deliveries and curbside pickup.

But Millen didn’t think a celebration was appropriate given how serious the outbreak had become.

And now, because of how serious the outbreak had become, his customers' frenzied purchases were providing their own fireworks.

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Twitter: @francisXdonnell