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Marijuana dispensaries delivering during coronavirus shutdown

Updated March 24, 2020 - 3:08 pm

Nevadans can still get their marijuana. It just might take a bit longer to get it.

Marijuana dispensaries made the list of businesses allowed to stay open in Nevada under Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order to close “nonessential” businesses that came down on Friday as part of the state’s plan to blunt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

But that doesn’t mean cannabis companies will be able to operate in the same way they have in the past. Under Sisolak’s mandate, all 68 of the state’s dispensaries must shift to a delivery-only model if they want to stay open.

For many of those businesses, that means having to adapt, and fast, as the demand for products remains as high as ever as people practice aggressive social distancing throughout Nevada.

“It’s kept us on our toes,” said Brandon Wiegand, regional general manager for The Source dispensaries, which has two stores in the Las Vegas Valley.

Dispensaries have become inundated with orders since the change, and many have implemented certain parameters like $50 or $100 minimum order thresholds and a limited ordering time period just to handle that demand.

With dispensaries allowed to stay open but in-person sales barred, the state expected delivery demand to skyrocket. The Department of Taxation, which regulates cannabis in Nevada, rolled out a new virtual inspection process in tandem with the governor’s order so that it could quickly approve more vehicles to deliver and allow dispensaries to meet that need.

Regulators received 127 applications and approved 101 vehicles to deliver cannabis on Saturday and Sunday alone, according to Cannabis Compliance Board Executive Director Tyler Klimas.

Before Sisolak’s order, 38 of the state’s dispensaries were offering delivery, Klimas said. Over the weekend that number grew by 50 percent, with 19 more dispensaries getting approved.

David Farris, vice president of sales and marketing for Planet 13 Dispensary, said that the store has seen an “overwhelming amount of orders being placed, and those windows are being closed rather rapidly.”

Farris said that the company is hoping to have 20 vans approved for delivery by next week, which would be about triple the dispensary’s current fleet.

At The Source, that ordering window has been open for only about two hours each day before the store hit its capacity for the next day’s deliveries and the menus shut off, Wiegand said.

Wiegand said his stores are up to 15 delivery vehicles, and they’re hoping to add more in order to serve more customers.

“It’s been functional, but we know there’s more demand than what’s in the two-hour window that we’re open,” he added.

Wiegand said his delivery workers, who always operate in pairs, are taking active COVID-19 mitigation measures, like wearing proper personal protective gear and sanitizing after orders.

Weigand said he hopes scaling up delivery operations will prove to be a sustainable model while the storefronts are closed. But at this point, even as the stores are hammered with delivery orders, overall sales are still down compared to normal, he added.

“The reality is that we’ve had to adapt and change the way we’re operating in order to stay alive,” Wiegand said. “If we had to go with no business for 30 days, we’d be out of business.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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