Pot sales thrive during coronavirus pandemic

BALDWIN - Area medical and recreational marijuana provisioning centers are experiencing a robust business, despite the "Stay Home Stay Safe" order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

"It began the day before the "Stay Home Stay Safe" order went into effect," said Doug Hellyar, president and COO of Lume Cannabis Company, which operates two marijuana outlets in the Mecosta and Osceola county areas. "We had a huge spike on March 23, and in the last two weeks, since the order went into effect, our business has increased quite significantly."

Hellyar said he has seen increases in both medical and recreational adult use and attributes the increased business to people having to stay at home and having more free time.

"Anxiety levels are up and people are looking for an outlet," he said. "They are looking for a way to sleep better, a way to relax and a way to manage that anxiety."

According to Hellyar, both the Lume Cannabis Company in Big Rapids and the Lit Provisioning Center in Evart, through online orders and home deliveries, are continuing to do a great business.

Lume opened in downtown Big Rapids on March 11, right before the coronavirus restrictions began to be put into place, Hellyar said.

"It is always difficult to estimate how a new business will do initially, but because of the awareness of the Lume brand, the store has actually exceeded our initial estimates," Hellyar said. "Despite there being less activity in the downtown area due to the 'Stay Home Stay Safe' order, customers have taken advantage of the ability to order online and pick up curbside, and that has helped us exceed our expectations."

Curbside pick up is just one of the adjustments the company has had to make due to the pandemic. In addition, they are limited to how many employees they can have in the store at a time, so they have implemented fluctuating schedules and are requiring employees to maintain a safe distance from one another. Employees are also wearing masks and gloves while on duty.

"Our service is designed to serve the customer through the 'inside the store experience,'" Hellyar said, "and even though we have been identified by the state as an 'essential service,' we have had to transition to curbside pick up or home delivery only. So far, that has been working extremely well."

"Our luminaries greet the customer outside at the curb and determine if they have already ordered online or if they need to place an order," he continued.

"We still offer the one-to-one experience for customers who need it," he added. "Our luminaries will show the customer the products on a mobile device and help them decide what product is best suited to them. They will then take the order and fill it."

Lume handles home delivery orders for Big Rapids, Evart and the surrounding areas through the Lit Provisioning Center in Evart.

Hellyar said the delivery service has been doubling every week with more and more customers requesting it because of the stay at home restrictions.

"I believe this trend will continue for the foreseeable future," Hellyar said. "I don't see a slow down in demand happening, and as long we are complying with the procedure to stay safe, we can continue."

Hellyar said since the curbside pick-up service is going so well, he is considering continuing it even after the restrictions have been lifted, if the state will allow it.

"Patients value that service," he said. "They like having the option of not having to get out of the car and come into the store, or not having to wait in line. They can order at their leisure and pick it up while they are out."

Audrey Dominque, owner of The Green Door in Baldwin, said her sales have remained steady during the governor's restrictions.

"We haven't really seen an increase or decrease," Dominique said. "We are medical only, and our same customers we have been serving continue to come in for the products they need."

Dominique said they also have had to transition to curbside pick up only. Customers can order online or by phone and come pick up the order at the store.

"Budtenders" carry the order out to the customer when they arrive, Dominique said. They are required to wear gloves and masks, and since they are only accepting cash payments at this time, employees are using hand sanitizer after each transaction.

Dominique said the budtenders are still available to assist customers either over the phone or at their car when they come to the store.

"They are careful to keep a safe distance, but can still advise patients about the different products and help them decide what will work best for them," she said.

Because they are medical only at this time, Dominique said, she does not see an extended "Stay Home, Stay Safe" period hurting the business.

"Our patients will continue to require our services," she said.

"Not getting the tourist crowd may have an impact, however," she added. "Usually, in June and July, we get an influx of people in the area and that brings in additional business. But right now we are at normal levels and expect to maintain that."

The Green Door plans to introduce recreational adult use marijuana products to their store in the near future, and unless the state decides to restrict recreational use, that will likely bring a boost to the business, as well, Dominique said.