PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With many businesses closed, and thousands of Oregonians out of work, a few industries are actually thriving amid the coronavirus outbreak. Oregon cannabis sales have increased since the coronavirus pandemic began, but it’s not business as usual.
At Oregon’s Finest Cannabis in Northeast Portland, the first thing you notice are the masks—they’re made from t-shirt scraps.
“The idea behind the mask is, of course, they don’t prevent the virus, but they will help us with not touching our face,” explained Rita Coleman of Oregon’s Finest Cannabis.
Staff are also wearing gloves, sanitizing constantly, and practicing social distancing. But it’s not driving any business away.
“We did expect to slow down, but we actually have had quite the increase,” said Coleman, also known as “Sativa Rita. “Our business has increased 20-30%.”
“Also, people are probably stocking up,” said Coleman. “They need, you know, they need their medicine.”
One can argue whether recreational marijuana is an “essential service.” What you can’t argue is that cannabis has become a significant part of Oregon’s economy. Cannabis products are taxed at 17% by the state, and 3% by local governments. In 2019, tax revenue to Oregon from recreational marijuana topped $102 million, rising significantly from the first full fiscal year of recreational marijuana sales in the fiscal year 2017.
In all, the state has collected nearly $300 million in taxes since recreational marijuana became legal in the summer of 2015.
“It has evolved and it’s become really normalized,” said Coleman. “It’s pretty regular for folks to just come in and shop like they would at any retail shop.”
Oregon’s Finest and other retailers are taking orders online now and doing deliveries. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has also relaxed rules to allow for curbside pick-up. It’s a new way of doing business during the pandemic in an industry that’s established deep roots—and flowers—in Oregon.
The Oregon’s Finest location in the Pearl District was the first state-licensed recreational dispensary in Oregon. Now, there are hundreds of dispensaries in the state, totaling more locations than Starbucks or McDonald’s.