Industry sees uptick in new, existing customers wanting to experience the power of the bud

By: Rainah Uhl

Curiosity and long lockdowns have led to an uptick in new and existing cannabis users since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, diversifying Canada’s bud industry for the indefinite future.

A 2021 Health Canada survey shows 29 per cent of Canadians have increased their cannabis usage since the start of the pandemic, maintaining revenue for dispensaries at a time when business is volatile in most sectors. 

Bretton Tyler, a retail associate throughout the pandemic at BZAM Cannabis on Corydon, has watched the effects of the pandemic first-hand. 

“Especially right when everything happened, it was very similar to people stocking up on toilet paper,” Tyler said. “Instead of buying a regular 3.5 grams, they would buy an ounce so they wouldn’t have to leave the house, or buy oil so it would last longer.”

Cannabis stores across the city jumped at the opportunity to carry more stock, allowing more customers to buy in bulk and make fewer trips to the store during lockdowns. Tyler confirms bulk buying is still the most popular route, now entering the third year of the pandemic.

Canadian’s increase in cannabis usage has created stable business for BZAM Cannabis throughout the pandemic./ RAINAH UHL

Frequent lockdowns also spurred an influx of new customers at BZAM.

“Family members and friends would tell me that they wanted to get into cannabis for the first time,” Tyler said. “They would have two weeks off of work to quarantine and wanted to try weed recreationally.”

“It’s become a lot of peoples ‘glass of wine’ at the end of the day.”

Hayden Mushinski, a novel cannabis user, says he successfully ditched his cigarette addiction after turning to the bud one month ago.

“[Cannabis] has become more of a meditative thing now,” says the 25-year-old. “ I have a chair at home I smoke a joint in, it’s reflective I guess.”

And while the cannabis industry has been able to adapt to the unpredictability of the pandemic, innovative plans to expand the business have been put on hold.

“One thing that’s definitely on the menu, if the pandemic were to end, is smoking lounges,” says Tyler. “That’s what everyone is waiting for. Providing a safe space for people to consume is really important but we’ll have to wait on that right now.”

Cannabis retailers hope to implement these smoking lounges into the Canadian Cannabis Act, but it will rely on business returning to normal.