COVID has turned the entire world upside down. It has changed the way people think on a number of topics, including cannabis. So much so that data suggests a significant increase in cannabis consumption as a result of the pandemic.
Perhaps you aren’t surprised to learn that. When COVID first reached our shores, it was still a largely unknown entity. People were afraid. Between lock downs and stay-at-home orders, circumstances at the peak of the pandemic were the source of plenty of anxiety. It should be no surprise to learn that more people turned to cannabis to relieve that anxiety.
Two Important Cannabis Statistics
If there are any questions about whether COVID has increased cannabis consumption in the U.S., two especially important statistics tell the story:
1. A Sales Explosion
Cannabis sales were up 71% in 2020 compared to a year before. Industry revenues came in at some $18 billion. Total sales revenues paled in comparison to alcohol sales, but a 71% increase is no laughing matter. That is serious business – on multiple levels.
2. Record Sales in 2021
The second statistic shows that the cannabis industry in this country reached a new record with $24 billion in sales in 2021. That amounts to a 31% increase from 2020 to 2021. The increase is less than half what the previous year saw, but a record is a record. And an increase of 31% is still impressive.
Chronic Pain Still Rules
It is probably safe to assume that most of the COVID-related increase in marijuana consumption is in the recreational arena. More on that in a minute. As for medical cannabis, the most often cited qualifying condition is still chronic pain. Chronic pain has held steady in the number one position for several years.
The interesting thing about chronic pain is that it is difficult to quantify. Science doesn’t have a definitive test capable of measuring it. The only way doctors can analyze the severity of a patient’s pain is to ask said patient to rate it on a numerical scale. That means patients can actually lie about it. Not that they do, but they could.
Utah is one of the states in which medical cannabis is legal but recreational use is not. The experts at Utah Marijuana.org say the state issues medical cannabis cards for chronic pain, cancer pain, and acute pain. Pain is the most cited condition in Utah. Is it possible that some patients falsely claim chronic pain because recreational use is not allowed in the Beehive State? Anything is possible.
A Big Push in the Recreational Market
In all likelihood, people willing to lie about chronic pain are willing to buy product on the black market. If you are going to break the rules to get your hands on cannabis, it is a lot cheaper to buy illicit cannabis than buying legit product at a pharmacy. So we can probably take medical cannabis out of the equation here.
The big push has been the recreational market. Not only has the COVID pandemic led to an increase in anxiety and stress among consumers, but states have also quietly passed recreational laws over the past several years. New York passed its recreational law even while the pandemic was still alive and well.
Recreational users cite a number of reasons for consuming cannabis. Among them is the fact that cannabis helps people relax and chill out. If you know anything about recreational users, it makes perfect sense that the pandemic would encourage them to use more. The data doesn’t lie. It seems to suggest that COVID has increased recreational cannabis consumption significantly.