Cannabis in the coronavirus age: What local dispensaries are doing

Kayla Anderson
Tahoe Daily Tribune
NuLeaf in Incline Village will likely be be able to provide curbside pickup by this weekend.
Kayla Anderson

People have been experiencing increased fear, stress, anxiety and lack of sleep in the new COVID-19 era but fortunately there’s a newly legalized substance available in California and Nevada that helps calm people down.

However, since cannabis is not recognized federally, the recent business closure orders have left local cannabis dispensary owners up in the air wondering what their rights are. In turn, Tahoe dispensaries have experienced a surge in sales and quickly launched or adjusted their delivery services to meet the demand.

Here is the story of two different Tahoe cannabis dispensaries in two different states and how they are navigating their business through the new era.

Tahoe CBD, South Lake Tahoe

Located in the same shopping center as Domino’s Pizza, Tahoe CBD has a physical store that its owner Jack Young opened in late 2018 when President Donald Trump passed the Farm Bill making hemp products federally legal.

However, Tahoe CBD got its start in the online space well before that in 2013 and continues to maintain a strong presence on the web by popping up in the top positions of the search engine results when people search for CBD products anywhere in California or even in other parts of the United States.

Selling only full-spectrum CBD and hemp products with little to no THC in them has allowed the dispensary to stay open as it is considered an essential business in California, but its online platform continues to be just as essential if not more than its physical location.

Being a CBD-only company and hemp products are newly legal, Young says that in-store sales are good, but his online platform is the heart of business.

“CBD is derived from a non-psychoactive part of the plant and we’re allowed to sell products that have up to 0.3% THC in them. CBD is scientifically proven to help with four things: pain management, sleep, anxiety, and inflammation,” Young said. “Online sales are the heart of the business. Our brick and mortar are only 2% of all we do, but the physical locations are definitely taking off.”

Young says that he also has CBD shops in Long Beach, San Diego and Dallas.

“Now people are finally understanding that this is not snake oil- or at least not what we sell. We don’t sell any isolates, just full spectrum CBD products because it’s better for those four medicinal benefits I mentioned earlier,” Young says. He adds that COVID-19 has caused sales to soar, especially online.

“Our website has gone off the hook,” he said. “Anxiety and sleep are the two main reasons why people are buying from us right now. We cater mostly to baby boomers — ‘we’re falling apart but we’re not into getting high anymore, we just want to feel better,’” Young laughs. “Because we’re sheltered right now, it’s mainly locals buying from us, but we have online sales from all over.”

All types of Tahoe CBD product sales are up across the board right now to the pandemic, and Tahoe CBD offers free shipping within the United States.

“A lot of the older people are not wanting to go out right now, so we put it in the mail or deliver to them,” Young said.

Following Gov. Newsom’s business closure order, Tahoe CBD did close its South Lake Tahoe dispensary for a few days but got it back up and running as soon as possible.

“We were closed for 10 days (following the business closure order) but I pleaded my case and spoke to the powers that be and we were able to reopen,” Young said.

However, it worried quite a few people when the pandemic hit and they couldn’t find their regular CBD products.

“Especially when we were closed, people were getting frantic until they found us. We began delivering products to everyone and started noticing that older people who don’t want to leave their house are sending in younger people to pick up their orders,” Young says.

The most popular type of Tahoe CBD product is its CBD salve, but now in the coronavirus age tinctures have taken the lead.

“We recommend them a lot for stress, anxiety, and sleep,” Young says.

People must be at least 18 years old to purchase CBD from Tahoe CBD or 21 years of age or older to buy flower or vape products. For more information about Tahoe CBD, visit the website.

NuLeaf, Incline Village

Across the state line on the northeastern side of Lake Tahoe, NuLeaf is finding a whole different set of challenges trying to keep its essential business open in the Battle Born State.

“The state ordered all dispensaries to be delivery only, so I don’t think that any of the dispensaries in Nevada are doing the kind of business that they used to do before,” said NuLeaf Chief Operating Officer Sean Luse.

Therefore, NuLeaf’s delivery service has gone up 100% but mainly due to the fact that they didn’t have it before. However, NuLeaf relies on its dispensary being open to serve its customers coming in from California and having that side of Lake Tahoe cut off is definitely hurting business.

“The rules are so limited here … we can’t deliver to hotels, casinos, third-party locations, or to anyone in California. The challenge is if someone wants us to drop off products to their office, for instance, then we can’t do it. And we can’t make deliveries to residents on the California side even though we’re three miles away from the border,” Luse said.

We offered delivery before this happened in our Las Vegas dispensary, but it was still a small part of business compared to our in-person sales,” he adds. Most Nevada dispensaries rely on cannabis tourism and with no one travelling right now, NuLeaf is definitely feeling the loss.

“It’s definitely a tricky system. We’re pretty much delivering to all of Reno and Carson and the East Shore of the lake down to Stateline,” he says. “It’s laborious to deliver this way but since we are cut off from half the lake this is the only way we can stay open. It is hard to meet the demand so that’s why we’re servicing customers in other areas, too.”

As far as whether any cannabis products have become more popular in the new COVID-19 era, Luse says, “All of our popular products are just more popular now. We are definitely selling more flower, cartridges, and gummies. People may go to our website and look up information about certain products, but I think that people like to see and touch it in person, so they are not venturing out of what they know. They don’t have a budtender out in front of them explaining the products and showing them what’s different or better right now, so I think they’re stocking up on their usual items.”

In the early days of the statewide business closure people were spending more money and loading up on their favorite products maybe because they were afraid that they would lose access to the dispensary, but now many people are assuming that NuLeaf’s delivery service will continue.

“I would imagine that we’ll hear what’s coming next, but no one really knows what to expect. We’re hoping to be able to offer a curbside pickup option and imagine that delivery will still go on. That would be big because since February we’re doing half in sales from what we did last year because I think people are struggling to try to figure out how to get their cannabis products,” Luse says.

As of press time, Luse’s prayers were answered when Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that all retail businesses will be allowed to operate under curbside commerce models, including cannabis dispensaries.

“The cannabis control board did follow up with guidance so we’re putting our proposal together and working late to submit something first thing tomorrow morning,” Luse said. “We’re hoping that there’s a good chance that our proposal will get approved, so right now everyone’s trying to move quickly so that hopefully we can start offering curbside service as soon as possible.”

For more information about NuLeaf’s current operations, visit its website.

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