‘It calms me’: Bay Area people turn to cannabis to quell coronavirus anxieties

Phoebe McPherson was already using THC and CBD cannabis products as part of her anxiety management before San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order took effect March 17. But the 25-year-old Marina resident says that once coronavirus measures hit San Francisco, her anxiety increased, and so did her cannabis use.

“I now use cannabis every day,” says McPherson, the head of social and influence strategy at a San Francisco marketing agency. “I’ve been as anxious as everybody.”

As we develop new strategies for coping with the realities of staying in our homes while a virus ravages through our society, people are finding various ways to manage their growing anxieties. In the Bay Area, some are doing what McPherson has done, turning to cannabis products as coping tools.

Johnny Delaplane, president of the San Francisco Cannabis Retailers Alliance, says since the shelter-in-place order and more awareness of the dangers of the coronavirus have presented, sales specifically on THC edibles and other non-inhaled products have been up at the Berner’s on Haight and Project Cannabis dispensaries where he is a partner. He specifically names CBD-THC combination gummies as recent top sellers at Project Cannabis.

“People are definitely using cannabis to keep their head right during this crisis,” says Delaplane. “There’s people saying, ‘I need value products; I’m going through a lot of product because I’m stressed.’ We’re all looking for stuff to keep us sane at this time. Cannabis is one of those things.”

Delaplane notes that customers at both dispensaries are changing their buying behaviors. For example, for the first time he remembers, cannabis patches have become a top-five seller during shelter in place. “Customers in general are looking to non-inhalable sources of cannabis, as COVID is a respiratory virus,” he says, alluding to the medical warnings that people who smoke or vape could be at higher risk for coronavirus complications.

Using cannabis to treat anxiety is not a new mechanism for many. Even before the legalization of recreational cannabis in California in 2016, anxiety was one of the conditions that could qualify a person for a medical marijuana card. But because cannabis is not federally legal, the FDA does not have information about the overall effectiveness of cannabis products in treating anxiety or other disorders and has approved only one CBD product, a prescription drug that treats two rare forms of epilepsy.

Yet, within California, that hasn’t stopped both cannabis businesses and cannabis users from advocating cannabis as an aid in dealing with anxiety and stress.

Nate Haas, the CEO of Moe Greens dispensary on Market Street, and a co-owner in the Barbary Coast dispensaries group, also reports an increase in sales of edibles, tinctures and capsules since the coronavirus hit, as well as cannabis beverages.

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