LISBON — A year after they opened, Lisbon’s two medical marijuana stores say they are thriving during the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered many other businesses.
Gov. Janet Mills issued a stay-at-home order at the end of March, asking Mainers to stay home except to go to essential jobs or for essential reasons, such as getting food.
Medical marijuana stores are considered essential businesses. Lisbon has two medical marijuana stores that opened last spring and two more proposed stores are still seeking approval from the town.
Jason Smith, the owner of Lisbon Cannabis Co., has seen an estimated 15% increase in sales since coronavirus reached Maine. The store is drawing an additional three to five customers a day on average, Smith said.
“Their anxiety and stress is up,” he said of customers.
Chris Brunelle of BBB Pharmaceutical Alternatives said his business also has seen increased sales recently, but he declined to provide specifics.
Smith attributes the spike in sales in part to an increase in customers renewing medical marijuana cards. Smith said many of his customers had let their cards expire in anticipation of recreational marijuana stores opening this spring.
The state Office of Marijuana Policy announced in an April 10 press release its plans to postpone the spring debut of recreational marijuana retail sales in Maine, though it couldn’t say for how long.
David Heidrich, spokesman for the Office of Marijuana Policy, said it would be hard to prove if the coronavirus pandemic contributed to an increase in medical marijuana card renewals. The office has not seen any significant increase this spring over last year, he said.
Data includes new and renewed medical marijuana cards and shows an increasing number of medical marijuana cards have been printed since January. There were 5,315 cards printed in January followed by 5,786 in February and 6,392 in March. April data is not yet available.
The data shows that slightly fewer cards were printed in March 2019 (5,597) but that was a 45% increase from February of 2019. Heidrich said that increase is due to a rule change in Dec. 2018, when the list of qualifying medical conditions for a medical marijuana card was eliminated.
Smith said Lisbon Cannabis Co. on Monday launched a new in-house medical marijuana card service that allows customers to video conference with a nurse practitioner to get their medical marijuana card onsite. By 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Smith said one customer had already renewed their medical marijuana card and three others got their new cards.
“I think it’s going to be a good thing,” he said.
The pandemic delayed Smith’s plans to relocate within Lisbon this month. Smith said he plans to move the medical marijuana store from its current location in the industrial park to office space on Canal Street in Lisbon Falls. The move would put the business closer to Route 196, increasing visibility and access to the average 20,000 vehicles that travel between Topsham and Lewiston along Route 196 daily. He now hopes to get approval from the town council soon and move by June.