Business Is Booming For Georgia's Marijuana Trade

Apr 8, 2020

As businesses, bars and restaurants across Georgia close their doors during the coronavirus pandemic, one product continues to thrive: marijuana.

A dealer who works inside the Perimeter said they sold last month nearly three times as much marijuana as normal.

They've struggled to keep up with demand as customers asked for larger and larger quantities.

Because marijuana is illegal in Georgia, two dealers spoke to GPB News on the condition of anonymity.

"This is a strange time for people, and that's reflected in my sales," they said. "I think it shows that this is a product that some people really view as essential."

Selling marijuana off the books means getting to know a lot of your clients on a personal basis. Depressed and isolated customers texted several times a day for drugs to ease their anxiety.

"This is what a lot of people lean on," the dealer said.

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Another dealer in the Atlanta area said at least half of their customers use marijuana to deal with a health issue.

"Anything from insomnia to back pain to cancer," the source said. "Those customers in particular ordered more than usual from me in case of a lockdown."

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. It attacks the lungs and causes pneumonia. Smokers of cigarettes of any form are most at risk. That's why many people ordered edibles.

Dealers also practice social distancing. They normally deliver marijuana to houses or at designated meeting spots, but now they are dropping off their products on doorsteps like FedEx or UberEats. 

"I usually visit with folks and see how they're doing," the dealer said. "But now I'm just leaving their orders outside in a place they designate so I can avoid as much contact as possible."

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Sales are also spiking in states where pot is legal.

While medical marijuana is not legal in the state, the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission has plans to issue a limited number of licenses for the growing, manufacturing and dispensing of low-THC oil, an extract from the plant.

Several legal CBD oil dispensaries around the state struggled to adapt to the pandemic. Even though some say CBD has medicinal benefits, dispensaries are not considered "essential" during the lockdown. 

Attitudes around marijuana in Georgia have shifted drastically in the past several years. Last May, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law that allowed farmers to grow hemp. The crop is the source of products ranging from rope to soap to CBD oil.

Amber Knowles owns seven CBD dispensaries in the metro Atlanta area and is frustrated that her stores aren't considered essential.

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"I have had very little success reaching out to the governor's office or the state's office," Knowles said. "It really has a lot to do with people not knowing what CBD is."

The majority of her customers use CBD for pain or anxiety, Knowles said. She's adapted the store's business practices around the shelter-in-place order.

"What we've done is started to do deliveries for customers within 5 miles," she said. "We've also started to offer on the phone consultations."

The Georgia Hemp Company in Sandy Springs is one of the stores that sells CBD oil. They've remained open throughout the pandemic, but have switched to curbside pickup.

"We're still trying to stay open," an employee said. "We're dropping off orders at the curb because of the lockdown in the state."

The Perimeter area dealer hopes the current situation will help reignite the conversation around marijuana in the state.

"This is clearly a product in demand and we don't need a stigma around it," they said. "Let's figure out a way to have a responsible dialogue around this."