Article by Manisha Krishnan, Vice News
Take a peek inside Matt Eli’s fridge and you’ll see a scant selection of items: limes, apples, a few carrots…and giant bag after giant bag of weed.
While many Canadians have been frantically buying toilet paper and beans in preparation for coronavirus-related lockdown, Eli stocked up on cannabis.
But he didn’t just grab a couple of ounces—he purchased 2 pounds of weed for $2,700 from a grower friend, in addition to the half pound he had lying around the house. That’s enough for more than 3,500 joints—a joint a day for nine-and-a-half years.
“I’m a weed hoarder,” said Eli, a 40-something who lives in a small B.C. town where he runs a contracting business. “I love weed and don’t want to run out and I don’t want to worry about rationing.”
As Canadians hunker down indefinitely in an attempt to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus transmission, many are buying, growing, and selling legal and black market cannabis to entertain themselves and, in some cases, earn extra income to counter job loss brought on by the pandemic. Legal weed sales are spiking. Ontario Cannabis Store said it saw a 100 percent increase in online orders Sunday, up from the previous week. But sales could dry up if more retail stores shut down, or delivery services feel it’s too risky to keep interacting with customers.
For Surrey, B.C. writer Kevin (not his real name), 39, the demand for cannabis presents an entrepreneurial opportunity.
Kevin’s main source of income for the past year has been renting a suite in his house for $150 a night on Airbnb. While the suite is normally booked solid, that ended abruptly as news of COVID-19 grew more serious.
Unbeknownst to his Airbnb guests, Kevin has been quietly growing cannabis “as a hobby” in a room upstairs in his home for more than a year. He said his sativa strain is “high quality” and energetic enough to “replace people’s cocaine habits.”
While he promised himself he’d never sell it, the coronavirus outbreak has changed that.
“I’m breaking bud,” he said, noting his next harvest should yield a pound of weed, which he hopes to sell for around $175 an ounce. “I’m gonna be the Heisenberg of Surrey.”
Meanwhile, people are out in droves to buy weed from both legal and legacy retailers.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before. Now I know how liquor stores feel on St. Patrick’s Day,” said Mike Babins, co-owner of Evergreen Cannabis, a legal weed shop in Vancouver.
Babins said customers are regularly maxing out their 30-gram legal purchasing limit. In an effort to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, only five people are allowed in the store at a time, and no one can touch or smell the sample weed jars anymore.
Babins said he’s not worried about the supply of cannabis running low, nor does he think stores will be ordered to shut down in B.C.
Already, Canopy Growth has shut down 23 Tweed and Tokyo Smoke retail stores across the country; P.E.I. is closing its government-run cannabis stores to increase social distancing.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba are the only provinces that allow private retailers to offer delivery services. Everywhere else, customers need to order through the provincial government and Canada Post.