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Medicinal marijuana dispensaries in Vista, such as FloraVerde (pictured), have yet to experience any financial harm due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Steve Puterski
Cities Community Vista Vista Featured

Vista’s medicinal marijuana shops remain steady amid crisis

VISTA — While many industries are struggling to stay afloat, medicinal marijuana shops in the city have yet to be too hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justin Christman, owner of FloraVerde, Jon Jesse, who owns Dr. GreenRX, and Mike Mellano, owner of Coastal Wellness, all said business has been stable four weeks into the unprecedented epidemic.

Christman, who opened in October 2019, and Jesse, who opened in December 2019, said they saw a surge the first week or two when San Diego County and other entities began issuing orders for social distancing, closing businesses and more.

Mellano, though, opened five weeks ago and saw a 30% increase in traffic each of the first two weeks. Since then, though, his customer base has grown by about 10% each of the last two weeks.

Medicinal marijuana dispensaries were classified as essential services by the state. There are six operational medicinal dispensaries in Vista.

“People are going to continue to buy cannabis,” Mellano said. “We’ve seen people come in with elevated levels of anxiety and getting some CBD and Indica stuff to calm them down.”

And while all three shops are steady, each owner said the demand for online ordering, deliveries and curbside pickup has increased.

Jesse and Mellano already offer curbside and online orders through Weedmaps, while Christman will be offering curbside and online orders late this week or early next week. As for in-store purchases, all said they have limited the number of patients into their dispensaries, sanitize every 30 minutes to an hour, employees wear gloves and their waiting rooms are spaced in accordance with county guidelines.

As for deliveries, though, none are doing so as they do not have the necessary permit from the City of Vista. Jesse wrote to the City Council asking for a 60-day emergency waiver for deliveries, noting the city’s application process can take some time.

“We have our application in, but it’s a special use permit and requires a hearing in front of the City Council,” he said. “A lot of these municipalities do special use because it avoids conflict with the people who don’t like it.”

As for staffing, only Mellano scaled back hours due to his unique situation of opening five weeks ago. He said he didn’t lay off any employees, but will continually assess the finances and expects to increase those hours should business continue to grow.

Jesse and Christman said they both experienced a boom of business three weeks ago before orders came down from the state and county to close businesses and limit contact, to name a few. Both said it was most likely due to patients stocking up because of the uncertainty, but now business has reverted back to normal.

“When it first came we saw a big boom in our sales,” Christman said. “Things have come back to normal now. One thing that it definitely refocused us on was our online ordering and delivery systems.”

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