How COVID-19 is altering recreational drug demand

Published Apr 22, 2020 08:59 a.m. ET
iStock / HighGradeRoots

As the world waits to see which step to take next with the COVID-19 virus, noticeable changes have been observed in the consumption of recreational drug use. There are some cannabis stores in Alberta and Ontario which have reported an unprecedented rise in sales. Perhaps the fear of the unknown, and the anxiety of not knowing how long the “lock-down” will keep us in our homes has sent some cannabis consumers into a buying frenzy.

Spiritleaf CEO Darren Bondar happily announced that his 46 stores saw unprecedented demand in the middle of March. This coincided with the COVID-19 scare of being locked down. His sales were up 20% from the previous weekend.

Sales at the OCS grew and grew week after week; this could, however, be a reflection of the lower prices. To increase competitiveness, the OCS dropped prices to improve sales, or is COVID-19 the reason, whom among us knows? B.C., on the other hand, has not seen any changes in sales since the onset of the COVID-19 virus. However, Alberta Cannabis, which is the only online store within the province, has refused to share any information.

Recreational drugs

Recreational illicit drugs and psychoactive drugs often are one and the same. A schedule 1 drug or substance is deemed to be viewed as having a high potential for abuse. Currently, this class of drug or substance has no federal acceptance in the United States. This class of drugs also has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Some of the most recognized drugs in this schedule include:

  • LSD
  • Heroin
  • Marijuana
  • GHB

Current trends

We need to look, not only at the cannabis recreational drug increases in usage during the COVID-19, but we also need to see if there has been a rise in the use of any other psychoactive drugs during this trying and uncertain time. Stressful times can lead to an increase in our use of things that make us feel good. Cannabis and other recreational drugs, for many, do just that.

The COVID-19 virus has had and will continue to affect the consumption of recreational drugs. The use of any of the fore-mentioned illicit drugs can put a person at risk of contracting the deadly COVID-19 virus.


Recreational drugs, when abused, can put users at risk for the COVID-19. Using these drugs can alter the function of your immune system. The social practices that go along with recreational drug use are counteractive to what is required to combat this virus.  Stress can increase recreational drug use, and how people handle life may also be reflected in the increased use of a drug.

Puff puff pass may now be a thing of the past

Cannabis is a friendly recreational drug that promotes sharing and peaceful times. COVID-19 has cast a shadow on how we are going to continue this going forward. The hashtag that often accompanies cannabis today “puff puff pass” may now be a thing of the past. However, as the social distancing protocol remains and the panic-buying of the herb has stopped, some cannabis shops have seen sales remaining above the norm.

The current purchases are perhaps reflective of the shelter in place orders, although they are not as high as when the initial green rush began, they are still being presented with higher than regular sales. Currently, about  65% of the people who smoke weed usually do it at home while watching movies, as this is in protocol with the distancing recommendations in place today.

For the most part, all 33 states in the USA that have legal recreational and medical cannabis dispensaries have been classified as an essential service, which means that sales will continue.

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