Cannabis and COVID-19: A Conversation With Budtender Madison Hernandez

On Thursday, March 19, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered all Californians to stay at home and called for the closure of all non-essential businesses. Essential businesses singled out include pharmacies, grocery stores, banks, and gas stations. It wasn’t immediately clear where cannabis dispensaries would stand. 


A day later, Newsom clarified. 


In addition to dispensaries, cannabis companies serving each part of the supply chain—including farmers, distributors, manufacturers and testing labs—have been deemed essential. Because the state does not currently differentiate between “medical” and “recreational” companies, every licensed marijuana business that chooses to can continue to operate during the lockdown. 


So, how are industry professionals dealing with this evolving situation? What do things look like on the ground?


To find out, I caught up with Madison Hernandez, who works at California Caregivers Alliance, a dispensary in Los Angeles.


Bloom Farms (BF): How do you feel about cannabis being deemed essential? 


Madison Hernandez (MH): It absolutely is! In California, cannabis has been legal for over 20 years, and consumer demand has revolutionized the industry. They have questions and in any good store, there are people with suggestions to navigate through their options. 


BF: What new hygienic protocols has your store implemented?


MH: Normally, the space is cleaned at the end of the day. But now we clean every hour. We have outlined the showroom with tape to show customers how to keep their distance and keep people off the counters. Our flower displays are normally available for smelling, but now they can only be viewed.


BF: What gets you through the day? 


MH: I work with the most uplifting team of women. As our name states, we give care. And I feel cared for by my coworkers. They get me through the day whether it’s good or bad. Also, CBD helps. 

Photo: Jakki @ Leaf & Lion

BF: How has your team come together during this hard time? 


MH: The workers have been leading the safety measures. Communicating with management has been really cool to see. It is the most organized I’ve seen us. During this crisis,  contributing our input as individuals, as shops and as members of the cannabis industry has been so communal, and I like it a lot. 


BF: How do you think cannabis can help people get through this?


MH: People now have hours at home to enjoy cannabis as part of their quarantine. Recreationally, it helps pass the time. As Americans, panic is second nature; but the fear is not coming from losing access so much as from the acceleration and exacerbation of existing symptoms like anxiety, depression and anger. Cannabis is the top remedy for these symptoms and thus critical for getting us through this hard time. Aside from those who already utilize cannabis to relieve pain, cannabis is encouraging people to provide self care. 


BF: Thank you for providing crucial medicine to those in need. Any stories patients have shared with you about how cannabis is helping them through this?


MH: Many folks are seeking anxiety relief. Our environment shapes who we are, and when that becomes paranoid and deprived, it can take a toll on our well-being. It’s nice to be able to recommend something that will put people at ease. 


BF: Has the uptick in sales continued after cannabis was deemed an essential business?


MH: The first night after Garcetti announced his executive order to close public places like restaurants, gyms and nightclubs was crazy. Lots of people bought cannabis in bulk the way they were buying toilet paper. Once people were reassured that we would remain open, it became more of a gradual flow than a flood. Sales go on. We have a banner out front that says “open 365 days a year,” and I think of all the signs we’ve made, that will be the only one that stays the same. People have been consuming cannabis for a millennium and sales for it won’t end anytime soon. 


Our five-plus years working alongside people who truly care about cannabis and their community has been both challenging and richly rewarding. At a time when “front line” takes on a whole new meaning, we have an opportunity to rise together and learn a new appreciation for all in our community who dedicate their careers to making other people’s lives better: Medical professionals, of course, but also grocery workers, truck drivers, longshoremen, mail carriers and cannabis suppliers who also ensure our neighbors’ critical needs are met every day. THANK YOU.


Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

Author: Sivan Peleg

Currently living in San Francisco, Sivan was born and raised in the Bay Area. With a degree in Criminology, she has a passion for criminal justice reform and trashy true crime docs. Other passions include health & wellness and world travel. With just over 30 passport stamps, her goal is to visit 40 countries before she turns 30.

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