Pot Shots: Cannabis is essential, so have people been panic-buying in the pandemic?

If a recent survey is any sign, some users don't need more encouragement to hit the bong.

Credit: Suharu Ogawa

If a recent survey is any sign, some users don’t need more encouragement to hit the bong

Gerry Butts, the former high-flying adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is in the news again. OK, not really—unless you count my cousin’s Facebook feed as a verifiable news service. (You could do worse.) On it, the finely surnamed politico stepped outside his comfort zone with a wry observation about, of all things, our favourite Pot Shots topic. (Do I have to spell this out for you? Really?)

“Pot has gone from illegal to essential in 3 years,” Mr. Butts observed. “That’s gotta be some kind of record.” Surpassed only by the rapidity of his own descent, one assumes.

He’s right, though: in B.C., thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis—along with alcohol and whining about real estate prices—is now enshrined as being “essential” to who we are. In response, safety-conscious citizens searching for socially approved hobbies that don’t involve mud wrestling or licking doorknobs have allegedly been overpacking the larder with their favourite psychotropic goodies, complementing hoarded stocks of canned ravioli and Purex double rolls.

But is there truth to this picture? Are we buying more weed in this time of crisis? Hard facts are hard to come by. (BC Cannabis Stores did see an initial uptick in sales, but this has since tapered off.) Still, intrepid reporters—and even, on the rarest of occasions, me—must search for the truth, no matter where it leads. In this case, to a survey by a U.S.-based organization called American Marijuana, which tried to understand how cannabis users were coping during these dark, dark days.

The survey scope was broad, consisting of 990 adults, a number that, statistically speaking, is 10 shy of quite a few. Prudently, the participants were screened to ensure that they were cannabis users. How? By asking them a qualifying question. At the risk of going out on a limb, we assume the obvious—“Um, do you like weed?”—was probably a bit artless. Perhaps it was more along these lines:

Dear Possible Cannabis Consumer: In your experience, Oaxaca Thunderf**k is:¹

1. An angry and vengeful Aztec god.

2. A hurricane that arrived on Mexico’s east coast in fall 2004.

3. A highly potent strain of cannabis sativa.

4. Could you, like, repeat the question?

The authors admitted that the poll has limitations. “Because the survey relies on self-reporting, issues such as telescoping and exaggeration can influence responses,” they warned. So for example, if one of the questions was “How big was the last joint you smoked?” and the answer involved outstretched arms à la the classic “I caught a fish THIS big!” pose, the data may be skewed.

Even so, some very interesting results were logged. First, almost half of those surveyed claimed they’d stocked up on cannabis in response to current events; of those, 55 percent purchased extra dope to “calm down amidst the pandemic chaos.” But almost 22 percent “just wanted to chill out with some weed,” claiming that the outbreak had no influence on their buying habits, possibly because they were too wasted to understand that a public health emergency existed. As alarming as that sounds, I’m guessing these people regularly practise social isolation, but that it’s always been externally imposed.

A truly disturbing finding was that 5 percent claimed they’d choose marijuana over food, a decision that could incur great personal cost, though in a Darwinian sense it would almost certainly augur significant improvements to the gene pool down the road. (For this, we applaud you.)

Perhaps even more shocking was that in the age-old battle between getting stoned and practising acceptable personal hygiene, when faced with a choice of having access to marijuana or toilet paper, 17 percent preferred weed. That’s one out of every six respondents.

I’m at a loss. Maybe they know something I don’t. For these people, however, I expect that at the very least, the pandemic will prove rough going.

¹The correct answer is No. 3 or 4