Cannabis industry in San Francisco sees growth during pandemic

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Everyone’s had their challenges this past year but San Francisco saw some resilience in one industry in particular.

Although some of their businesses closed, the cannabis industry actually did see growth during the pandemic.

11 new pot shops opened and hired employees when they needed a job most.

From one street to the next, closed signs are seen hanging up in too many San Francisco storefronts to count.

The cost of staying open during a shelter in place proved too much to bear.

While the hospitality industry was decimated, there was one hybrid industry that actually saw some growth in 2020.

Cannabis!

Used for both medicinal and recreational purposes pot was deemed essential by the mayor.

Not all of them made it, but more than 70 existing marijuana-related businesses stayed open and nearly a dozen new owners took a shot at opening up pot shops – so it can be said the bud business is blooming.

Despite not having received PPP loans because the federal government still classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, with local government support permits were fast-tracked for new opportunities.

The owners of Stiiizy in Union Square are actually one of eleven equity applicants who were approved during the pandemic.

Stiiizy CEO Cindy De La Vega grew up in San Francisco’s Sunnydale neighborhood where she went through tough times.

Despite the pandemic, she didn’t shy away from an opportunity that came along to become the city’s first Latina to open a dispensary.

“But I kept going and look, I opened it and my thing just continues to educate yourselves. I feel like where I come from, we cut ourselves short a lot, and being a minority, we weren’t as privileged as others so the thing here is we need to educate ourselves and use that time. Don’t think that it’s a little setback but it’s going to be a major comeback,” Cindy De La Vega said. 

City leaders have prioritized pioneers like her through their equity program to help them get into the business.

In turn, Stiiizy and other bud businesses across San Francisco have hired 31 employees through the first source hiring program in the last year.

As of February, the unemployment rate hovered around 5.7% but Budtender Fabian Herd recently got hired at Moe Greens on Market Street.

He says it was a long job hunt but he finally got his new gig through the partnership with the city and a non-profit and there is more need for workers like him across town.

“When you look at the fact that there were 719 openings last year, hiring happening, and opportunities through the equity program I do think there is success here. and in fact, when we look at our economic recovery, we’re even better positioned to grow the industry and even better advancing equity,” Joshua Arce, SF Office of Workforce and Development director, said. 

In all, despite a challenging year marijuana sales tax for the third quarter of 2020 dipped from 66 to 65 million dollars compared to the same time pre-pandemic.

Meantime, the bud businesses are banking on fewer restrictions in the near future and have their lounges ready for when tourists and locals are allowed back.

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