TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - As businesses struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic, medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona are seeing green.
"If you actually drive by our dispensary right now, you'll see a line that wraps around the building," said Raul Molina with Mint Dispensary in Tempe.
April 20 is commonly a big day for marijuana sales.
"It's National Cannabis Day across, basically the world," Molina said.
And while April data isn't available yet, data from the Arizona Department of Health Services already showed an increase in marijuana sales in March. According to Arizona DHS, around 17,000 pounds of medical marijuana was sold in the state during March. That's up around a ton from February's figure, and included around 100,000 more transactions than in February.
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"Sales for the first two weeks was a little bit like the toilet paper sales at your local Costco," said Molina. "Everybody came in trying to pick up as much as they could."
Molina says that since the pandemic started sweeping across the U.S., sales at Mint are up around 50%. He says that's been widespread across the medical marijuana industry in Arizona.
"A lot of different dispensaries have had a shortage of product," Molina said. "That was something we didn't expect. We thought that Arizona had an ample supply to the point where if there was a spike, if recreational happened or something like that, we were gonna be able to handle it."
Cannabis advocates, medical nonprofits and veterans groups are urging state governors to not shut off access to cannabis businesses.
Dispensaries like Mint have been helped along after Gov. Doug Ducey declared them an essential business.
"We've been adjusting and adapting every day," Molina said. "Trying to keep everybody with their social distancing, keeping them 6 feet apart."
But there are also hopes that what's happening now is a good sign for what's to come.
"Taking that giant step forward where it's recognized as essential product during these times is beneficial to the discussion," said Dimitri Downing, who heads up the Marijuana Industry Trade Association, or MITA.
The group members behind a measure to legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona have said they have enough signatures to get it on the ballot this fall. Industry experts say the economic argument during these tough times could be enough to get legal recreational weed over the finish line.
"It being an essential business has provided thousands of Arizonans the opportunity to remain and stay employed," Downing said. "And that is an exciting thing."
But for the meantime, dispensaries like Mint say they'll continue to cash in on the medicinal market.
"We feel we're privileged to be able to take care of the people who need it," said Molina with Mint Dispensary. "And we plan to stay as healthy as possible so that we can continue to provide these services for the people."