How Sex, Drugs And Gambling Help Americans Cope With Covid | Forbes

The pandemic caused millions to lean in to good old-fashioned bad behavior. Two years later, business has never been better for cannabis, gaming and porn—and the high times are here to stay.

As stay-at-home orders swept across the country in March 2020, Americans got high, got drunk, and turned to porn in order to cope with the many fears and anxieties that were symptomatic of the pandemic. Alcohol sales in 13 states surged more than 10% that first month of lockdown while wine sales jumped nearly 9%, according to a study conducted by the University of Buffalo. The number of cigarettes sold in the U.S. also increased in 2020, the first time in 20 years, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Cigarette Report.

As the pandemic took an unimaginable toll on thousands of lives a day and brought the global economy to a standstill, it also helped legitimize the legal marijuana industry. With lockdowns rolling across the country in March 2020, many states deemed cannabis dispensaries “essential businesses,” meaning they could stay open along with pharmacies, grocers and liquor stores. Cannabis sales in Washington state rose 9% over the same month in 2019 to $99 million while in California, weed sales grew by 53% over March 2019 to $276 million. Several months later, on Election Day 2020, five states passed marijuana legalization laws. Overall, the legal cannabis industry had a sky-high year in 2020: legal sales surpassed $17.5 billion, a 46% increase in sales over pre-pandemic 2019.

With Covid attacking respiratory systems, many longtime pot smokers made the switch to edibles. According to Headset, the Seattle-based cannabis analytics firm, sales of edibles grew by 54% across six states—California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington—during 2020.

The start of the pandemic hit the gaming industry hard, and as travel restrictions expanded globally, Covid looked like a losing proposition for the house. Casinos across the U.S. shuttered for months due to stay-at-home orders. In Nevada, the country’s gambling mecca, gross gaming revenue dropped from $12 billion in 2019 to $7.8 billion in 2020. But when vaccines became available and Covid restrictions eased, Americans flocked to Sin City and regional state casinos as gambling became a way for the country to let loose after the height of the pandemic. By the end of 2021, Nevada reported a 10-month winning streak of more than $1 billion in monthly gambling revenue and an annual record of $13.4 billion, an 11.6% increase over pre-pandemic levels.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Maya Morena, an adult film performer and sex worker living in New York, knew she had to stop meeting clients. The respectable and polite ones disappeared, and it seemed like the only johns willing to pay for sex and risk getting Covid were the “scummy ones.” So, Morena, like millions of other workers in America, started doing business online—she began treating her OnlyFans page like a full-time job.

By the end of that first month, Morena says she made $4,800 producing and selling erotic videos on the U.K.-based streaming platform best known as the billion-dollar tech company that porn built. By January 2021, Morena, who is originally from Honduras, was making $6,000 a month on OnlyFans. As the pandemic wore on and she advertised her page and recruited new customers, she saw her business boom again. By September of last year, she hit $12,000 for the month.

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