Cannabis is turning out to be a better financial deal for Illinois than alcohol, reports MSN via Marijuana Moment. The state’s department of revenue has reported $387 million in cannabis tax revenue so far in 2021, as compared to $291 million from liquor taxes.
Of course, this is not the first time weed taxes have outpaced liquor taxes. In April, we reported on the states' tax records proving cannabis brings in more money than booze. In 2020, the state sold an impressive $670 million (taking in $205.4 million in taxes that calendar year), breaking its own record at the time when it sold $110 million in March 2021.
But even those figures were blown away in July of this year when legal cannabis broke $128 million and 2.8 million products sold — numbers that continue to be the state’s record for sales in a month. Critics say that high figure is the result of patrons coming from elsewhere to attend the 385,000-attendee Lollapalooza festival, which took place for the first time during the state’s legalization era.
This news becomes even more impactful when you consider that the unlicensed cannabis market in Illinois reportedly amounts to some $1 billion in sales per year (chronic that largely comes from California, which is currently suffering its own legal cannabis crisis.) Illinoians are smoking tough!
Oddly, the only month Illinois sold more alcohol than weed in 2021 was in January. So much for dry January...
What will the state be doing with all this cash? Illinois has strong regulations linking legal weed money to funding projects that aim to repair the damage wrought by the War on Drugs. Primary among these is the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which receives 25 percent of cannabis revenue after the state pays off the administrative and other costs associated with the legal industry.
R3 was funneled $31.5 million in the summer of 2020 to bolster programs in the areas of civil legal aid, economic development, re-entry, violence prevention, and youth development in underprivileged communities. The programs that received funds during this round will be renewed for a second year “in order to have continuity of services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” reports a local news site.
This month, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that the second round of R3 funding would be unleashed—in fact, that the state was opening up applications for help in spending some $45 million.
“We’re prioritizing investments in communities that were previously harmed for what is now legal,” Pritzker, a long-time cannabis booster, said. “The positive impact of these dollars looks different in every community because after decades of trauma, restoring justice requires a multi-pronged effort in every community.”
It’s heartening that the state is paying attention to retroactive Drug War justice in the context of the R3, especially given the uproar over the lily-white make-up of cannabis business license recipients awarded in a 2020 lottery. Such was the discontent generated by what was perceived as unjust treatment of POCs that another lottery for licenses was held this summer.