Illinois' First Month of Weed Sales Beat Every State Except Nevada
In the first month of legalization, Illinois sold nearly $40 million of weed, outpacing every state but Nevada in first-month per-capita sales.
Published on February 7, 2020

It's barely been a month since Illinois legalized weed, but the Prairie State already has one of the strongest adult-use markets in the country. In the first month of sales, legal pot shops sold 972,045 legal pot products, netting $39.2 million in sales, according to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Cannabis tourists accounted for $8.6 million worth of these sales, the department reported.

The demand for legal weed started off strong on January 1st, the first day of adult-use sales. Customers waited in long lines to cop their first legal pot products, and even though some had to be turned away, retailers still moved $3.2 million of product on that day alone. Demand has remained strong since then, and some retailers have even been forced to shut their doors because they were running out of weed.

Based on per-capita sales, Illinois had the second-highest rollout of legal weed sales in US history. According to cannabis research firm New Frontier Data, Illinois made $3.07 in pot sales per resident in January, more than any almost other adult-use state made in its first month of sales. The only state to top Illinois is Nevada, which made an impressive $8.88 in per-capita sales when adult-use retail began in July 2017.

Government officials predicted that initial sales would be strong, but the actual figures exceeded their expectations. “I didn’t have a $40 million benchmark,” state Senator Toi Hutchinson, czar of the state's legal weed program, told Crain's Chicago Business. “The strong start is what we hoped for,” she said, but added that the final sales figure “is surprising to us.”

There are a number of factors contributing to Illinois' success. For one, the Prairie State is the fifth largest state by population, with 13 million residents and nearly 100 million annual tourists. The state had a greater number of pot shops ready and waiting to start selling weed on day one, compared to other states that opened with few legal retailers. Illinois even approved the state's first weed lounge within weeks of legalization, while most other adult-use states have taken years to get around to allowing public pot consumption areas.

Next week, Governor J.B. Pritzker will announce his 2021 fiscal budget, which will include legal weed tax revenue. During a recent “State of the State” address, Pritzker noted that legal pot sales give Illinois “a chance to collect tax revenue from the residents of Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, and Indiana,” Crain's reports. About a quarter of this tax revenue will go toward community reinvestment, helping marginalized communities recover from decades of excessive cannabis prohibition laws. 

“The successful launch of the Illinois legal cannabis industry represents new opportunities for entrepreneurs and the very communities that have historically been harmed by the failed war on drugs,” said Hutchinson, Marijuana Moment reports. “The administration is dedicated to providing multiple points of entry into this new industry, from dispensary owners to transporters, to ensure legalization is equitable and accessible for all Illinoisans.”

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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