Last summer, Illinois' top cannabis regulators suggested that the state's newly-minted legal weed industry was “recession-proof” and “pandemic-proof.” This week, annual sales figures from the Prairie State's first year of legal weed sales proves they were right.
State revenue officials are reporting that Illinois sold at least $1,000,308,800 worth of legal adult-use and medical pot last year. That number isn't even the final total, because data for December's medical cannabis sales haven’t been reported yet. Recreational sales beat medical sales by a factor of two-thirds: adult-use stores sold over $669 million worth of product by year's end, and dispensaries sold over $331 million of medical pot by the end of November.
These sales figures are particularly shocking given the wild ride that 2020 has been. Illinois only began selling adult-use weed on January 1st of last year, and just three months later, officials were ordering businesses to shut down to avert the spread of the pandemic. Wisely, the state allowed cannabis sales to continue, and stores began breaking sales records every single month from April to December.
Adult-use sales kicked off last January with an impressive monthly total of nearly $40 million, then dropped off a bit for the next three months. But in April, sales hit a new record of $44 million, and grew every single month after that. Last month, adult-use shops sold 1.9 million legal weed products, raking in almost $87 million – more than double January's total.
In a year where state tax revenues have been plummeting due to the pandemic, weed tax revenue has been especially welcome. By October, the state had already collected $100 million in pot-related taxes. Most of this revenue is being used to fund restorative justice grants for individuals and communities that have been disproportionately ravaged by decades of unjust cannabis prohibition laws.
This spring, Illinois announced $31 million in social equity grants for economically distressed communities, and in the fall, the state made even more funding available to help former cannabis offenders clear their records. Governor J.B. Pritzker also pardoned over 10,000 former offenders at the end of 2019, and announced half a million more pardons and expungements last week.
Illinois is not alone in making record weed sales in 2020. Colorado sold $1.8 billion worth of legal pot between January and October, and Oregon sold over $1 billion by the end of November. Florida's medical marijuana also made $1.2 billion in sales last year, and Oklahoma, Maine, and Arkansas all broke medical pot sales records in 2020.
Overall, the US legal weed industry made an estimated $17.9 billion in sales last year, an amazing 67 percent boost over 2019's sales.