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This year, Illinois will undoubtedly join the exclusive club of US states that sell more than a billion dollars' worth of legal recreational cannabis a year.
By the end of September, the Prairie State's adult-use shops made $997,067,100 in sales, according to monthly data reported by the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. This year's sales peaked in July, when pot shoppers spent nearly $128 million snapping up over 2.8 million legal weed products. Sales dropped somewhat in September, but even so, pot shops still sold over 2.7 million products, netting nearly $122 million.
“Every sale that takes place on the regulated market is a sale that doesn’t take place on the unregulated market, and that represents a significant change in the direction that that revenue is flowing,” said Morgan Fox, spokesperson for the National Cannabis Industry Association, to the Daily Journal. Fox believes that local pot shoppers are switching from black market pot because “they’re concerned about things like safety as well as quality and convenience, not to mention making sure their money is going toward legitimate businesses that are acting responsibly.”
Illinoisans actually only account for about two-thirds of the state's total adult-use sales. Since July, out-of-state pot shoppers and tourists have been spending at least $40 million a month at Illinois pot shops. Many of these customers are coming from nearby prohibition states like Indiana and Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers regularly jokes that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker thanks him for sending Wisconsinites across the border to buy legal weed.
In just nine months, Illinois has already blown way past last year's total of nearly $670 million in adult-use sales. Thanks to this year's massive sales growth, Illinois is now collecting more tax revenue on cannabis sales than on alcohol sales. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, the state collected nearly $87 million in tax revenue, almost half of the $205 million in tax revenue collected in all of 2020.
Illinois is reinvesting a sizable portion of this tax windfall into programs designed to repair the damages caused by decades of prohibition. Last June, the state set aside $31.5 million for social aid grants, and set aside even more funding to help former weed offenders clear their criminal records. Individual cities have also reinvested some of their local pot tax revenue into affordable housing programs.
The current monthly sales figures released by the state financial department only keep track of adult-use sales, and do not take the state's thriving medical marijuana market into account. Last year, state dispensaries sold over $331 million worth of medical pot, bringing the state's total 2020 legal cannabis sales to just over $1 billion. This year, the number of patients signed up for the state medical cannabis program has surged by 30 percent, putting the state on track to potentially sell $1.5 billion worth of legal pot by the end of 2021.
Fox told the Daily Journal that he thinks Illinois' legal weed industry will continue to grow, but could expand even further “if the state were to decrease taxes on cannabis businesses and if the federal government would make it easier for them to find things like banking and financial services and traditional lending so that the regulated businesses would be able to more easily compete with the unregulated market.”