After just a year of recreational marijuana sales, the Land of Lincoln has already hit an economic milestone: $1 billion of legal cannabis sold.
Cannabis Sales in Illinois: The Road to $1 Billion
Since the state’s legalization of recreational marijuana back in January, cannabis sales have been steadily climbing ever since. This past December was another new monthly high for recreational sales, with the state’s 80 legal dispensaries selling $87 million worth of adult-use cannabis products (approximately 1.9 million items sold). According to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, that figure is up about 15% from November, and that jump in sales was enough to push Illinois’ total yearly sales above $1 billion.
Increasing cannabis sales have become the norm for Illinois dispensaries across 2020, with total monthly sales more than doubling what retailers were reporting when shops first opened back in January 2020. After a bit rocky upstart, rising sales figures have resulted in record numbers almost every month:
|MONTH (2020)||ADULT-USE MARIJUANA SALES|
For the year, recreational sales totaled more than $669 million, with more than 25% of those purchases coming from out-of-state residents. Add those numbers to the $331 million racked up by medical marijuana sales, and state officials place the current total around $1,000,308,800. While that figure is surely impressive for the state’s first full year of sales, it still has some room to increase. While recreational sales have been tallied for December, medical marijuana sales have only been recorded through the end of November.
Marijuana and Restorative Justice in Illinois
State officials are more than pleased with the economic benefits of Illinois’ adult-use marijuana program. Back in October 2020, it was reported by the Illinois Department of Revenue that the state had already collected more than $100 million in tax revenue since the market opened in January.
Illinois Department of Revenue Director David Harris commented on the milestone, saying, “thanks to those who have carefully overseen this brand-new industry’s successful launch in Illinois, revenue is flowing to local governments, to drug treatment programs and law enforcement, and being reinvested in our communities hit hardest by the failed policies of the past.”
To combat those failures of the past, state officials are trying to connect the economic benefits of legalization to policies pushing restorative justice in communities that have been damaged by the War on Drugs. About 25% of collected cannabis tax dollars will be allocated to restorative justice grants, in addition to substance abuse and mental health treatment.
In addition to the work being done to rebuild communities, Gov. Pritzker has also announced strides forward in repairing past cannabis-related convictions. Since the signing of Illinois’ recreational cannabis legislation, nearly 500,000 low-level cannabis convictions have been expunged, and over 20,000 cannabis conviction records have been pardoned. In a press release, Pritzker commented on the importance of the restorative justice:
“Statewide, Illinoisans hold hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis-related records, a burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color. We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of that damage. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past—and the decency to set a better path forward.”
As state officials continue to put a focus on social justice, Illinois’ cannabis market continues to grow. There are still 30 dispensaries yet to open under the initial recreational marijuana legislation, and there is a planned lottery to award 75 new recreational licenses in 2021.
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