Illinois has done it again, breaking another monthly marijuana sales record with nearly 2.5 million cannabis items purchased in April.
All told, residents and out-of-state visitors bought $114,961,668 worth of adult-use marijuana last month. That’s about $5 million more than in March, which itself broke the previous record.
Illinois residents accounted for $79,909,284 of the April sales, while visitors purchased $35,052,383 in cannabis products.
While it’s easy to chalk the latest figures up to demand ahead of the unofficial marijuana holiday 4/20, it’s also the case that sales have consistently been increasing since the state launched its adult-use program in January 2020.
In April 2020, Illinois saw $37,260,497 in cannabis purchases. Sales have more than tripled since then, according to the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
If this trend keeps up, Illinois could see more than $1 billion in adult-use marijuana sales in 2021. And that would translate into a significant windfall of tax revenue for the state. Last year, Illinois sold about $670 million in cannabis and took in $205.4 million in tax revenue.
Illinois took in more tax dollars from marijuana than alcohol for the first time last quarter, the state Department of Revenue reported last month. From January to March, Illinois generated about $86,537,000 in adult-use marijuana tax revenue, compared to $72,281,000 from liquor sales.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is getting “tired” of hearing about these sales figures, he said last month, joking that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) always “thanks me for having Wisconsinites cross the border to buy marijuana” since the neighboring state does not have a legal market.
Illinois officials have emphasized that the tax dollars from all of these sales are being put to good use. For example, the state announced in January that it is distributing $31.5 million in grants funded by marijuana tax dollars to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
The funds are part of the state’s Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which was established under Illinois’s adult-use cannabis legalization law. It requires 25 percent of marijuana tax dollars to be put in that fund and used to provide disadvantaged people with services such as legal aid, youth development, community reentry and financial support.
Awarding the new grant money is not all that Illinois is doing to promote social equity and repair the harms of cannabis criminalization. Pritzker announced in December that his office had processed more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for people with low-level cannabis convictions on their records.
Relatedly, a state-funded initiative was recently established to help residents with marijuana convictions get legal aid and other services to have their records expunged.
But promoting social equity in the state’s cannabis industry has proved challenging. The state has faced criticism from advocates and lawsuits from marijuana business applicants who feel officials haven’t done enough to ensure diversity among business owners in the industry.