Illinois’s streak of record-breaking marijuana sales continued last month, the state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation reported on Wednesday.
For the third month in a row, recreational cannabis sales exceeded $100 million. In May, the state saw $116,380,348 worth of adult-use marijuana purchases—about $2 million more than the prior record-setting month in April.
A total of 2,512,093 cannabis items were sold, another record.
Residents accounted for about $80 million of those sales while out-of-state visitors purchased about $37 million in marijuana products. The figures do not include medical cannabis sales, which are reported separately by a different state agency.
To put these numbers into context, Illinois’s recreational cannabis market launched in January 2020, and in May of that year, marijuana sales hit $44,317,385. Monthly sales have more than doubled since then.
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 in April, 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. Illinois 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.
Lawmakers sent a bill to Pritzker’s desk last week that is meant to build upon the state’s legalization law by creating more cannabis business licensing opportunities that are meant to help people from disproportionately impacted communities enter into the marijuana industry.
Meanwhile, a House committee recently approved a resolution that broadly condemns the war on drugs, calling it “the United States’ longest and costliest war and ultimately a complete and shameful failure.”