For the sixth month in a row, Illinois has hit yet another marijuana sales record, and it has reached the key benchmark of half a billion dollars worth of legal cannabis products being purchased since the launch of the program at the beginning of this year.
The state seems to have truly demonstrated that, as a top regulator put it in August, its cannabis market is “recession-proof” and “pandemic-proof.”
Adults purchased 1,557,880 marijuana products in October, worth a total of $75,278,200. That’s about $8 million more in sales compared to September and almost double the first month of sales in January. The new adult-use sales figures don’t include data about purchases made through the state’s medical cannabis program.
About $55 million in purchases came from in-state buyers, while nearly $21 million came from out-of-state tourists.
All told, legal cannabis sales have now crossed the $500 million mark since the start of the year.
While it might not make up for all the economic costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic and resulting social distancing mandates, the sales figures do translate into tax dollars for the state. Illinois announced last month that it had hit a marijuana tax milestone, exceeding $100 million in revenue. Those dollars, which account for money taken in to tax coffers through August, are being used, in part, to fund local governments and restorative justice programs.
State officials have emphasized that while the strong sales trend is positive economic news, they’re primarily interested in using tax revenue to reinvest in communities most impacted by the drug war.
About 25 percent of the tax dollars collected are designated for restorative justice grants, while other funds will support substance misuse and mental health treatment. The state announced in May that it was making about $31 million in social equity grants available to communities identified as economically distressed.
Prior to the implementation of the state’s marijuana system, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) pardoned more than 11,000 people with prior cannabis convictions. And he said last month that he will be granting more acts of marijuana clemency in the future.
These latest sales numbers reinforce an argument that pro-reform legislators in other states have made, especially amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
It remains to be seen whether that position will influence how residents in five states will vote on ballot measures to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a coalition of state medical societies issued a joint statement last week criticizing efforts to legalize marijuana, stating that while they appreciate the economic challenges that states have faced as a consequence of the pandemic, they’re urging against legalization as a means of addressing the issue.