Sales of legal marijuana in Illinois last month again broke the state’s all-time record, with nearly $128 million in total recreational receipts, according to the state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). That’s more than $10 million higher than the state’s previous monthly sales record, set in May, and more than double the total monthly sales from a year ago.
It’s the latest sign that the state’s popular cannabis program is continuing to thrive despite the ongoing pandemic and growing economic uncertainty.
All told, consumers bought 2,802,124 individual cannabis items in July—another monthly record. Of the $127,794,220.50 in total purchases, IDFPR reported, in-state residents accounted for about 69 percent, or about $85 million. Out-of-state residents made up the other $42 million.
The Chicago Tribune attributed the monthly boost largely to out-of-state visitors who arrived in droves for the Lollapalooza music festival held in Chicago earlier this month. Retailers in nearby River North and the West Loop told the paper they saw sales go up by as much as 50 percent.
“Summer tourism and the Lollapalooza attendees were strong contributors to July’s out-of-state sales,” said Jason Erkes, a spokesperson for Cresco Labs, which operates Sunnyside Dispensary, the nearest retailer to the festival. “We saw thousands of festivalgoers over the weekend at our River North store, making it our biggest weekend to date.”
Sales to in-state residents also saw a significant increase, climbing more than $6 million from June.
The new figures do not include sales of medical cannabis, which are tracked separately by a different agency.
July marks the fifth consecutive month that sales in Illinois’s adult-use market have topped $100 million. If the trend continues, the state is on track to see more than $1 billion in adult-use marijuana sales in 2021.
That would mean a significant increase revenue for the state. Illinois sold about $670 million in cannabis last year 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 in May. From January to March, Illinois generated about $86,537,000 in adult-use marijuana tax revenue, compared to $72,281,000 from liquor sales.
Last month, state officials put $3.5 million in cannabis-generated funds toward efforts to reduce violence through street intervention programs.
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 recently sent a bill to Pritzker’s desk 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. Regulators are now holding a series of lotteries to award additional dispensary licenses.
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.”