The state of Illinois released eye-popping numbers about the state’s first year of legalized marijuana. It seems marijuana in Illinois turned out even more popular than people had expected, even with an ongoing pandemic.
Recreational marijuana sales in Illinois started in January 2020, just a month after sales began in nearby Michigan. The sales numbers started high and kept getting higher, with residents spending about $1 million a day on cannabis by March.
Then, the pandemic hit. But it ultimately did not slow sales growth in the state.
Sales Increased Almost Every Month in 2020
Marijuana in Illinois became even more popular as the year wore on. As part of their report on sales, Illinois officials released a month-by-month chart on sales figures throughout the year.
After an initial slowdown in March, cannabis sales took off for the rest of the year, increasing every month except one (November) between April and December. Over that span, the monthly sales figures more than doubled, from $37.2 million to $86.8 million.
More than 25% of sales in Illinois were made by people who came there from out-of-state, according to the sales figures. In all, out-of-state visitors spent $172.6 million in Illinois on cannabis products in 2020.
The State Received Much-Needed Funds
Since the beginning of the debate among state politicians on legalizing marijuana, many have argued that the state needed the tax money to help pay off its crippling deb, which has reached more than $200 million.
Marijuana taxes brought more than $100 million into state coffers in 2020. While some will go toward debt, the state also has specified other uses. For example, the state uses about 25% of marijuana tax dollars on restorative justice grants, as well as $31 million for social equity grants in economically distressed communities. Other tax dollars support substance misuse and mental health treatment.
The state also has created a fund to help those with marijuana convictions get the legal aid they need to expunge their arrest records. Almost a half million expungements and pardons have been granted so far in Illinois for low-level marijuana possession offenses.
As 2021 began, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker added another 9,129 pardons for low-level cannabis convictions. The governor said of his actions: “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.”