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Illinois dispensaries sell $670 million in cannabis products in 2020

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Wednesday, January 6, 2021  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop | The Center Square

Recreational Marijuana Ford, La Shawn--State House, 8

(The Center Square) – The fewer than 80 adult-use cannabis stores in Illinois sold nearly $670 million in legal weed in all of 2020, according to numbers published by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation this week.

Despite ongoing pandemic restrictions on other businesses, the 79 licensed pot stores in Illinois finished the year in December with $86.9 million in sales. That was more than $10 million more than was sold in November.

With the exception of January 2020 when sales began to the shorter month of February, monthly sales grew month after month in the first full year of legal cannabis.

But the marketplace has had issues. Some have said it’s not equitable. Other critics have said it’s far from being a free market.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said his top priority heading into the final few days of the 101st General Assembly beginning Friday is to get more people of color in the pot business.

“Priority No. 1 is to do everything we can to pass a fix for the cannabis law so that we can get some Black people and brown people in the business, in this emerging economy,” Ford said in an interview this week. “Getting Black people in that industry is important because making sure people have access to capital and having business opportunities is critical to having a healthy lifestyle for blacks.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, the director of drug policy for the Reason Foundation, in September said Illinois’ law has problems.

“But equity is among them, primarily that’s because there’s such a cap on the number of licenses available,” Lawrence said.

He said to make things really equitable, caps should be lifted entirely.

“We don’t have a cap on the number of grocery stores or gas stations that are allowed, but the market kind of naturally reaches an equilibrium,” Lawrence said. “That’s true with pharmacies and drug stores and liquor stores.”

The cap of dispensaries in the law that went into effect last year is 500. There are currently 79. State law requires a disparity study about license equity.

The latest sales figures for the entire 2020 calendar year had $496.4 million of sales for in-state residents with $172.6 million for out-of-state residents. More than 14.4 million items were sold.

Taxes on cannabis products can be north of 40 percent, depending on potency.

The total tax revenue collected for the calendar year was just north of $175 million. That money is split in several ways.

More than a third goes to the state’s general revenue fund. A quarter of every tax dollar generated from recreational cannabis will go to the newly created Restore, Reinvest and Renew program. The rest of the tax money will be divided up with 20 percent going to substance abuse and mental health services, 10 percent to the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, 8 percent to local law enforcement and 2 percent for public cannabis education and safety campaigns.

By comparison, Illinois' first-year sales total of $670 million was shy of Colorado's first-year sales total of $683.5 million for 2014. From January to October 2020, Colorado reported $1.82 billion in sales.