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Illinois could grow over 1 million pounds of legal pot by 2025, report says

Illinois’ legal cannabis supply stands to skyrocket by 1,300 percent after growing from 11,877 pounds in 2016 to 72,158 pounds this year, according to New Frontier Data.

Ericka Hogan, cultivation manager at Illinois Grown Medicine, spreads medical marijuana branches to allow light penetration for proper flower development in the cultivation center’s flowering room in Elk Grove Village, Monday morning, May 6, 2019.
Ericka Hogan, cultivation manager at Illinois Grown Medicine, tends marijuana plants in the cultivation center’s flowering room in Elk Grove Village on May 6, 2019.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Illinois’ budding legal pot industry could grow more than one million pounds of weed by 2025 to meet demand, a new report says.

But the report’s lead author acknowledges the state will have to permit legal growers to vastly scale up production to reach that level, which is more than 14 times the amount Illinois grows now.

The study, published Tuesday by the independent cannabis research firm New Frontier Data, estimates that nearly 30 million pounds of pot will be produced in the United States this year. By 2025, the country is expected to cultivate more than 34 million pounds, with Illinois emerging as the sixth-largest overall cannabis producer.

New Frontier estimates that Illinois will cultivate 1,019,282 pounds of legal pot that year, and another 41,000 pounds will be grown illegally. The report comes just over a month before Illinois will legalize weed for recreational use, vastly expanding the state’s pot market by opening up sales to anyone over the age of 21.

New Frontier said that Illinois’ legal cannabis supply has steadily grown from 11,877 pounds in 2016 to 72,158 pounds this year. The state currently ranks as the 13th largest producer of legal pot in the nation, according to the study, which estimates the Land of Lincoln will become the fifth-largest legal cultivator by 2025.

The figures are based on a model that aims to determine how much total weed will likely be needed to help meet the state’s growing demand. Beau Whitney, New Frontier’s senior economist, noted that the projections dealing with the legal supply “gradually increase as the amount of legal consumer participation increases over time.”

“It takes a while for adult use markets to transition illicit consumers to a legal market. This is just a natural evolution,” according to Whitney, who said the rate of growth of the state’s legal market will eventually be determined by legislators and regulators.

“They may constrain the number of licenses and may not be able to produce that many pounds. But if they issue too many licenses, then they can put themselves into an oversupply condition.”

Industry analysts have warned of an impending supply shortage. That’s largely because Illinois’ 21 existing medical cultivators will likely be tasked with meeting the state’s huge demand for cannabis. Only 11 of those cultivation centers have been licensed to grow recreational weed, according to Krista Lisser, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

The expected supply shortage will likely drive legal pot prices up, which Whitney said will encourage users to continue buying weed from black market sources. But as a state market matures, he said, cultivators will eventually earn additional licenses and produce more weed.

“The prices also go down because you have more supply in the system,” he noted.

While the state has no immediate plans to issue new licenses for large-scale cultivation operations, the state will award up to 40 licenses to smaller craft growers by July 1. Up to 60 additional craft grow licenses will then be doled out by Dec. 21, 2021.