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Nearly $3.2M of pot products sold at Illinois dispensaries on first day of legal weed sales

More than 77,000 people lined up to buy recreational marijuana with its official legalization New Year’s Day.

David Richardson, 29, sits in his living room in Rogers Park and smokes marijuana he bought from Dispensary 33, 5001 N. Clark St., after waiting in line for more than eight hours on the first day of legalized recreational cannabis in Illinois, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.
David Richardson, 29, sits in his living room in Rogers Park and smokes marijuana he bought from Dispensary 33, 5001 N. Clark St., after waiting in line for more than eight hours on the first day of legalized recreational cannabis in Illinois, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Legal weed had dispensary owners seeing green on New Year’s Day to the tune of nearly $3.2 million.

Those long lines for the first round of legal bud included a whopping 77,128 people, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s pot point person Toi Hutchinson said Thursday of Illinois’ monumental first day of recreational marijuana sales.

That comes out to about $41 for each each transaction.

At the five pot shops owned by River North-based Cresco Labs, customers outspent that statewide average by nearly $100.

Cresco’s Sunnyside dispensaries in Lake View, Elmwood Park, Buffalo Grove, Champaign and Rockford sold a total of 9,258 pot products to 3,145 customers, said spokesman Jason Erkes.

The company said the average spent per customer was $135, suggesting a healthy inaugural day of sales approaching $425,000.

Officials did not immediately have tax revenue figures. State taxes on pot products range from 10% to 25% depending on the concentration of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

On the low end, sales approaching $3.2 million would generate more than $317,000 in tax revenue, not to mention sales taxes.

“This is one of those moments where we recognize that the significance of yesterday was that it was the end of prohibition, and the beginning of how we hope to grow a new industry here in Illinois, and then teach other states how to do it,” Hutchinson said.

Andy Seeger — an analyst at the Brightfield Group, a cannabis research firm based in the Loop — noted that “$3 million in the first day is a lot.” He said figure is similar to the totals spent on the first day of recreational sales in states like Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

However, Seeger said, the hefty prices on products “really inflated that value.” And while the state shouldn’t expect to see those types of sales everyday going forward, he said there should be steady, long-term revenue from recreational pot.

“Demand will continue to increase for the next year and a half or two years at least as people enter the market, get more comfortable, the stigma is removed or they sample products while out with other people,” Seeger said. “It’s going to be up to supply to really meet that.”

Seeger noted that product shortages will continue to be an issue until more cannabis is grown and introduced into the market. A full harvest takes around 13 to 16 weeks to grow, he said.

Cresco Labs also operates three Illinois cultivation centers, and Erkes said measures are being taken to meet the increased demand.

“Every cultivation facility we have has a rolling harvest, so we’re bringing product to market constantly,” Erkes said. “All the cultivators in the state are working on expanding their facilities and getting new plants in the ground, which by spring should bring a significant amount more product to the Illinois market.”

Despite dispensaries limiting sales and running out of product, Erkes downplayed the notion that there are widespread supply issues across the state.

“It’s really just a flower thing right now, but we’re not running out of product,” he said.