As officials continue to tally votes in the contentious presidential race, one clear winner has already emerged from Tuesday’s election: Legal weed.
Voters in six Chicago suburbs approved ballot initiatives allowing the sale of recreational cannabis, and five states across the country voted to legalize marijuana in some form.
With all precincts reporting in Cook County, a majority of voters in Elk Grove Village (63%), Mount Prospect (63%), Park Ridge (59%) and Wilmette (55%) all backed ballot measures paving the way for dispensaries to sell recreational pot. Another initiative in Western Springs fell short, with less than 40% of residents approving those sales.
Nearly 63% of voters in Batavia in Kane County also supported a similar referendum, while just over 51% of Glen Ellyn residents in DuPage County voted in favor of a ballot initiative there. All precincts were reporting in both suburbs, according to results maintained by county clerks’ offices.
Cannabis consultant Andy Seeger said more suburbs will likely be encouraged to follow suit, noting that affluent areas with older populations are increasingly starting to treat cannabis like wine or craft beer.
“There’s definitely going to be boutique, almost Starbucks-like experiences in downtown Wilmette,” Seeger predicted.
Just over 10 months into Illinois’ experiment with recreational weed, sales are surging. Over $500 million worth of recreational pot was sold through October, when a new monthly record of $75 million in sales was recorded.
With over 100 recreational cannabis licenses still outstanding, pot firms will now have more places to potentially set up shop. The suburbs that approved recreational sales can now impose the maximum 3% tax on them.
Kay Tamillow, research director at the Brightfield Group, a Loop-based firm that studies the cannabis industry, said amid the ongoing trend of liberalization and destigmatization there’s also been “a distinct turn towards revenue generation” that likely contributed to the groundswell of support. Illinoisans who may have been reticent of their town going to pot are now seeing that cannabis businesses can rake in tax dollars while posing few problems, she added.
“It makes sense that we’re seeing more and more suburbs or municipalities pick up and open up to recreational cannabis,” Tamillow said.
4 states join Illinois in legalizing recreational sales
Meanwhile, weed also proved popular with voters across the country on Tuesday.
New Jersey, Arizona and Montana voted to legalize recreational cannabis, while South Dakota became the first state to approve recreational and medical pot sales in the same election. Mississippi voters also backed an initiative legalizing cannabis for medical use.
According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 15 states have now enacted or voted in favor of laws legalizing recreational pot and 36 states have done the same for medical cannabis.
Tamillow noted that marijuana legalization has become “a bipartisan issue that cuts across all different kinds of consumers,” including those interested in the drug for wellness and others who simply want to reap the economic benefits.
“It really echoes kind of that same story of the Chicago suburbs,” she said of the referendums across the country.
Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, was among the legalization advocates celebrating on Wednesday.
“This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization,” Hawkins said in a statement.