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Monthly pot sales in Illinois top $100M for first time

In the first 10 months since cannabis was fully legalized, dispensaries sold over $500 million worth of recreational weed and more than $300 million in medical pot.

Jon O’Rourke serves a customer at NuEra Cannabis, 1308 W. North Ave., Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 27, 2020.
October’s total weed sales trumped the previous high set when about $99 million in cannabis was sold in September.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Monthly cannabis sales in Illinois topped $100 million for the first time in October.

That huge haul was largely due to the record $75 million in recreational marijuana sales tallied last month, according the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Sales of medical pot products accounted for another $33 million.

October’s total sales trumped the previous high set a month earlier, when over $99 million in cannabis was sold throughout Illinois. In the first 10 months since cannabis was fully legalized, dispensaries across the state sold over $500 million worth of recreational weed and roughly $300 million in medical pot.

News of the record monthly sales came as six Chicago suburbs voted last Tuesday to allow recreational weed sales, a trend that appears to demonstrate the growing acceptability of the newly legalized drug. What’s more, recreational sales opening up in Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Park Ridge, Batavia, Glen Ellyn and Wilmette will also provide more options to pot companies prospecting for hot retail locations outside Chicago.

However, cannabis industry analyst Andy Seeger said October’s monthly sales figures still fall short of the market’s true potential. He noted Illinois should be on pace to sell around $1.2 billion in weed this year.

But given that the recreational pot industry was built on Illinois’ “very small medical market,” Seeger noted the existing firms who were operating before January have now been tasked with meeting the state’s growing appetite for legal pot. So far this year, the state’s plans to issue 40 “craft” cultivation licenses and 130 new pot shop permits have been foiled by the coronavirus outbreak and an ongoing licensing imbroglio, stifling the immediate growth of the industry.

And while the operators of the state’s 55 existing medical dispensaries were allowed to start selling recreational weed in January and open another store for adult-use sales, state records show only 24 have earned new licenses. The next 75 recreational dispensary permits are also being held up in the courts amid concerns over the licensing process, which was intended to prioritize social equity applicants.

“Demand’s still there,” Seeger said. “The supply just cannot meet that demand still, as we have no new players and the bill itself has not been realized in its potential. All these kinks have slowed everything down to a halt.”