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Nearly $110 million in recreational weed sold in Illinois since January

In March, pot shops sold $35.9 million worth of pot. That’s down from the $39.2 million in first-month sales, but slightly higher than February’s sales.

People lined up early Jan. 1 before Sunnyside opened in Lake View for the first day of legal sales of recreational marijuana.
People lined up early Jan. 1 before Sunnyside opened for the first day of legal sales of recreational marijuana.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times files

Illinois dispensaries have sold nearly $110 million in recreational marijuana since the drug was fully legalized in January.

In March, pot shops sold 812,203 individual pot products totaling $35.9 million, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced Thursday. The bulk of that weed, over $27 million, was sold to Illinois residents.

While the sales figures marked a slight increase from February, when $34.8 million in recreational weed was unloaded, March’s total fell short of the $39.2 million in first-month sales.

“Three straight months of consistent adult use cannabis sales show there is — and will continue to be — strong support and demand from consumers,” said Toi Hutchinson, senior adviser for cannabis control to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Illinois’ figures were trumped by the $211 million in sales tallied during the first three months of recreational legalization in California in 2018, according to the Brightfield Group, a Loop-based cannabis research firm.

However, Illinois’ totals were far greater than initial recreational sales in more comparable states. Colorado sold $48.1 million worth of recreational pot in the first three months of 2014, and Michigan had just $31.6 million in sales after legalizing weed last year.

As many stores were forced to shut down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Pritzker’s stay-at-home order deemed pot shops “essential businesses” and allowed them to stay open.

Though some dispensaries in Chicago reverted to selling only medical pot when the pandemic took hold in Illinois last month, others saw increased demand for recreational weed. Kris Krane, president of 4Front Ventures, a multi-state pot firm that operates the Mission dispensary in South Chicago, said his store experienced a “big rush on product” when the governor’s order was issued.

“Even after some stores closed for recreational, it’s likely that most customers shifted to other stores,” Krane said Thursday. “But without that initial spike, which was meaningful, I would expect April numbers to be down overall.”

Meanwhile, the state has taken steps to promote social distancing and accommodate medical cannabis patients, some of whom are more susceptible to the coronavirus. That includes allowing patients to pick up pot products outside dispensaries until April 30.

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza also announced last month that $946,000 in cannabis tax revenues earmarked for the state’s rainy day fund would be used to help rural pharmacies in Illinois as the state grapples with the coronavirus outbreak.

The deadline to apply for cannabis infuser, craft grower and transportation was also pushed back to April 30, the final day Pritzker’s revised stay-at-home order is slated to remain in effect. Those licenses will still be doled out by July 1, while 75 new dispensary licenses will be issued by May 1.

Those are the first licenses being prioritized to so-called social equity applicants, who have been negatively impacted by the prohibition on pot and are now being given a leg-up in the application process.