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Recreational pot sales topped $44 million in May, most since weed was legalized in Illinois

Despite facing strict social distancing guidelines aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, Illinois residents bought up over $34 million of pot products, while out-of-staters purchased $10 million.

Illinois marijuana dispensaries sold over $44 million of recreational cannabis in May. File photo

Illinois dispensaries unloaded over $44 million in recreational weed in May, marking the most successful month of sales since the drug was fully legalized at the start of the year.

Despite facing strict social distancing guidelines aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, pot shops tallied $44.3 million in total sales last month, according to figures released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Illinois residents bought up over $34 million in recreational pot products, while out-of-staters purchased the rest.

The previous monthly high was recorded in January, when $39.2 million in recreational cannabis was sold as pot users flooded dispensaries to get their first taste of legal weed in Illinois.

Andy Seeger, a pot industry analyst at the Loop-based Brightfield Group, said the demand for legal pot has remained strong even as much of the economy has come to a halt. For consumers, pot, like alcohol, appears to be “one of the last purchases to cut if necessary” but is “quickly picked back up upon employment.”

He said sales could be higher if not for supply limitations and a growing demand for medical cannabis. With the issuance of new recreational licenses delayed in the wake of the pandemic, Seeger said there aren’t currently enough cultivation centers and dispensaries for recreational sales to grow significantly higher.

Meanwhile, a handful of weed stores were forced to temporarily close after being targeted in a wave of looting that gripped the city when a protest over the officer-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis devolved into chaos on May 30.

Two dispensaries in Chicago, The Herbal Care Center on the Near West Side and Mission in South Chicago, will likely remain closed for weeks after being hit particularly hard. On Thursday, NuMed in West Town also remained closed due to the “ongoing protests” in the area, according to a phone recording.

Dispensary 33 in Uptown and Cresco Labs’ new Sunnyside dispensary in River North were also targeted late last month, but nothing was reported stolen and the stores have since reopened.

Given the limited number of retail options across the state, Seeger noted that stores shutting down temporarily for repairs will inevitably “constrain sales” further.