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Pot taxes total $52 million to date, far more than expected, state says

Dispensaries across the state have sold more than $239 million worth of recreational weed since the start of the year.

The first batch of customers make their purchases at Rise Joliet. A new ordinance aims to streamline the zoning process to attract a flood of new cannabis license winners.
Gov. Pritzker announced Tuesday that Illinois collected over $50 million in cannabis revenues over the first six months of recreational legalization.
Sun-Times file

After campaigning and making good on a promise to lift the statewide prohibition on marijuana, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday that Illinois collected over $52 million in taxes during the first six months of legalization.

Sales of recreational cannabis started on Jan. 1, when hordes of eager pot buyers flooded the few dozen medical dispensaries that were able to transition into dual-use stores. And with pot businesses deemed essential in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, monthly sales have remained strong.

Weed shops unloaded nearly $48 million in pot products in June, marking the most successful month of sales so far, according to figures released by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. All told, more than $239 million worth of recreational weed has been sold since the start of the year.

More than $34 million of the revenue came from excise taxes, far more than the $28 million Pritzker’s budget estimated the state would collect during the same period. Another $18 million was collected through sales taxes that will be shared with local governments, according to the governor’s office.

The Illinois Department of Revenue estimates that nearly $26 million will go toward the state’s General Revenue Fund.

Aside from the economic boost, Pritzker’s office emphasized the law’s sweeping criminal justice reforms and provisions to bolster minority participation in the burgeoning industry and create new funding for blighted communities.

“Illinois has done more to put justice and equity at the forefront of this industry than any other state in the nation, and we’re ensuring that communities that have been hurt by the war on drugs have the opportunity to participate,” Pritzker said.

A quarter of all revenues will either be invested in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the justice system, prioritized to address substance abuse and mental health issues or allocated to localities for crime prevention programs.

Toi Hutchinson, Pritzker’s senior adviser for cannabis control, touted the law for “creating equity in the cannabis industry in a way that no other state has done.”

“By expunging hundreds of thousands of cannabis-related records, reinvesting the money spent on adult-use cannabis in Illinois into communities that are suffering, and making equity a central focus of the cannabis licensure process, the administration is ensuring that no community is left out or left behind,” Hutchinson said in a statement.

However, the first round of new cannabis licenses prioritized for so-called social equity applicants have all been delayed indefinitely in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, stymying a key aspect of the administration’s agenda.