Illinois: June cannabis sales break record

Posted on July 9th, 2020 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , .

IllinoisIn the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and historic levels of unemployment, Illinois cannabis retailers saw record-breaking sales in June, taking in nearly $48 million in revenues.

This news would appear to vindicate the old hippie cliché that pot will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times no pot.

The cannabis industry in Illinois, which became the latest state of legalize in June 2019, broke its own record for recreational sales in June 2020. The Prairie State's 56 adult-use dispensaries sold nearly a million cannabis items worth upwards of $47.6 million, after taxes.

According to official state figures reported by the Arlington Heights Daily Herald and industry monitor Marijuana Moment, $35.3 million came from sales to state residents, and $12.4 million from out-of-state visitors. All told, Illinois retailers sold 994,545 THC products in June—5,000 more than the previous month.

In the six months since legal sales took effect, Illinois dispensaries have now sold over $239 million worth of merchandise.

This is, of course, good news for Illinois' coffers. New tax figures are to be released later this month by the state Department of Revenue. In May—also a record-breaking month—the state took in $12.5 million in cannabis taxes and associated sales taxes.

That brought the state's tax collections from legal cannabis to $52.7 million for the first five months of sales—well above the $28 million estimated for this year's budget, which ended June 30.

Towns and counties that allow cannabis sales also begin first adding their own taxes in July—which may modestly increase the purchase price but will be a boon to localities in a challenging time.

Still grappling with equity 

Amid this boom, state and local authorities in the Land of Lincoln are grappling with how to craft a cannabis industry and regulation regime that will promote social equity and begin to reverse the racial and economic injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs.

As Patch reports, July 1 was initially set as the deadline for issuing new types of licenses—those designated for "craft" growers, infusers and independent dispensaries. These new licenses were designed to encourage smaller businesses to enter the Illinois cannabis industry—which has up to now been dominated by a small group of large companies, with little diversity among their leadership.

In the lead-up to passage of the Cannabis Regulation & Tax Act last June, already operating medical marijuana dispensaries lobbied lawmakers and the office of Gov. JB Pritzker to allow them to effectively monopolize the adult-use market for the first quarter of legal sales.

But since the COVID-19 crisis shut down much of state government, Pritzker has issued executive orders extending or suspending the deadlines to apply for the new license categories.

Acting Illinois Department of Agriculture director Jerry Costello II told Patch that his office is trying to open multiple paths into the industry for state residents who live in the communities that were hardest hit by marijuana prohibition.  

"The COVID-19 pandemic and the 6-week deadline extension granted to applicants have caused unforeseeable delays in the application review process," Costello said. "The Department is working tirelessly to ensure that applications are scored and awarded in a fair, deliberate and equitable manner."

The governor's office is similarly pledging progress. Patch quoted a statement issued last month by the Commerce Department featuring words from Toi Hutchinson, the former state senator who was a chief sponsor of the legalization bill and now serves as Pritzker's senior cannabis advisor. 

"The Pritzker administration remains committed to protecting and pursuing diversity in the adult-use cannabis industry, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic," Hutchinson said. "Pritzker has made it clear the state's new industry is about more than revenue, it's about ensuring communities that have been left out and left behind have new opportunity."

Localities are meanwhile seeking their own institutional remedies for the social ills of prohibition. Chicago is considering various experimental models for cultivation and retail sales aimed at empowering those communities criminalized under prohibition. Ideas being weighed include a city-owned cultivation coop which residents could join, including the low-income on a "sweat equity" basis.

The Chicago suburb of Evanston has become the first city in the United States to put revenues from legal cannabis sales into a "reparations" fund for the city's African American residents—seeking to redress harms not only from the war on drugs but a greater matrix of social injustice.

Cross-post to Cannabis Now

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