The state of Illinois has recorded nearly $11 million in sales from recreational cannabis within the first three weeks of 2020 alone, according to the Illinois State Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. This comes after the state‘s governor, JB Pritzker, legalized the use and sale of recreational cannabis within the state’s boundaries on January 1, 2020.
In as few as the first five days of the New Year, recreational cannabis dispensaries around Illinois reported sales of $10.8 million. On January 1 alone, the very first day of legalization, dispensaries noted total sales of $3.1 million. As of the first two weeks of 2020, more than 270,000 units of recreational cannabis have been sold. These figures come from only 37 registered dispensaries state-wide, which goes to show how huge the demand is.
The legal status and its impact on sales
Along with legalizing the drug, the state governor JB Pritzker also pardoned individuals who had been incarcerated within the state for crimes relating to its use and sale. In his message regarding the pardon, the governor hoped that legalizing the drug ‘would help restore the rights of thousands of people’. His pardon went into effect on December 31, 2019, just a day before the herb would be legalized for recreational use. More than 11,000 individuals have since been the recipient of this pardon, all of whom had charges that were considered low-level misdemeanors.
The state’s decision to legalize marijuana makes it the 11th state in the United States of America to do so, following headline-makers such as California and Oregon. In line with this development, new amendments have been made to the state’s existing policy on cannabis. The biggest change is that adults over the age of 21 can now buy and possess the drug as long as it is in small amounts. Amendments have also been made to where marijuana can be smoked across the state. Additionally, the law now allows the purchase of cannabis for other purposes except medical relief.
This high demand has surprised cannabis retailers, analysts and state government officials. According to news reports, the sales figures for the first 5 days match or better those of bigger states such as California during a similar period. After selling off nearly $11 million worth of cannabis products, most cannabis dispensaries have run out of stock and had to close temporarily. Some dispensaries have since resorted to selling only to individuals needing cannabis for medical needs, while others have put in place buying limits per customer.
The demand expected to remain high
Experts believe that this demand will extend for a while, and so will the shortage. Illinois currently has only 21 licensed marijuana cultivation centers, and if this shortage has proven anything, it’s that they cannot sustain the 37 dispensaries across the state. The state plans to issue additional licenses to 40 cannabis growers by July, but experts don’t see supply meeting demand until the end of the year at least.
Analysts such as Brightfield Group initially set their forecast of annual cannabis sales in Illinois at $400 million. This boom in demand has led other analysts to modify this figure, setting the forecast at nearly $100 million more. Most believe that this growth is promising, even though it might be hindered by high taxes and supply shortages.
So far, this new marijuana boom has been positive. Part of the sales from this period is being routed to a community reinvestment fund, according to Senior Advisor to the State government on cannabis, Toi Hutchinson. Even better, there is no evidence that this boom in demand for recreational cannabis has resulted in more cases of DUIs with specificity to cannabis.
The numbers say the same thing; records show that in the first five days of January, which coincide with the $10.8 million cannabis sales boom, only 49 people were served DUIs in the city of Chicago. That correlates to a 1-person rise from the 48 that were served around the same time in January 2019, a full year ago.
Even though these numbers speak for every DUI served, whether it was for drugs or alcohol, the effect is still the same. Chicago police spokesman Anthony Gugliemi confirmed that ‘there hasn’t been a spike in auto accidents or any types of impaired arrests that we can link to the consumption of cannabis.
Legal cannabis being favored by everyone
As regards the state’s fight against drugs, this may be its most successful attempt yet. Some state officials agree that the war on illegal drugs in Illinois has all but failed, in addition to affecting various communities negatively. Governor JB Pritzker made similar remarks when announcing the pardon for low-level cannabis-related charges, noting that he hoped the legalization would help regulate the ‘unsafe and illegal market’ of cannabis across the state.
While the sudden demand for cannabis across the state was surprising, it is also a mark that more people are willing to buy the drug legally rather than off the street. More telling is the fact that demand continues to rise despite legal cannabis being more expensive than off-the-street cannabis. Thanks to state-imposed taxes that hover between 10% and 25%, an ounce of legal cannabis can go for nearly $80, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. That is about twice what a similar ounce goes for on the street.
Buyers are sticking with legal cannabis for reasons of increased variety, quality and safety. Some customers have reported a higher quality of the product than they had seen anywhere else. They can now complain if the weed doesn’t taste right, too, because they know where it comes from. Others were blown away by the whole retail experience, noting the cleanliness, service and order of it all.
Buying legally has been made pretty simple too. Along with legalizing the drug, the state has also registered and licensed a number of dispensaries to act as shops for recreational cannabis. So far, these dispensaries continue to be wrapped in long lines of customers for days on end, sometimes during rather low temperatures. Buyers across the state of Illinois are rushing to get hooked up with the best weed in town, this time without fear of breaking the law.