SPRINGFIELD — It appears Illinoisans like their marijuana.
According to figures released by the state, the first 12 days of legalized recreational marijuana sales are nothing to blow smoke about.
Figures released by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations show that total marijuana sales nearly hit the $20 million mark. And that figure was just for sales from Jan. 1 through Jan. 12.
“Illinois had a far more successful launch of cannabis than many of the other states that have legalized,” said Toi Hutchinson, senior adviser to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for cannabis control. “This is about more than money. It’s about starting a new industry in a way that includes communities left behind for far too long.”
A whopping 495,385 transactions were completed at the state’s 37 dispensaries during the 12-day stretch.
Chris Koerner, director of the Kankakee Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group, said the sales numbers have not shocked him.
Kankakee 5th Ward Alderman Tyler Tall Sr., who has been shepherding legislation through the Kankakee City Council regarding legalized marijuana and how the tax dollars should be used, said state sales might have been even higher if there had not been product shortages.
“It hasn’t surprised me. This has been a dry state for so long,” he said.
Tall said sales figures will likely level once the initial rush passes.
“Who knows, the numbers could have been $30 million if not for the shortages. This could be a real gold mine for Illinois in the first year or two, then it might level off,” he said.
Tall said he saw some receipts posted on Facebook. Some of those receipts had purchases in the hundreds of dollars.
“Some people are spending serious money,” he said.
Alderman Larry Osenga did not have any idea as to what the first sales numbers would be, but these totals caught him by surprise.
“There must be more drug users in Illinois than in other states,” he said.
Osenga has been opposed to the legalization effort. He said he still remains opposed to it.
“It might be good for state funding issues, but who knows what the far reaching effects will be. But it is what it is. I would think once the novelty wears off, the numbers will go down. I guess time will tell,” he said.
Figures regarding tax revenue from these sales will not be known until the end of February when tax payments from dispensaries are due.
Per the state law that legalized recreational marijuana, 25 percent of the marijuana tax revenue will be used to address the impact of economic disinvestment, violence and the historical overuse of the criminal justice system in terms of the war on drugs.
The sale of recreational marijuana was approved in Illinois in June. It became legal to sell in state-approved locations on Jan. 1. More locations are expected to be added throughout the year.
Illinois is one of 11 states allowing state-controlled sales of recreational marijuana. Michigan is the only other Midwestern state to have legalized recreation marijuana sales.
Six states, including Missouri, are attempting to legalize adult-use pot in 2020 through votes on a recreational marijuana initiatives or constitutional amendments.