Illinois scooped a record-breaking $44 million from recreational cannabis sales in May

Coronavirus-related social distancing measures were expected to impede growth of recreational cannabis sales in Illinois but interestingly, residents snapped up more than $34 million worth of legal weed products during the month of May. It was at this point that the COVID-19 pandemic reached boiling point, with lawmakers imposing compulsory stay-at-home orders and business closures statewide.

Luckily for the owners of cannabis dispensaries in Illinois – and, ultimately, the customers being served inside these stores – the industry was deemed “essential”. This meant that in spite of harsh social distancing rules, dispensaries were allowed to remain open.

Consequently, more than $44 million was purchased from state-licensed stores throughout May. In addition to the bud that was bought by residents, out-of-staters racked up $10 million in transactions. Although promising, industry experts are concerned that medical cannabis patients may feel the repercussions of state officials prioritizing recreational cannabis sales in Illinois.

(Pictured) Andy Seeger of Brightfield Group

One such person is acclaimed cannabis economist and manager of cannabis research at Brightfield Group, Andy Seeger, who also thinks that cannabis delivery services could become a permanent thing in Illinois.

“I think with the amount of state debt that’s going to come later from this health crisis, this is going to be one of the things that’s looked at to provide some revenue,” he told reporters. “Delivery, on-premise consumption, just about anything to boost sales.”

Sales of recreational cannabis in Illinois hit an all-time high this May

Figures published by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) showed that precisely $44.3 million was sold in the state’s dispensaries throughout the duration of May. The cannabis plant was legalized on a recreational scale in the state on January 1, 2020 and these latest figures demonstrate the most successful month so far in terms of revenue.

January was also a successful month for recreational cannabis sales in Illinois, with the shelves of dispensaries being stripped of goods to the amount of $39.2 million. The IDFPR noted that approximately three-fourths of recreational cannabis expenditure was by Illinois residents at the start of the year, with the remaining amount being purchased by out-of-staters.

Stores selling recreational cannabis in Illinois were recently targeted by looters 

As May came to an end and sales revenue had been calculated, dispensary owners had little time to breathe a sigh of relief before protests proliferated across the U.S. Triggered as a result of George Floyd’s murder by a police officer, the State of Illinois experienced a ripple of violence that spread to a handful of cannabis dispensaries.

On May 30 – five days after Floyd’s wrongful death – episodes of looting escalated around the state. As a direct effect of this, two Chicago-based dispensaries were forced to close their doors for a number of weeks — The Herbal Care Center on the Near West Side and Mission in South Chicago. 

“Ongoing protests” also prompted the owners of Illinois cannabis dispensary NuMed in West Town to shutter store doors. Dispensary 33 in Uptown and Cresco Labs’ newly-launched Sunnyside dispensary in the River North area were forced to turn customers away after looters targeted both businesses in late May. Both stores have since resumed activity and did not report any losses. 

Seeger says that, since there is a lack of licensed businesses serving the consumer demographic, the closure of recreational cannabis stores in Illinois will likely  “constrain sales” further down the line.