Illinois to Record $1 Billion Marijuana Sales by Year's End, Surpassing Liquor

Illinois is set to record more than $1 billion in sales of adult-use marijuana products this year, with first quarter cannabis tax revenue already surpassing that of alcohol.

The state of Illinois, whose lawmakers are eyeing bankruptcy options amid a huge budget deficit, generated more than $86 million from adult-use marijuana tax revenue between January and March 2021. Illinois received $72 million in revenue from liquor sales. The state has repeatedly broken its own monthly weed sales records, with both in- and out-of-state adult sales hitting $28 million in March alone. During the last quarter, the state Department of Revenue took in more tax dollars from marijuana receipts than alcohol for the first time ever. Adults spent nearly $110 million on recreational cannabis products during just the month of March.

Should Illinois sales of marijuana and cannabis products continue at this rate, the state is set to surpass $1 billion in adult sales by the end of 2021.

Recent data from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which oversees dispensary licensing, show consumers are spending around $3.5 million each day on adult-use cannabis products. If that trend continues, Illinois dispensaries are set to surpass $1.5 billion worth of cannabis sales this year.

The budget boon has prompted comments from neighboring state politicians, including Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers who remarked last week, "Frankly, I'm kind of tired of talking to the governor of Illinois…he thanks me for having Wisconsinites cross the border to buy marijuana."

Last year, Illinois sold $670 million worth of marijuana-related products within state lines, pulling in about $205 million in total tax revenue. This comes as both the city of Chicago and the state eyes bankruptcy options and faces at least $140 billion in unfunded pension liability, $50 billion in expected retiree health care costs, about $3 billion in federal pandemic loans and several billions more in unpaid costs.

The government finance watchdog group Truth in Accounting gave the city of Chicago's government an "F" for its financial health rating in a February report card. But the state has repeatedly sought to exhibit that the marijuana revenue is being put to good use, including the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew program which allocates 25 percent of these tax dollars to communities most harmed by the ongoing war on drugs. The program allows for legal aid, youth development programs and business incentives for disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Illinois Department of Revenue records for the fiscal year 2021 show adult-use cannabis brought $13.9 million into the state comptroller's office in July 2020 before reaching $30.4 million this past January.

New York state, which legalized cannabis for adult recreational use in March, issued a report which showed it expects $20 million in marijuana tax revenue for fiscal year 2021–22. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced recently that the state hopes to increase that to $245 million by 2024–25.

"As the State's economic recovery continues, tax collections have surpassed expectations and forecasts have improved," the report reads. "In addition, the State will also benefit from a historic amount of federal aid and new revenues from tax increases, the legalization of recreational marijuana, and online sports betting, totaling an estimated $26.7 billion in SFY 2021–22."

Newsweek reached out to Illinois state Department of Revenue for additional remarks Monday afternoon.

illinois marijuana tax revenue sales
Customer Elise Swopes makes a purchase at Sunnyside Cannabis Dispensary on January 1, 2020 in Chicago. On the first day of 2020, recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois, which joins 10 other U.S. states with legal use of recreational marijuana. If present trends in sales continue, Illinois is set to surpass $1 billion in adult sales by the end of 2021. KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP/Getty Images