The first year of legal cannabis sales in Illinois was a roaring success, but it turns out the second year was even better.
Twice as good, in fact.
A report from the grimly named Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) showed that adult-use cannabis sales in the state totaled $1,379,088,278.61 in 2021––more than double the figure from the opening year of sales in 2020, which were roughly $669 million.
The figures released by the IDFPR provide insight into the quantity of cannabis products sold, and when customers were buying them.
The biggest month for pot sales in 2021 came at the very end of the year, with $137,896,859.11 generated in December. That was also the case in 2020, when the $86,857,898.27 worth of cannabis sales made December the highest-grossing month of that year.
The IDFPR’s report also details the source of the money. Last year, $943,013,285.67 of the cannabis sales came from Illinois residents, while $436,176,093.93 came from out-of-state residents.
A total of 30,342,937 cannabis items were sold last year––up from 14,485,704 in 2020.
Illinois’ recreational cannabis market opened for business on New Year’s Day 2020, a milestone that was met with long lines outside the states’ newly opened dispensaries. The first day of sales alone generated more than $3 million, and many of the shops ran out of weed during the opening week.
The figures continued to climb, giving the administration of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, who signed the bill legalizing recreational cannabis in 2019, a reason to take a victory lap.
In June of 2020, Pritzker’s then-senior adviser for cannabis control Toi Hutchinson, who has since been hired as the Marijuana Policy Project’s president and CEO, said that the “successful launch of the Illinois legal cannabis industry represents new opportunities for entrepreneurs and the very communities that have historically been harmed by the failed war on drugs.”
“The administration is dedicated to providing multiple points of entry into this new industry, from dispensary owners to transporters, to ensure legalization is equitable and accessible for all Illinoisans,” Hutchinson said.
To that end, the economics have only been one facet of Illinois’ new marijuana law. As with other states that have legalized cannabis, there has also been a concerted effort by policymakers to redress previous convictions of marijuana offenders.
When legalization took effect in Illinois, Pritzker heralded the occasion with more than 11,000 pardons for nonviolent cannabis offenders.
“We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” Pritzker said at the time. “We are restoring rights to tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core.”
Pritzker did the same to kick off 2021, issuing more than 9,000 pardons for low-level cannabis offenders and expunging more than 490,000 pot-related arrests.
“Statewide, Illinoisans hold hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis-related records, a burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color,” Pritzker said in a statement released at the time. “We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of that damage. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past—and the decency to set a better path forward.”
While most other states have legalized cannabis through the ballot process, Illinois became the first to do so through the legislature in 2019, something Pritzker touted at the time of the bill signing.
“As the first state in the nation to fully legalize adult-use cannabis through the legislative process, Illinois exemplifies the best of democracy: a bipartisan and deep commitment to better the lives of all of our people,” said Pritzker.
“Legalizing adult-use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do. This legislation will clear the cannabis-related records of nonviolent offenders through an efficient combination of automatic expungement, gubernatorial pardon and individual court action. I’m so proud that our state is leading with equity and justice in its approach to cannabis legalization and its regulatory framework. Because of the work of the people here today and so many more all across our state, Illinois is moving forward with empathy and hope.”