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Illinois Recreational Marijuana Sales Break Another Record In September

CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois’ recreational marijuana industry continues to surge as many other businesses struggle to survive during the pandemic, with statewide sales surpassing $67.6 million in September.

According to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, adult-use cannabis sales in August climbed nearly 5.8% over July, when the state had nearly $64 million in sales.

Sales of recreational pot have increased each month since February, which saw a slight drop in sales from January, the first month of legal weed in Illinois.

Marijuana dispensaries have been deemed essential businesses during the pandemic, allowing them to remain open during the early months of the outbreak, when most businesses were forced to close.

So far this year, recreational pot dispensaries in Illinois have sold nearly 9.5 million marijuana products worth a total of more than $431 million.

“We are not surprised to see another record month for cannabis sales in September approaching $100 million. Consumer demand remains strong throughout the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and we expect industry growth to continue as operators ramp up capacity to increase supply, new stores open throughout the state and existing stores add adult-use sales. For example, one of our stores, Rise Naperville, will have its grand opening for adult-use sales this Thursday, October 8,” said Linda Marsicano, spokeswoman for Green Thumb Industries, which owns several pot dispensaries in Illinois.

Meantime, the state continues to wait before awarding up to 75 new dispensary licenses that were originally supposed to be announced in May. The announcement of the 75 new licenses was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the state announced only 21 of 700 applicants the 75 new dispensary licenses would move forward to the upcoming lottery process, after they received perfect scores on their applications. After a barrage of complaints about how few applicants made the grade, the state announced companies that missed out will get a second chance at making the grade.

The governor’s office said applicants who didn’t receive the maximum score of 252 points will have the opportunity to amend their applications, or challenge their scores before the lottery moves forward.

The governor’s office said applicants who did not get perfect scores on their applications will receive a “supplementary deficiency notice,” along with a score sheet indicating each part of their application on which they lost points. Those applicants will then get a chance to respond to the notice, and amend their application exhibits, or ask the state to rescore their application if they believe there was a mistake in scoring.

Applicants may not change the listed owners or ownership percentages on their original application in an effort to qualify as a “social equity” applicant, veteran ownership status, or Illinois resident status in order to receive additional points on their score.

To get a perfect score, each applicant had to achieve social equity status and veteran status, meaning at least 51% of the organization must be owned by a veteran or group of veterans.

The governor’s office said the Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulation will review all timely responses to the supplemental deficiency notices, and issue a final score for each application, before proceeding with the lottery for licenses.

To qualify as a social equity applicant, a majority of the company’s ownership must either have spent 5 of the last 10 years living in an area disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, or have a prior arrest or conviction for a drug-related crime that is eligible for engagement; or have at least 10 full-time employees, most of whom who would meet the social equity requirements.

Pritzker said earlier this month that approximately two-thirds of the finalists are companies owned by people of color.

“When we’re done with this process, we will have the largest percentage ownership by people of color anywhere in the nation,” he said.

Illinois' recreational marijuana industry continues to surge as many other businesses struggle to survive during the pandemic, with statewide sales surpassing $67.6 million in September.

Weed a clear winner Tuesday as 6 suburbs vote to allow recreational sales, 5 states legalize pot in some form

Voters in Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Park Ridge, Wilmette, Batavia and Glen Ellyn all backed ballot measures paving the way for dispensaries to sell recreational pot.

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A jar of marijuana flower for sale at NuEra Cannabis at 1308 W. North Ave. Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

As officials continue to tally votes in the contentious presidential race, one clear winner has already emerged from Tuesday’s election: Legal weed.

Voters in six Chicago suburbs approved ballot initiatives allowing the sale of recreational cannabis, and five states across the country voted to legalize marijuana in some form.

With all precincts reporting in Cook County, a majority of voters in Elk Grove Village (63%), Mount Prospect (63%), Park Ridge (59%) and Wilmette (55%) all backed ballot measures paving the way for dispensaries to sell recreational pot. Another initiative in Western Springs fell short, with less than 40% of residents approving those sales.

Nearly 63% of voters in Batavia in Kane County also supported a similar referendum, while just over 51% of Glen Ellyn residents in DuPage County voted in favor of a ballot initiative there. All precincts were reporting in both suburbs, according to results maintained by county clerks’ offices.

Cannabis consultant Andy Seeger said more suburbs will likely be encouraged to follow suit, noting that affluent areas with older populations are increasingly starting to treat cannabis like wine or craft beer.

“There’s definitely going to be boutique, almost Starbucks-like experiences in downtown Wilmette,” Seeger predicted.

Just over 10 months into Illinois’ experiment with recreational weed, sales are surging. Over $500 million worth of recreational pot was sold through October, when a new monthly record of $75 million in sales was recorded.

With over 100 recreational cannabis licenses still outstanding, pot firms will now have more places to potentially set up shop. The suburbs that approved recreational sales can now impose the maximum 3% tax on them.

Kay Tamillow, research director at the Brightfield Group, a Loop-based firm that studies the cannabis industry, said amid the ongoing trend of liberalization and destigmatization there’s also been “a distinct turn towards revenue generation” that likely contributed to the groundswell of support. Illinoisans who may have been reticent of their town going to pot are now seeing that cannabis businesses can rake in tax dollars while posing few problems, she added.

“It makes sense that we’re seeing more and more suburbs or municipalities pick up and open up to recreational cannabis,” Tamillow said.

4 states join Illinois in legalizing recreational sales

Meanwhile, weed also proved popular with voters across the country on Tuesday.

New Jersey, Arizona and Montana voted to legalize recreational cannabis, while South Dakota became the first state to approve recreational and medical pot sales in the same election. Mississippi voters also backed an initiative legalizing cannabis for medical use.

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 15 states have now enacted or voted in favor of laws legalizing recreational pot and 36 states have done the same for medical cannabis.

Tamillow noted that marijuana legalization has become “a bipartisan issue that cuts across all different kinds of consumers,” including those interested in the drug for wellness and others who simply want to reap the economic benefits.

“It really echoes kind of that same story of the Chicago suburbs,” she said of the referendums across the country.

Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, was among the legalization advocates celebrating on Wednesday.

“This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization,” Hawkins said in a statement.

Voters in Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Park Ridge, Wilmette, Batavia and Glen Ellyn all backed ballot measures paving the way for dispensaries to sell recreational pot. ]]>