Recreational marijuana sales in Illinois smash record in March — $109 million

The increased sales reflect an escalation of the almost constant growth in sales since cannabis was legalized in Illinois in January 2020. (Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant/TNS)
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Robert McCoppin Chicago Tribune (TNS)

CHICAGO — Illinois set a record with $109 million in sales of recreational marijuana in March — a huge 35% increase from the previous month.

Better weather no doubt played a significant role in the increase over February. But the sales reflect an escalation of the almost constant growth in sales since cannabis was legalized in the state in January 2020.

“March was set up to be a growth spurt with a longer month … new retail stores opening across the state, and stimulus checks hitting people’s bank accounts,” Chicago-based cannabis company Cresco Labs spokesman Jason Erkes said. “The warmer weather also contributed to a very successful month of sales.”

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The previous record for monthly sales was about $89 million in January.

March 31 was the state deadline for medical marijuana companies to get certified to open new secondary retail sites, noted Brandon Nemec, Government and Regulatory Affairs counsel for PharmaCann cannabis company in Oak Park. State records show 26 new dispensaries were approved, even if not all have opened their doors.

The relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and the growth in online ordering during the pandemic also contributed to the increase, along with the end of winter, said Dan Linn, general manager of Maribis cannabis dispensaries.

“February really hit us over the head with a true Chicago winter,” he said. “Now that the snow and ice has melted and the sun is swarming things up, people want to go outside, and cannabis is a part of that.”

Out-of-state customers continued to be a growing part of sales in Illinois, growing from $23 million to $33 million in March and accounting for almost one-third of all sales.

The Maribis dispensary in Chicago attracts travelers from nearby Midway Airport, Linn noted, while the two stores in the Springfield area get tourists and travelers passing through.

Even as other states legalize weed, including New York just recently, cannabis industry analyst Jamie Schau expects Illinois sales to continue to escalate. “We’ve just seen Illinois continuing to slowly swell,” she said.

As insights director for Chicago-based Brightfield Group, Schau said that 75 new retail store licenses due to be awarded this year should help recreational sales this year to nearly double, to $1.3 billion.

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