Illinois marijuana sales double, likely to hit $1.5 billion in 2021

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Illinois marijuana revenue in 2021 will likely more than double that of 2020, but high taxes keep illegal drug dealers thriving.

November 2021 was the ninth consecutive month with over $100 million in marijuana sales in Illinois dispensaries, according to new state data. Illinois surpassed the 2020 sales total of $669 million in June this year.

Despite the growth, 2021 sales were held back by a Cook County court order delaying license lottery winners from starting their own dispensaries. There are 185 license winners from July who are still in legal disputes.

New Frontier Data, a cannabis data firm, projects Illinois will see $1.87 billion in legal marijuana sales by the end of 2021. That compares to illegal sales estimated at $2.23 billion in the state.

Prices are the main driver of illegal sales. Illinois has some of the highest marijuana taxes in the nation. Legalization in Illinois looked very different than other states regarding taxes and the number of dispensaries.

Of the 16 states with recreational cannabis, 11 impose an excise tax on retail price. Instead, Illinois taxes by the type of cannabis. For instance, the price of flower marijuana in Illinois is the highest of any state in the nation.  It’s even more expensive in Chicago, where customers could pay up to 42.15% in taxes for some marijuana products.

High taxes drive customers into the arms of illegal drug dealers selling unregulated marijuana that could be laced with other drugs. The illegal trade also fosters violence, as other cities and states have realized.

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