Recreational cannabis sales in Illinois totalled $39.2 million in January, according to new figures from the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

The state’s new adult-use marijuana industry began on New Year’s Day, with sales taking place in existing medical cannabis dispensaries. There were long lines outside all of the stores and trading remained brisk throughout January in spite of supply shortages.

Illinois residents accounted for the majority of transactions, snapping $30.6 million of legal cannabis, while out-of-state residents bought $8.6 million. Just last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker used his State of the State address to talk up the tourism boost that the legal marijuana trade will bring, and the early figures suggest he could be onto something.

Pritzker campaigned on a pledge to legalize recreational marijuana, and lawmakers got a bill on his desk by June 2019. He quickly signed it into law and sales began just six months later.

Anyone aged 21 or over can now purchase up to 30g of cannabis flower, 5g of concentrate and edibles and other derivatives with up to 500mg THC content. Dispensaries across the state sold 972,045 items over the 31-day period, totalling $39,247,840.83.

A portion of every sale will be reinvested in communities harmed most by the so-called 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,” said Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor for Cannabis Control to Pritzker.

The early sales figures compare favourably to other states that have legalized recreational marijuana. For example, it took Colorado and Washington more than a year to reach the $40 million mark.

Illinois also saw more than double the amount of sales that Michigan achieved in its first seven weeks of trading after adult-use cannabis was legalized in December 2019.

It is an encouraging start when you consider how little cannabis there is to go around, and the relatively limited options for consumers. Many more dedicated adult-use marijuana stores are expected to open for business soon, while supply issues should eventually ease off, allowing the nascent industry to flourish.

There will also be marijuana consumption lounges, such as the one awarded to HCI Alternatives in Springfield last month.

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