Illinois' breakout star in a hazy economic landscape: recreational marijuana – WTHITV.com


(CNN) — It only took a few months for Illinois’ budding recreational marijuana industry to blossom — even during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last year, Gov. J.B. Prizker passed bipartisan legislation legalizing marijuana for recreational use and sale in the state — the 11th in the nation to do so – starting January 1, 2020. When the pandemic struck, dispensaries were deemed essential businesses and were allowed to remain open during lockdown.

Today, it’s a booming business — July alone saw more than $60 million in sales, setting a new record for the state — topping May and June, which had also set records.

It’s a boon for the state, which, like others around the United States, has had to reassess its finances because of the pandemic. In the first six months of the year, the state recouped about $52 million in tax revenue, blowing through its initial estimate for the first half of 2020 of $28 million. About 35% of that tax revenue is returned to local governments, including communities that had been negatively impacted by the criminalization of marijuana.

Other states are seeing similar upticks in recreational pot sales, including Colorado, which has a much more established recreational market.

While polls have shown an increasing number of Americans who say they support legalization of marijuana, there remain ardent opponents, who say states in which the drug is legal have more marijuana-related car crashes and increased young adult use, and that cannabis can be a pathway for other drugs, including opioids.

“We are moving way too fast to legalize in this country without taking into account the costs of such a policy,” says Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a leading anti-legalization group. “We need to slow down. The only people who benefit from a rush to legalize are a small number

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