Credit: Markos Mant / Unsplash

2020 was always going to be a historic year for cannabis in Illinois. The sale of recreational marijuana became legal across the state at the turn of the decade, all thanks to the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) that Pritzker signed back in June of 2019. Despite some supply shortages, limited licenses, and opening in the dead of Chicago winter, Illinois dispensaries sold around $3.2 million worth of recreational cannabis on January 1 alone. That’s nothing, though, compared to the overall profit brought to the state by local and visiting cannabis shoppers.

According to the Tribune, sale of cannabis brought Illinois more than $1 billion of revenue in 2020, about two-thirds from rec and one-third from medical. Furthermore, the Illinois Department of Revenue shows more than $175 million in cannabis tax revenue. One can only guess if the lockdown helped or harmed these numbers.

Illinois splits up cannabis revenue, with some going toward community development, substance abuse treatment and prevention, education, health research, and other funds. About $62 million of Illinois’s cannabis revenue has been set aside to help minority business owners and neighborhoods affected by poverty and violence, reports the Trib, but disbursement is slow going with so many requests for funds.

On the bright side, there are more and more local cannabis and ancillary businesses with equity goals of their own, focused on community aid, diversity and inclusion, education, and the like. Nature’s Care, a store in Rolling Meadows and the West Loop, actively works on career development, community reinvestment, financial literacy, and more. Recently, there has also been talk of unions forming for cannabis workers, hopefully providing stability, higher pay, and other protections to those who deserve to reap the benefits of laboring in such a booming industry. The state has also been busy expunging nearly 500,000 cannabis arrest records by the start of 2021. That shattered the CRTA’s requirement that Pritzker expunge 47,000 cannabis-related arrest records from 2013 to 2019, according to WSIL News 3.

The industry is far from perfect, frequently bogged down by political and legal roadblocks and dominated largely by white men. But there’s no denying that when it comes to legal cannabis sales Illinois is a trailblazer.

Credit: Illustration by Jason Wyatt Frederick