Illinois recreational marijuana sales set another record in May with more than $44 million in transactions despite the coronavirus

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Recreational marijuana sales in May set another monthly record in Illinois, with more than $44 million in transactions, state officials reported Thursday, despite limitations due to the coronavirus.

State residents spent about $34 million on cannabis, and out-of-state visitors purchased an additional $10 million, for a total of $44.3 million.

That surpassed the previous record of $39 million set in January, the first month of legal adult use recreational sales.

Nearly 1 million individual products were sold, also a record, according to figures provided by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

 

The sales came despite restrictions caused by the spread of COVID-19, which prompted some shops to close and others to require advance online ordering so customers could be spaced apart, with curbside pickup.

The industry gained a huge advantage when Gov J.B. Pritzker deemed it an essential business, able to keep operating during his coronavirus stay-at-home order, while most other businesses shut down.

The recreational sales were in addition to $32 million in sales of medical cannabis in May, keeping the state on pace to set a new annual record for medical pot sales this year.

One reason for the rise in sales is the growing number of retail sites as existing license holders open more stores, even as the Pritzker administration indefinitely delays awarding 75 new dispensary licenses to minority and other applicants.

Cultivators are also harvesting an increasing supply of pot, which retailers said allowed them to raise or remove limits on purchase amounts. During the coronavirus pandemic, they said, people off work or working from home also may have more time, and more reasons, to get high.

At Mission South Shore in Chicago, Kris Krane, president of 4Front Ventures, said there seemed to be fewer customers but they were making bigger purchases.

Just as alcohol sales increased in the great recession that began in 2007, it seems the demand for marijuana is increasing during the current recession.

Because people were able to spend more time shopping online during the pandemic shutdown, their trips to retailers were often expedited, said Cresco Labs spokesman Jason Erkes. “There was more for people to buy, and it was easier to buy,” he said.

People are relying on cannabis more these days to deal with anxiety and sleep issues, he said. Increased sales to out-of-state residents comes as no adjacent states allow recreational marijuana sales, he said.

At Green Thumb Industries, which operates eight stores in Illinois, including its newest in Niles, sales were helped by the state allowing curbside pickup, said Brendan Blume, vice president of store development.

While the demand by smokers seeking marijuana flower still exceeds supply, Blume said, there are generally no longer limits on other products.

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