Customers spent almost $3.2 million on legal weed in Illinois on the first day of recreational marijuana sales Wednesday, marking one of the strongest showings of any state in the history of pot legalization.
Illinois is the 11th state to legalize recreational weed, and only Oregon had a comparable first-day performance. That state also brought in $3.2 million in sales on day one.
“This is particularly impressive when you consider the long waits, supply shortages and sky-high pricing of products available at the limited number of dispensaries open,” Bethany Gomez, managing director of cannabis research firm Brightfield Group, said of Illinois in an email.
Thirty-seven dispensaries started selling recreational weed Wednesday in Illinois, including nine in Chicago. As lines stretched around blocks and through neighborhoods, dispensaries handed out free coffee, doughnuts and pizza to people waiting in the cold. The state said customers, many of whom were eager to take part in the end of marijuana prohibition, made more than 77,000 purchases at dispensaries.
Some dispensaries were so busy they had to turn customers away on Wednesday, and many were greeted with dozens, and in some cases hundreds, more customers Thursday morning. Many dispensaries are limiting how much customers can buy because of statewide product shortages.
“The dispensaries were expecting long lines,” said Chris McCloud, spokesman for Illinois Supply and Provisions, which has dispensaries in Collinsville and Springfield. “This is probably even more than what they anticipated in terms of demand.”
Illinois Supply and Provisions served about 3,000 people at both of its dispensaries Wednesday. That’s a 10-fold increase from what the stores served “on a very good day” when they were medical only, McCloud said.
The Collinsville store was the only dispensary selling recreational marijuana in the St. Louis area. McCloud said he talked to customers there who had come from Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
Consumers are expected to spend $420 million at Illinois dispensaries this year, Brightfield Group predicts. In 2023, marijuana sales in the state could reach $1.3 billion, rivaling sales in Colorado. Overall, U.S. cannabis sales are expected to reach $22.7 billion by 2023, including $16.8 billion in recreational sales.
In Michigan, the only other Midwestern state that allows legal weed, people spent $221,000 on the first day of sales. But only three dispensaries were ready to go when sales started there.
Illinois was “a lot more ready to go, open on day one,” said Andrew Freedman, co-founder of consulting firm Freedman and Koski.
Illinois’ first day of sales fell on New Year’s Day, a vacation day for many who may have had more time to wait in the hours-long lines that formed at marijuana shops.
Additionally, Illinois is more populous than some western states. Marijuana sales during the first week in Colorado in 2014 accounted for $5 million, according to Brightfield Group. Washington’s first week brought in $2 million.
Illinois has not released tax revenue figures for Wednesday.
Marijuana taxes vary by product and by THC content, which is displayed on packaging. Marijuana-infused products will be taxed at 20%. All other marijuana with 35% THC or less will be taxed at 10%, and marijuana with THC content higher than 35% will be taxed at 25%.