Experts have been predicting for years that recreational cannabis sales would be a tremendous revenue stream for states and cities that choose to legalize and regulate the product. The State of Illinois proved that very true in 2020 – the first month of adult-use cannabis sales across that state netted nearly $40 million.  The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation says that money came from the sale of just under a million cannabis items across the first 31 days of 2020. About ¾ of those items went to Illinois residents. Recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois on January 01. HB 1438, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, allowed adults over 21 to have access to legal recreational marijuana, making Illinois the eleventh state in the nation to enact such a law.  If you are an Illinois resident, you are permitted to possess 30 grams of cannabis flower; 5 grams of cannabis concentrate; and cannabis-infused products containing no more than 500 milligrams of THC total. If you are visiting Illinois, the amounts are halved from those of an Illinois resident: 15 grams of cannabis flower; 2.5 grams of cannabis concentrate; and no more than 250 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product.

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Where's all that money going?

A portion of those cannabis sales are being reinvested in communities the State of Illinois says were harmed most by the war on drugs. That's done through a program called the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program. The law states the R3 Program intends to “address the impact of economic disinvestment, violence, and the historical overuse of the criminal justice system,” by investing in economic development, violence prevention services, re-entry services, youth development, and civic legal aid.  The tax revenue collected from recreational marijuana sales in Illinois go to the Cannabis Regulation Fund. The taxes can be pretty steep: for cannabis with THC levels at or below 35%, the excise tax is 10% of the purchase price; it's 20% for cannabis-infused products; and 25% for cannabis with THC content above 35%. The money collected in the Cannabis Regulation Fund is distributed across different initiatives for the State of Illionis. 35% goes to the General Revenue Fund; 25% go to the R3 Program; 20% goes to the Department of Human Services Community Services Fund, which will address substance abuse and how to prevent it, as well as mental health concerns; 10% goes to help with the State's backlog of unpaid bills through the Budget Stabilization Fund; 8% goes to the Local Government Distributive Fund to help with prevention and interdiction in the illegal cannabis market; and 2% will go to the Drug Treatment Fund to finance public education campaigns and support data collection about the impacts of legalizing recreational marijuana, and analysis of that data. That means in the first month of recreational sales, the State of Illinois gathered exactly $9,811,960.21 for the R3 program and $7,849,568.17 for the Community Services Fund.

The state will expunge 800,000 people

The new law says arrests that didn't lead to convictions for possession or manufacture up to 30 grams of marijuana will be automatically expunged. The Governor will grant pardons for people who were convicted of those same crimes, as long as the offense was not also associated with a violent crime or with sale to a minor. That will lead to the automatic expungement of nearly 800,000 people in the state of Illinois. People may also file motions to vacate convictions for possession up to 500 grams of marijuana. Governor J.B. Pritzker has spoken passionately and publicly in the past about the impact of the War on Drugs and the hope this law will begin to remedy things. For instance, in a tweet dating back to June of 2019, the Governor wrote,

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We legalized adult-use cannabis, creating the most equity-centric system in this nation which will right historic wrongs and reinvest in the communities that have suffered the most because of the War on Drugs.

— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) June 2, 2019

“We legalized adult-use cannabis, creating the most equity-centric system in this nation which will right historic wrongs and reinvest in the communities that have suffered the most because of the War on Drugs.” Wikileaf has also reported on the Governor's passion for that particular element in the past, when the State Attorney for the Illinois County that encompasses Chicago expunged more than 1,000 low-level marijuana offenses, before the recreational legalization had officially taken effect. READ MORE HERE: Cook County, Illinois Expunging Cannabis-Related Offenses.

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Cannabis infusers, craft growers, or transporters can start applying this month

The Department of Agriculture will begin accepting applications on February 14th for anyone who would like to become a licensed cannabis infuser, craft grower, or transporter. Those completed applications have to be in by Monday, March 16th. The State is also installing programs for social equity applicants, who are eligible for grants, low-interest loans, fee reductions, and waivers. They also have access to technical assistance by way of workshops put on by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.  The Senior Advisor for Cannabis Control to Governor Pritzker, Toi Hutchinson, said in a statement, “The successful launch of the Illinois’ legal cannabis industry represents new opportunities for entrepreneurs and the very communities that have historically been harmed by the failed 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.”  While it may be easy to assume the first month of sales was due to an interest in recreational cannabis as a brand new concept in Illinois, and think sales will drop once the excitement of the novelty fades, national studies suggest quite the opposite. A report from Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics says cannabis sales in Illinois could reach $1.14 billion by 2024. Worldwide, sales from licensed stores could nearly quadruple between 2018 and 2024, reaching $40.6 billion.