Lollapalooza Leads to Record Weed Sales in Illinois

The month of July set a record 10% higher than the state had ever seen

Lollapalooza 2021 was a massive event, with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot labeling it as the biggest festival in the world this year. It brought more than 385,000 people to the Windy City, and it turns out, a lot of them bought weed.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation says the state’s dispensaries sold $127.8 million worth of recreational marijuana in the month of July. That’s a major boost from the previous record of $116.4 million, which was set in May. The Department hasn’t released numbers yet for medical marijuana sales during the month of July.

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How do we know that boost in recreational sales was because of Lollapalooza? Because people at dispensaries said that’s why they were there. The month of July saw a 16% jump in sales to out-of-state customers, according to the state. That’s the difference between $42.39 million and $36.38 million, not including sales tax. Dispensaries in River North and the West Loop, which are both near where the festival is held in Grant Park, saw a boost in sales of 50% during the festival, which was held from Thursday, July 29th to Sunday, August 1st. Even online purchases jumped during the festival, with 18 Chicago stores reporting a 6% jump compared to each of the previous four weekends.

Adult-use marijuana has only been legal in Illinois since January 2020. That year, total sales clocked in at $1.03 billion. That’s not bad for a first-year market, but runs way below sales in other, more established markets. For instance, Colorado’s population is less than half the size of Illinois’, but its marijuana sales in 2020 were more than double Illinois’ at $2.19 billion. California’s population is triple Illinois’, but the Golden State sold far more than four times the weed at $4.4 billion

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Of those total marijuana sales in Illinois in 2020, $669 million of it went to recreational customers and $366 million to users with medical marijuana licenses.  Cannabis flower is taxed at 10% in Illinois; edibles and tinctures have a 20% tax; and anything with a concentration of THC higher than 35% is taxed at a rate of 25%. Marijuana sales from cultivators to dispensaries also have a 7% gross receipts tax. 

Illinois was the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana. Adults over the age of 21 are allowed to possess 30 grams of marijuana flower, which is just under an ounce. If you prefer cannabis concentrate, Illinois allows you to have 5 grams. For edibles or other cannabis-infused products like tinctures, the limit is 500 mg worth of THC within the product. 

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Substance use at the festival

For those attending Lollapalooza, public use of cannabis was not actually permitted. The entire festival is a non-smoking event, so even vaping of nicotine is not allowed. It’s illegal to smoke marijuana in Illinois anywhere but your own home or on-site in a cannabis-related business. You are not allowed to use it at all in any public place such as streets of parks (with Grant Park included in that prohibition).

You also aren’t allowed to use any type of weed in a car or even near someone under 21. That could pose a problem since Lollapalooza allows fans of all ages to attend, even letting kids under the age of 10 get in for free if they’re with an adult.

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Still, a 2018 survey of festival-goers nationwide found that 38.8% of respondents admitted to using marijuana on site. More than a third of Lollapalooza attendees who participated in the survey said they have smoked weed in Grant Park. That compares to 70% who said they’ve consumed alcohol while at the festival. The remaining responders said they preferred to use Molly (MDMA), acid (LSD), or cocaine at Lollapalooza. 

Today, there are 18 states plus the District of Columbia that allow it, along with the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. New laws allowing adult-use marijuana, combined with massive spikes in sales during the pandemic pushed legal sales up 46% in 2020, with sales passing $17.5 billion across the country

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Lollapalooza 2022 will be in Grant Park from July 28th through July 31st. The headliners are already picked out, with big names like Miley Cyrus, Tyler the Creator, Marshmello, Jack Harlow, Post Malone, Journey, Megan Thee Stallion, Foo Fighters, Young Thug, and Modest Mouse all gracing the stage. 

Coronavirus concerns

There was some concern that Lollapalooza 2021 could turn into a coronavirus super-spreader event. Mayor Lightfoot has been defending the festival, saying Chicago has been able to host other major events like baseball games, though those had only about a ninth of the attendance that Lollapalooza did. The Mayor also said vaccinations are what allowed the city to open up, though only about half of Chicago’s population is vaccinated, and thousands of attendees at the music fest were out-of-towners. Anyone who bought a ticket had to show proof that they had a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the festival, or that they are fully vaccinated. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot, or two weeks after their Johnson & Johnson shot. 

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So far, there’s been no announcement that Lollapalooza 2021 was the super-spreader that people feared, though symptoms for the virus can take as many as 14 days to appear and contact tracing can take some time. Worry about that possibility hasn’t quite been quelled yet, though. At a similar event in the Netherlands that had only 20,000 people (compared to Lollapalooza’s 365,000), more than 1 in 20 people tested positive for the virus after attending the Verknipt festival. That festival had even stricter pandemic precautions than Lollapalooza, requiring a negative coronavirus test 40 hours before entry rather than 72. Dutch health officials believe the issue came with people getting infected while traveling or attending parties with others prior to the festival. The country’s Health Minister and Prime Minister both apologized for being too “trigger happy” in lifting restrictions, and have decided a negative test from 24 hours prior will be required for large events moving forward. 

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