Illinois' Breakout Star In A Hazy Economic Landscape: Recreational Marijuana

Posted: Aug 10, 2020

It only took a few months for Illinois' budding recreational marijuana industry to blossom -- even during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last year, Gov. J.B. Prizker passed bipartisan legislation legalizing marijuana for recreational use and sale in the state -- the 11th in the nation to do so - starting January 1, 2020. When the pandemic struck, dispensaries were deemed essential businesses and were allowed to remain open during lockdown.

Today, it's a booming business -- July alone saw more than $60 million in sales, setting a new record for the state -- topping May and June, which had also set records.

While polls have shown an increasing number of Americans who say they support legalization of marijuana, there remain ardent opponents, who say states in which the drug is legal have more marijuana-related car crashes and increased young adult use, and that cannabis can be a pathway for other drugs, including opioids.

"We are moving way too fast to legalize in this country without taking into account the costs of such a policy," says Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a leading anti-legalization group. "We need to slow down. The only people who benefit from a rush to legalize are a small number of investors."

As Americans struggle with record levels of stress, anxiety, sadness and other mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic, some say they have found relief in marijuana.

Experts have cautioned that smoking or vaping marijuana can raise the risk of more severe Covid-19 complications.

By Sarah Jorgensen and Polo Sandoval
August 10, 2020
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