Legislator says Illinois cannabis revenue needs to be properly spent

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(The Center Square) – Illinois saw record numbers for cannabis sales in 2023, leading some legislators to call for taxes collected from sales to be used to help those in Illinois who need it most.

Recreational marijuana became legal for adult Illinoisans at the start of 2020. Since then, Illinoisans have been paying more for their cannabis than the majority of states that have legalized the drug.

According to state numbers, sales taxes collected at Illinois adult-use cannabis dispensaries totaled $417.6 million in 2023.

The taxes from recreational cannabis sales in Illinois are split several ways. More than a third goes to the state’s general revenue fund. Ten percent goes to unpaid bills. Eight percent goes to law enforcement and 2% goes to public safety campaigns. Nearly a quarter of every cannabis tax dollar goes to community groups through the Restore, Reinvest and Renew Program.

Last September, Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked about the state’s high prices and said the state is making money.

“We still have a growing industry, as you know, it is one that I initiated in 2019 that has brought in almost $450 million to state and local governments,” Pritzker told The Center Square. “We want to encourage all industries to grow.”

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said that extra money needs to be spent where people need resources among other things.

“A significant portion of the money is supposed to go to disadvantaged communities,” Wilhour said. “Folks in Illinois do not need handouts and extra taxes, they need jobs and opportunities, and the government cannot create jobs.”

According to the state, 42.1 million items were sold in Illinois adult-use cannabis dispensaries in 2023. In addition, Illinois resident sales totaled $1.2 billion, which represents an increase of more than 14% from 2022 and is also higher than the growth experienced in the previous year.

Wilhour said the money will be wasted if the state doesn’t get its act together.

“We have plenty of money in the state of Illinois. The problem is we do not have spending priorities and we are not going to be able to help communities that need help. We are not going to be able to lower property taxes or properly fund education or fix the roads and bridges,” Wilhour said. “This extra money is fine, but they are all Band-aids to the problems.”

Illinois is the third-largest cannabis market in the nation, with 177 adult-use cannabis dispensaries currently in use in Illinois.

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