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Nikki Haese, agent in charge at Sunnyside marijuana dispensary, poses in front of a billboard outside the facility on South Neil Street in Champaign.

CHAMPAIGN — A year ago, eager customers formed long lines around the cannabis dispensaries in Champaign-Urbana, waiting for them to open on the first day of legal recreational sales in Illinois.

The lines may be shorter now, but with supply no longer as limited, sales are higher now than they were at the beginning of last year.

In January 2020, $39 million of recreational marijuana was sold in Illinois; in November, that figure was more than $75 million, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

“It’s been a journey,” said Nikki Haese, agent in charge at the Sunnyside dispensary in Champaign.

“Definitely the program is improving as far as supply being more readily available,” she said.

Even if parking is limited at the South Neil Street facility, Haese said the location has worked out well. Sunnyside introduced a shuttle system to address the congestion near its shop.

“We’re right here on a very busy street in the midst of all the restaurants and things like that,” she said. “Our goal is always for cannabis to be accessible where people are working and shopping.”

Sales at the Champaign location “grew every month, month after month, and we continue to see a lot of new customers every week,” said Jason Erkes, spokesman for Cresco Labs, the parent company of Sunnyside.

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The Sunnyside dispensary in Champaign has made a shuttle available for customers who are forced to park across from its small lot on South Neil Street.

In Urbana, the NuEra dispensary has also seen sales rise, principal officer Keith McGinnis said.

“We had a very good year in Urbana,” McGinnis said. “I think we only went flat in sales one month.” Otherwise, he said sales have “spiked each month and continue to go up.”

Erkes and McGinnis both expect sales to continue to grow as marijuana becomes less stigmatized.

“We believe that as more people become familiar with it, sales will continue to grow,” McGinnis said.

Neither dispensary said it had any notable security issues in the first year of legalized recreational-marijuana sales.

And McGinnis said he’s looking forward to adding another NuEra location in the area.

“We have until March 31 to get that completed, and we are actively looking at three different places to put it,” he said.

The first year of high sales should be good news for the coffers of the cities of Champaign and Urbana, both of which passed 3 percent sales taxes on marijuana sales.

Before the year started, Champaign was expecting an additional $625,000 to $955,000 in annual revenue, and Urbana was estimating it could receive another $275,000 to $550,000 annually, according to city staff reports.

While Urbana Finance Director Elizabeth Hannan said she couldn’t disclose sales-tax revenue for specific businesses, “generally, it has been consistent with expectations.”

In the city’s financial forecast from October, Hannan wrote that cannabis sales-tax revenue would help dampen the decrease expected for fiscal 2021.

“The FY2021 decreases would be even worse if not for sales of adult-use cannabis,” she wrote.

Recreational cannabis sales in Illinois, 2020

Recreational cannabis sales in Illinois, 2020. Source: Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

Month Items sold Sales (million)
Jan 972,045 $39.2
Feb 831,600 $34.8
Mar 812,203 $35.9
Apr 818,954 $37.3
May 989,179 $44.3
Jun 994,545 $47.6
Jul 1,270,063 $61.0
Aug 1,359,311 $64.0
Sep 1,426,166 $67.6
Oct 1,557,880 $75.3
Nov 1,556,817 $75.2

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