Remember all those long lines outside the marijuana dispensaries on Jan. 1, including the one at an Ottawa dispensary, when recreational marijuana was legalized.

Well, the cities’ share of that money has been coming in since late February and, yes, city treasurers say that money helped offset retail sales losses. At least they think so.

Since January, Illinois residents and visitors have spent nearly $240 million on legalized recreational marijuana, producing $52 million in state revenue. Of that, $34.7 million came from excise taxes, while $18 million came from sales taxes.

Here’s the trouble for city treasurers in city’s, such as Ottawa, that host a dispensary: Retail sales figures aren’t itemized, making it impossible to say how much of the falling retail figures were comprised of marijuana sales.

In fact, the only marijuana-related figure cities can pinpoint is the use tax. Every municipality in Illinois gets a small share of sales even if they aren’t host to a dispensary. That’s called the use tax and it’s based on population.

Per the law, 8% of that revenue will be shared with local governments, while the Illinois Department of Revenue estimates $25.9 million from excise and sales taxes will be directed to the state’s General Revenue Fund, according to Capitol News Illinois.

Also under the law, 25% of revenues collected from recreational marijuana sales will be reinvested through the R3 program (Restore, Reinvest and Renew) in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the justice system, and to address substance abuse and prevention and mental health concerns.

Example: La Salle County has drawn a year-to-date total of $9,496.90 while Bureau County’s running total is $2,635.58. The difference isn’t because more pot is sold in La Salle County than in Bureau County (though that may indeed be the case) but because La Salle is more populous.

Similarly, Ottawa has about the same population as La Salle-Peru put together, which explains why Ottawa drew the largest year-to-date use tax ($5,556.57), ahead of Streator ($4,059.06), Peru ($3,047.99), La Salle ($2,844.89) and Princeton ($2,267.86).

One of the few things unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic’s presence in Illinois has been recreational marijuana sales.

The $47.6 million spent on the product in June was the highest single-month amount since recreational marijuana use became legal at the beginning of the year, and sales have increased each month since February even amid strict stay-at-home orders, according to a recent report from Capitol News Illinois.

— Capitol News Illinois reporter Jerry Nowicki has contributed to this report.


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