Eye On Illinois: Visitors account for 31.6% of state’s recreational pot sales

The Easter weekend trip to Whiteside County brought a usual choice: Fill the Corolla close to home, drive there and back (232 miles round trip) and deal with the empty tank early this week or hope the half tank is enough to make it one way, then cross the Mississippi River to fill up at the station at the foot of the bridge before returning.

Having the dogs in the car this time made stopping less practical, so I pumped 4.581 gallons at suburban prices ($4.249 per gallon) Saturday morning and never bothered to check how much cheaper gas is in Iowa at the moment, although the internet reports it’s only $3.799 Monday morning at my usual stop. The Corolla holds 11 gallons, about $4.50 in savings on a full tank. But then my 30 cents per gallon (or 24 cents per gallon for E-15) goes to Des Moines instead of 39.2 cents per gallon to Springfield.

Your mileage may vary. Perhaps you have different feelings about Iowa than someone who lived there for a decade. Maybe you live closer to Wisconsin, drive an electric car or live at least an hour from either border and didn’t go anywhere last weekend. But for retailers and government officials in border communities, these calculations are a daily reality, not just for fuel but all manner of retail purchases.

Which brings us to today’s topic, where Illinois stands as a Midwestern island: legal marijuana. Of the five bordering states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Missouri has a medicinal marijuana program, while Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin only permit sales of CBD oil products.

So it comes as no surprise to see legal sales of recreational marijuana products to outsiders surpassed $436 million in 2021, nearly 32% of the annual total, according to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. That’s nearly $1.2 million per day.

In March 2022 visitors spent $40,568,767.43 on pot products in Illinois. That’s the fifth-highest monthly total on record, and the reason 2022 is on pace for $1.22 million in daily sales to nonresidents.

Outsiders accounted for just 25.8% of revenue in 2020, the first year of the program. Armed with 27 months of total sales, analysts can begin to see trends about which months are better for business (December) and then dig into local level data to see which communities are best boosted by nonresident buyers.

Illinois has miles to go before we can consider our marijuana markets equitable and live up to all the program’s promises, but each batch of monthly reports shows we’re clearly a customer destination. Not a bad deal, even if those folks don’t buy gas when they’re in town.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at