Recreational pot sales have generated $1 million in tax revenue for Will County

The County Board has yet to decide how to spend the money

Will County officials reported last week that recreational marijuana sales over the past year and half have generated a little over $1 million in tax revenue for the county.

Karen Hennessy, the county’s finance director, said during a meeting of the county’s Finance Committee on Tuesday thattax revenues thus far from recreational marijuana sales are “well exceeding our expectations.”

There are two revenue streams coming from pot sales. One is the county’s portion of the state’s distribution of its tax revenue, but the more substantial source is from the county’s tax on sales.

Before the recreational product became legal in 2020, local municipalities had the option of imposing up to a 3% tax on sales in their jurisdiction. Since there were dispensaries preparing to sell in Joliet and Romeoville, the Will County Board voted to implement a 3% tax, which went into effect one year ago.

In that year, the county has collected about $894,000, the bulk of the tax revenue going to the county government. The state allocation, which it started collected from sales since the drug became legal on Jan. 1, 2020, has only yielded about $129,000.

While this source of revenue is a small fraction of the county’s overall budget, the County Board voted to place the money in a special fund and has yet to decide how to spend it.

Many board members have voiced support for allocating the funds to the county’s health care and drug addiction programs. Others like member Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, have argued the money should be reinvested into local communities disproportionately hurt by the War on Drugs.

The county is restricted on how it can use the money it receives from the state distribution, but has more latitude on the money from its own tax.

Board member Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort asked on Tuesday if his colleagues could make progress on deciding how to spend the funds ahead of the final stage of the county’s budgeting process for fiscal year 2022.

“I’m just suggesting that perhaps that discussion needs to take place now, no later than next month really,” he said.

Will County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan, D-Naperville, said during Tuesday’s meeting that discussions on how to spend the money have “been moved to a back burner.” The board has been busy over the last few months focusing on several capital improvement projects and on how to spend about $133 million it received via the federal American Rescue Plan.

“But I think it’s time we start talking about what we’re going to do with these funds,” Cowan said.

Joliet officials have had similar discussions about the city’s own recreational marijuana tax funds, though the city has not made its revenue numbers public.

Romeoville Mayor John Noak said the sales at the dispensary in the village have been pacing to generate around $425,000 in annual local tax revenue.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.