$19.7 million in marijuana sales in first 12 days

Statewide sales of legal marijuana totaled $19.7 million in the first 12 days, officials said.

There were 495,385 transactions from Jan. 1 to Sunday at marijuana shops across the state, including in Addison, North Aurora and Mundelein, for an average transaction of $40.

"Illinois had a far more successful launch of cannabis than many of the other states that have legalized, but this is about more than money, it's about starting a new industry in a way that includes communities left behind for far too long," Toi Hutchinson, senior adviser to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for cannabis control, said in a news release Monday.

Sales were highest on the first day, when they totaled nearly $3.2 million, and topped $2 million over each of the next four days. After a drop on Jan. 6, when some dispensaries reported shortages, last week sales were between $1.2 million and $1.6 million daily until another drop to $874,000 on Sunday.

Under the law, 35% of marijuana tax revenues will go to the state's general fund; 25% will go to the "restore, reinvest and renew," or R3, program, an effort to reinvest in communities most affected by the criminalization of marijuana; 20% will go to address substance abuse and mental health; 10% will go to pay the state's bills; 8% will be distributed among local governments to support law enforcement; and 2% to fund a public education campaign and data analysis about the effects of legalization.

The areas eligible for the R3 program were identified using U.S. Census data on gun injury, child poverty, unemployment and state prison commitments and returns, officials also announced Monday.

In the suburbs, those areas include parts of Aurora, Elgin, Carpentersville, Streamwood, Hanover Park, Wheaton, Waukegan, Zion, North Chicago and Joliet.

The grants will be distributed using a competitive process by the R3 board and the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority "to community organizations that support economic development, provide violence prevention and re-entry services, and offer youth development and civil legal aid to individuals in these eligible areas," officials said in a news release.

"The R3 program presents an opportunity to right wrongs caused by decades of poverty and the war on drugs," said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, who serves as chairwoman of the R3 board. "The R3 board is committed to expanding opportunities for communities that have been left behind by economic disinvestment."

The department of revenue expects to have a tax revenue estimate by the end of February, when initial tax payments from dispensaries are due.

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  Customers line up Jan. 2 in the parking lot at Verilife Illinois Marijuana Dispensary in North Aurora. Brian Hill/
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