‘We’re blown away:’ MO tops $71 million in recreational weed sales in February as Illinois sales lag

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 6:30 PM CDT
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O’FALLON, Mo. (KMOV) -- Business is booming for pot shops in Missouri.

Over $70 million worth of marijuana was sold in just the first three and a half weeks it was sold recreationally in the state.

“We’re blown away,” said Jack Cardetti, spokesperson for MoCannTrade, a marijuana lobbying and trade organization in Missouri.

Over at Midwest Wild Alchemy dispensary in O’Fallon, Missouri, they’ve seen their fair share of customers since beginning to sell recreational pot in addition to medical sales.

“Definitely seen an influx of people coming in,” said Tony Primeau, wellness coordinator and budtender at Midwest Wild Alchemy.

Tony Primeau has found his new career. He was an English teacher for nearly three decades before retiring and getting into the pot business.

“I’ve always been interested in the healing powers of cannabis,” said Primeau.

Now he’s a budtender, helping people get the right cannabis product for them.

“I never thought there would be a day where I thought I would be selling marijuana recreationally,” said Primeau.

The dispensary, formerly serving as only a medical shop, now sells to both medical patients and adults using recreationally.

It’s one of around 200 dispensaries in the state selling recreational weed. The February sales just for recreational weed topped $71 million.

“It really, really did take us by surprise,” said Cardetti.

With less than 90 days to open up recreational sales, he expected a slow ramp-up but said the high-dollar figure shows that Missouri had plenty of weed supply, access to it, high-quality product, and it’s cheaper.

“The infrastructure has been built out, there’s great access, these places are becoming integral parts of their communities,” said Cardetti.

Across the Mississippi River in Illinois, the state still had considerably more sales than Missouri’s $71 million dollars, rounding out at just over $120 million in sales in February. Illinois’ population, however, is about double that of Missouri.

But, Illinois dispensary sales were lower than any month in the previous year and out-of-state sales dropped 10 percent from January to February.

“People have gone to Missouri to purchase cannabis because your, Missouri’s, tax rate is substantially lower than what Illinois’ is,” said Pamela Althoff, executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois.

Althoff believes Illinois residents are now crossing the river.

That’s because if you buy $100 worth of weed in Illinois, the taxes would make the cost about $20 more than you would pay for it in Missouri.

So, instead of paying $136, you’re paying $115.

“As I think people become more aware of that savings, I think you’re going to see again a bigger reverse commute,” said Althoff.

Althoff said she’s working with the legislature to eventually lower the tax rate. But she hopes Illinois lawmakers also change a state law that allows marijuana businesses to deduct business expenses on their taxes. She believes that would make it easier to grow the industry.

When sales started February 3, nobody in the industry knew what the demand for recreational pot would be. Primeau actually expected it to be more than what he has seen.

Part of the reason is that Primeau used to cross the river to Illinois.

“Actually, I thought it was going to be much busier but that’s because I waited for hours in lines in Illinois,” said Primeau.

While it no longer breaks state law, it’s still illegal on a federal level to bring weed across state lines.