Wisconsin residents spent $121 million in 2022 on cannabis sales in neighboring Illinois, a recent report finds. Requested by Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison), the report conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau studied neighboring dispensaries, uncovering $36.1 million in taxes that Illinois collected from Wisconsin residents on cannabis sales.
The figure highlights the significant impact cannabis legalization in neighboring states has had on Wisconsin — which continues to prohibit the sale of recreational cannabis. Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis in 2019. In February 2023, over $120 million of cannabis was sold statewide, according to the report.
The report was conducted using the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) data on cannabis sales, which notes $239.7 million —15.4% of total sale — was spent in dispensaries located in counties bordering Wisconsin. Of the sales made in these counties, $121.2 million (50.6%) was spent by out of state residents, which the study attributes to purely Wisconsinites.
The study estimates Wisconsin residents make up $36.1 million (7.8%) of Illinois marijuana tax revenue.
“It should upset every Wisconsinite that our hard earned tax dollars are going across the border to Illinois. This is revenue that could be going toward Wisconsin’s public schools, transportation infrastructure and public safety,” Sen. Agard said in a statement. “Instead, Illinois is reaping the benefits of Republican obstructionism and their prohibitionist stance on marijuana legalization.”
In Dane County, a November 2022 referendum found 82% of voters supported legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for people 21 and over, along with the expungement of small marijuana crimes. Marijuana is currently decriminalized in the county.
“We are an island of prohibition and the people of our state are hurting because of it,” said Agard. “We know that legalizing cannabis for responsible adult use is wildly popular among Wisconsinites, including the majority of Republicans.”
Agard also noted that Wisconsin is one of the few states in the Midwest that has not yet legalized recreational cannabis. Michigan and Illinois legalized recreational marijuana, and lawmakers in Minnesota are expected to join them by May.
“Wisconsin’s loss of potential revenue is even larger if we include taxes paid to Michigan, as well as Minnesota in the near future,” said Agard. “As seen in our neighboring states, legalizing marijuana for responsible adult usage will generate significant revenue for our main streets, safely regulate the existing illicit market, reinvest in our agriculture and farming heritage, support entrepreneurship and address the massive and egregious racial disparities from marijuana prohibition.”
In his first two biennial budgets, Gov. Evers included different levels of marijuana legalization, both of which were struck down by Republican lawmakers. Evers reintroduced his marijuana legalization plan as part of this year’s budget.
“I fully support Gov. Evers’ 2024-25 biennial budget proposal to fully legalize marijuana for responsible adult use, and if Republicans choose to remove it from the budget, I will once again introduce my bill to achieve this goal,” said Agard. “It’s high time we get this done for the betterment of our state and the people living here.”