Chart of the Week: Illinois’ Medical Marijuana Market Gaining Steam

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By Marijuana Business Daily staff

After a relatively slow start, the medical marijuana industry in Illinois is finally seeing some sizable growth – both in retail sales and patient counts.

Monthly medical cannabis sales via dispensaries have ballooned by 83% since January, reaching $2.2 million in April alone.

The state’s MMJ industry is now on pace to rack up roughly $25 million in sales this year, putting it right in the middle of the $20 million-$30 million estimate in the 2016 Marijuana Business Factbook.

The final tally, however, could be closer to $35 million if the trend of roughly 20% month-over-month sales increases continues.

The spike is in line with the rapid growth many markets see in the months after the first dispensaries open, and it gives hope to business owners who are worried about the viability of the market.

Sales and patient counts continue to grow at a rapid clip for years in most states, which bodes well for the future of the Illinois MMJ industry.

When the first dispensaries in Illinois opened in early November, about 3,200 patients had qualified for MMJ cards.

The patient count nearly doubled by the end of April, hitting 6,200. About 700-800 patients are joining the program each month, meaning the base could surpass 10,000 by the end of the year. The increased availability of infused products and concentrates is also helping to fuel growth.

While the numbers are encouraging, they are still not strong enough to allay the fears of business owners, who in the past have said that the market needs at least 20,000 patients by early next year to stabilize.

At the end of April, Illinois had 36 registered dispensaries (most of them have opened, though a handful are still preparing to launch). Based on the sales figures, it appears each dispensary on average is only bringing in $40,000 to $60,000 a month.

Given the high startup and operating costs of running a dispensary in Illinois, some businesses will certainly struggle unless the market grows rapidly.

Business owners are hoping the state will approve more medical conditions to expand the market base.

The state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board has recommended adding new conditions multiple times in the past, but its suggestions have been shot down.

Last month, the board recommended the addition of 15 ailments, including chronic pain. The state’s health department has not yet decided whether to follow the suggestions. If it approves some or all of those conditions, the industry could be in for a sizable growth spurt.