The cannabis industry in the U.S. has long been centered around states like Colorado and Oregon, but now, marijuana sales in Illinois and its neighboring states east of the Mississippi River are poised to rival those out west.
The U.S. cannabis market is heading for massive growth, with sales that are expected to reach $22.7 billion by 2023, including $16.8 billion in recreational sales, according to a report out Tuesday from Chicago-based cannabis research firm Brightfield Group. Political support is growing around legalization efforts, and medical programs are expanding around the country.
In Illinois, lawmakers are working to capture some of those potential recreational sales. They hope to pass a bill by the end of May that would legalize recreational use of the still federally illegal drug by January.
Currently, the top five markets are west of the Mississippi, with Colorado, Oregon and Washington making up 42 percent of total U.S. sales, according to the Brightfield report. Sales in Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and New York together make up 11 percent.
By 2023, those market shares are expected to flip, Brightfield predicted, with the eastern states making up 34 percent of the market, and the western states dropping to 20 percent.
“Lasers are on,” the tour guide announces. “You can blaze.”
As beams of light shoot across the inside of the minibus, passengers take their cue to pull out marijuana joints and pipes and light up. A haze of smoke fills the bus, and a dozen smokers generously trade hits with each other.
“A lot of it comes down to population density,” said Bethany Gomez, managing director of Brightfield Group. “There’s much more opportunity in these areas that have larger populations and the market size can be larger … Illinois is going