by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producerBy CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois’ recreational marijuana industry continues to surge as many other businesses struggle to survive during the pandemic, with statewide sales surpassing $67.6 million in September.

According to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, adult-use cannabis sales in August climbed nearly 5.8% over July, when the state had nearly $64 million in sales.

Sales of recreational pot have increased each month since February, which saw a slight drop in sales from January, the first month of legal weed in Illinois.

Marijuana dispensaries have been deemed essential businesses during the pandemic, allowing them to remain open during the early months of the outbreak, when most businesses were forced to close.

So far this year, recreational pot dispensaries in Illinois have sold nearly 9.5 million marijuana products worth a total of more than $431 million.

“We are not surprised to see another record month for cannabis sales in September approaching $100 million. Consumer demand remains strong throughout the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and we expect industry growth to continue as operators ramp up capacity to increase supply, new stores open throughout the state and existing stores add adult-use sales.  For example, one of our stores, Rise Naperville, will have its grand opening for adult-use sales this Thursday, October 8,” said Linda Marsicano, spokeswoman for Green Thumb Industries, which owns several pot dispensaries in Illinois.

Meantime, the state continues to wait before awarding up to 75 new dispensary licenses that were originally supposed to be announced in May. The announcement of the 75 new licenses was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the state announced only 21 of 700 applicants the 75 new dispensary licenses would move forward to the upcoming lottery process, after they received perfect scores on their applications. After a barrage of complaints about how few applicants made the grade, the state announced companies that missed out will get a second chance at making the grade.

The governor’s office said applicants who didn’t receive the maximum score of 252 points will have the opportunity to amend their applications, or challenge their scores before the lottery moves forward.

The governor’s office said applicants who did not get perfect scores on their applications will receive a “supplementary deficiency notice,” along with a score sheet indicating each part of their application on which they lost points. Those applicants will then get a chance to respond to the notice, and amend their application exhibits, or ask the state to rescore their application if they believe there was a mistake in scoring.

Applicants may not change the listed owners or ownership percentages on their original application in an effort to qualify as a “social equity” applicant, veteran ownership status, or Illinois resident status in order to receive additional points on their score.

To get a perfect score, each applicant had to achieve social equity status and veteran status, meaning at least 51% of the organization must be owned by a veteran or group of veterans.

The governor’s office said the Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulation will review all timely responses to the supplemental deficiency notices, and issue a final score for each application, before proceeding with the lottery for licenses.

To qualify as a social equity applicant, a majority of the company’s ownership must either have spent 5 of the last 10 years living in an area disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, or have a prior arrest or conviction for a drug-related crime that is eligible for engagement; or have at least 10 full-time employees, most of whom who would meet the social equity requirements.

Pritzker said earlier this month that approximately two-thirds of the finalists are companies owned by people of color.

“When we’re done with this process, we will have the largest percentage ownership by people of color anywhere in the nation,” he said.