The cannabis market in Colorado continues to reach new highs as several store owners in Denver picked up their retail marijuana licenses Friday.
The store owners began lining up outside the Mile High City's Department of Excise and Licenses before the doors opened at 8 a.m., Amber Miller, a city spokeswoman, said in an email to the Los Angeles Times.
Denver is among the 26 Colorado municipalities and counties that will allow medical marijuana businesses to begin transitioning into retail marijuana businesses on Jan. 1.
Amendment 64, which voters approved last year, legalized recreational pot use in the state for people over 21. However, retail sales of the drug are not permitted until the new year.
Miller said 315 applications, for marijuana stores, growing facilities, infused product manufacturing sites and test labs have been submitted to the city so far. Of these, 122 are for stores only, she said.
[Updated, 5:04 p.m. PST Dec. 27: As of 4:30 p.m. PST, 34 store applicants had "completed the state and city licensing processes and picked up their licenses today," she said.]
"Those 10 stores are now fully licensed and able to open on Jan. 1 if they choose to do so," she said. "We also have 12 grows now fully licensed and two infused product manufacturers. That is a total of 24 retail marijuana businesses that have their city and state licenses."
The Colorado Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division has approved 348 retail marijuana licenses to prospective retail marijuana establishments, according to a release issued on its site on Monday.
Of the total licenses in the state, 136 were given to marijuana stores, 178 to marijuana cultivation facilities, 31 to product manufacturing facilities and three to marijuana testing facilities.
The Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division opened up its application process on Oct. 1, about one year after Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana and just one month before voters resoundingly supported taxing it.
In order to be issued a license, businesses must submit required documentation, pay licensing fees and undergo background and financial checks.
They must also receive permission from local jurisdictions, which have the right to choose whether to allow retail marijuana business within their county or city limits, the release stated.
Miller said the state had administered 102 licenses to Denver store applicants thus far.
Justin Jones, owner of Dank Colorado, a medical marijuana dispensary in Denver, was one of the people waiting for his license Friday morning.
"The process went smoothly," Jones, 39, told The Times. "It's been very similar to what we've gone through in the past with getting medical marijuana licensing."
Jones said he believed store sales would definitely increase as the market expands.
"It really is blue skies," he said.
Marijuana sales will help Colorado's economy, he said, noting tourism will draw in more customers and tax revenue.
Other stores are also eager for Wednesday.
Dixie Elixirs, another Denver store, has been updating its Facebook page with a 100-day "cannabis countdown."
Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the impending legal sale of marijuana was significant for Denver, the state of Colorado and the United States as a whole.
"For the first time in history, adults will be purchasing marijuana from legitimate businesses instead of in the underground market," he told The Times.
"It's going to generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the state and allow law enforcement officials to spend their time focusing on other more serious crimes."
As far as backlash, Tvert said, "I don't think the sky is going to fall. Life will go on as usual, except those who buy marijuana will be able to do so safely."
Tvert said he thinks other states, such as Alaska and Oregon, will be next in following similar legislation.
Colorado and Washington are currently the only states that have adopted laws permitting the sale of marijuana for recreational use.