Colorado issues first retail marijuana licenses

(CNN) -- Retail marijuana licenses issued by Colorado -- the first in the nation -- should arrive in the mail by the end of this week, according to the state Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division.

The state sent out 348 retail marijuana licenses to prospective retail marijuana establishments on Monday, including 136 marijuana stores, 178 marijuana cultivation facilities, 31 products manufacturing facilities and three marijuana testing facilities.

The state's retail marijuana licensing process includes fingerprint-based background checks and financial checks. The businesses must also receive approval from the local authorities before they may operate.

Thomas Behler, assistant manager at Ganja Gourmet, a medical marijuana dispensary in Denver, said he is happy about the licenses.

"Business should increase exponentially; every 21-year-old on the planet is going to come here," he said. "We already have a successful business, but we are not in it for the money. We are helping people and providing them with a service."

Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, also praised the development, which he said will affect efforts in other states.

"Colorado will be leaving prohibition behind in the new year," he said. "The movement taking place in Colorado has piqued the interest of voters and elected officials around the country, many of whom will be taking the issue on in 2014."

In November, Colorado voters resoundingly supported taxing recreational marijuana. A year earlier, voters approved legalizing it.

Opponents argued that it was unfair to single out marijuana for higher taxation over products such as beer. But strong support came from the fact that the nonpartisan Colorado Legislative Council projected it would generate nearly $70 million in additional state tax revenue next year


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