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America’s first recreational pot licenses issued in Colorado

Published time: December 24, 2013 17:54
(FILES) Young men smoke a marijuana cigarette during a "smoke out" with thousands of others at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. (AFP Photo / Chris Hondros)

(FILES) Young men smoke a marijuana cigarette during a "smoke out" with thousands of others at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. (AFP Photo / Chris Hondros)

Colorado made history on Monday, becoming the first state in the US to issue hundreds of licenses for recreational marijuana businesses.

Colorado's Marijuana Enforcement Division approved 348 licenses: 136 to pot shops, 31 to marijuana-infused products companies, 178 to growing facilities, and three to marijuana-testing laboratories. All businesses had to apply by the end of October in order to receive their licenses by New Year’s Eve and begin operating on January 1. As RT reported earlier, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana after voters approved the measures in referendums.

"Colorado will be the first state to have a legal marijuana market for adults," Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of Colorado’s legalization push, told the Denver Post. "We expect it to set an example for other states."

Marijuana in Colorado will be given a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax. Authorities expect these taxes to add roughly $70 million to the state budget. The first $40 million has already been set aside for school projects.

"We are grateful voters approved funding that will allow for a strong regulatory environment, just like liquor is regulated," Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) told Reuters after voters approved the regulations suggested by state authorities. The governor originally opposed legalizing marijuana, but has come out in support of the tax proposal.

"We will do everything in our power to make sure kids don't smoke pot and that we don't have people driving who are high. This ballot measure gives Colorado the ability to regulate marijuana properly,” he added in a statement.

Although 348 licenses were issued, not all of the businesses will begin operations on January 1. In addition to state approval, marijuana-related facilities must also obtain permission from local jurisdictions. According to the Denver Post, only eight stores in the state's capital are ready to open their doors to customers on the first day of 2014. Ninety-four others which have been approved by the state are still in the process of clearing hurdles in the local licensing process. In Denver, for example, marijuana-related businesses must go through a public hearing and five city inspections in order to obtain a city license.