DENVER — Colorado has begun issuing medical-marijuana business licenses to dispensaries that meet tough new rules.

The Department of Revenue has issued 11 licenses to businesses in Colorado Springs, Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins and Littleton.

According to the Denver Post (http:/, another seven have been notified they are likely to receive a license.

The state has sent letters to local governments to double-check that more than 460 other businesses have local approval.

Briargate Wellness Center in northern Colorado Springs received word about two weeks ago from the state's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division that its license had been approved and it was "good to go," owner Joe DiFabio said Thursday.

It was hardly a quick process; DiFabio said he sent the application in more than a year ago. Nor has it been cheap: Between state and city fees and requirements, DiFabio said it will have cost him about $22,000.

But, he said, "I am very happy that there is regulation and licensing. It will help weed out the people who don't belong in this industry."

And, as federal prosecutors act against some medical marijuana centers in California, "it also provides us kind of an extra level of protection," DiFabio said. " 'Hey, we're following the rules, we're doing what the Department of Revenue and the state are telling us to do."

DiFabio is hopeful that similar federal action won't take place here. "California doesn't have near the regulatory scheme" that Colorado does, he noted.