December 23, 2013 Updated: December 31, 2013 at 6:25 pm
DENVER — Colorado on Monday, Dec. 23, issued its first state licenses for stores hoping to sell recreational marijuana once those sales become legal on Jan. 1.
The state Marijuana Enforcement Division mailed out licenses to 136 marijuana stores on Monday — 102 of them in Denver. Those stores can sell recreational pot to those 21 years and older if they've also received licenses and approval from local governments.
State officials also mailed licenses for 31 producers of marijuana-infused products and 178 marijuana cultivation facilities, The Denver Post reported.
Separately, the city of Denver said that 42 retail marijuana businesses — stores, grow facilities and makers of marijuana-infused products — had completed city requirements and can operate Jan. 1 if they get state licenses.
Because of the state and local red tape, it's unknown how many recreational marijuana sellers will actually open on New Year's Day. About 160 shops around the state are seeking approval, and many applicants have awaited inspections, local zoning hearings and background checks.
Cities and counties have in some cases changed fire codes for pot operations, added new signage or zoning requirements or instituted new fees they say they'll need to regulate the industry.
Colorado's marijuana law allows local governments to opt out of retail pot sales entirely. Some towns with medical marijuana dispensaries may not be allowing recreational sales, such as Colorado Springs.
Colorado has more than 500 medical marijuana dispensaries, all of which require medical clearance before shoppers can purchase pot. Only 160 of those stores applied to sell recreational pot, a change that would require them to either ban customers under 21 or keep separate entrances and inventories for patients under 21 and adult recreational users.
Voters in Colorado approved recreational pot sales last year. The measure flouts federal drug law, but the U.S. Department of Justice has suggested it would tolerate state marijuana law as long as Colorado keeps the drug away from children, other states, criminal cartels and federal property.