Want to get in on the Colorado green rush? If you're a resident of the state, you finally can.
Starting Tuesday, for the first time, any adult Colorado resident can apply for a retail marijuana business license.
This marks a significant shift in the state's groundbreaking recreational marijuana laws, which first went into effect exactly six months ago on Jan. 1. Since then, only owners of medical marijuana businesses who were in "good standing" with the state have been allowed to apply for retail marijuana licenses. Now, any adult who has established residency in the state can apply for a marijuana business license.
"This is an obvious next step in the development of this legal industry," Mason Tvert, communications director at the Marijuana Policy Project and a key backer of Amendment 64, the measure that legalized marijuana for adult use in Colorado in 2012, told The Huffington Post. "New craft breweries and distilleries are frequently being established here in Colorado, and this is really no different. Existing marijuana businesses are demonstrating a commitment to following the laws and making this system work, and we expect new businesses to do the same. Colorado has demonstrated that regulating marijuana works."
The Denver Post's John Ingold first reported that as of mid-June, nearly 300 people had filed notices that they intend to apply for a retail marijuana license. It remains unclear how many of the applicants intend to start cultivation companies, how many are interested in opening storefronts and how many want to explore other aspects of the retail marijuana industry.
Natriece Bryant, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division -- the agency charged with regulating the state's burgeoning industry -- told HuffPost that a handful of applicants, including one for a retail marijuana cultivation business and two for retail marijuana testing facilities, have already moved on to the next stage of the approval process.
But before you start packing your bags to move to the Centennial State with dreams of making marijuana millions, keep in mind that many of Colorado's cities and counties still have either outright bans on retail marijuana shops or moratoriums on new shops opening up. The state's second largest city by population, Colorado Springs, is among the cities with blanket bans, while Denver, home to the majority of the state's operative retail marijuana dispensaries, has a moratorium on new pot businesses until 2016.
On the other hand, certain cities and counties that have opposed medical marijuana in the past are now signaling their interest in retail marijuana shops. The city of Aurora, which banned medical marijuana dispensaries in 2010, has opted in on recreational marijuana shops and is accepting business applications, though it has capped the total number of shops at 24.
"We have the advantage of waiting and seeing how other cities have handled both retail and medical," said Jason Batchelor, Aurora's finance director, to Denver's Fox affiliate back in March.
It's unknown what effect Tuesday's policy change will have on the state's existing marijuana industry.
"I'm a little nervous and concerned about the changes that are coming," said Toni Fox, owner of 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, to HuffPost. "Not from a retail storefront side of the business, but from the large stand-alone cultivators that are now allowed to apply for licensing to grow come October 1. Most of us retail shop owners are producing enough cannabis that we do not need to wholesale any product. Where is all this new unassigned retail cannabis going to go?"
"It's very concerning to not only myself but others who see the writing on the walls," Fox continued. "I think the wholesale and retail prices will come down considerably at most stores and that there will still be an extremely excessive amount of harvested cannabis available and unneeded. Where will it go?"
The state's medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries have together raked in over $200 million in revenue between Jan. 1 and April 30 of this year, according to state tax data. Despite the novelty and popularity of recreational marijuana in the state, medical marijuana continues to vastly outsell recreational. As of April, medical marijuana shops had brought in more than $130 million in revenue for 2014, versus about $70 million for recreational. That is likely due to several factors, including the contrast between the state's long-established medical marijuana industry and its still-nascent recreational marijuana industry, as well as the varying rates at which medical and recreational marijuana are taxed.
While medical marijuana is subject to state and local jurisdictional taxes, recreational marijuana has an additional 15 percent excise tax -- the revenue from which will fund public school construction -- as well as a 10 percent special sales tax on retail sales to fund marijuana regulation in the state.
If approved, the new businesses will begin to open around the state on October 1.
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