(John Leyba, Denver Post file)

Big changes rolling out in October for Colorado marijuana industry

Colorado embarks on a new era for its legal recreational marijuana industry in October, when two major changes will impact the industry’s make-up.

The first is the entrance of newcomers to the industry. Colorado regulators gave people who already owned a licensed medical-marijuana business a nine-month head start in opening recreational pot shops. Wednesday is the first day people who didn’t previously own a medical-marijuana store can get into the recreational industry.

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On Tuesday, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division said it has issued licenses to 46 stores, 37 marijuana-cultivation facilities and 13 marijuana-infused products makers that allow them to start operating on Wednesday.

All the businesses must also obtain approval from their local governments before opening. Because the Marijuana Enforcement Division did not release the cities in which those new businesses are located, it is unclear if any have obtained local approval.

Natriece Bryant, a spokeswoman for the division, also said not all of the businesses are owned by industry newcomers. Some may be new ventures by existing medical-marijuana business owners.

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There are currently about 240 recreational marijuana stores in Colorado, according to state tallies. Denver, which has by far the most, has blocked newcomers from opening stores in the city until 2016.

The second change to hit Wednesday involves the industry structure. Previously, recreational marijuana stores had to grow themselves most of what they sold, known as vertical integration. On Wednesday, stores and growers can split up, becoming standalone shops and independent wholesale growers.

Bryant said the state is not tracking how many businesses are splitting up and how many are remaining integrated.

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, jingold@denverpost.com or twitter.com/johningold

This story was first published on DenverPost.com