Joey Hopper and Dara Wheatley at a Hoppz' Cropz grand opening last October.
Joey Hopper and Dara Wheatley at a Hoppz' Cropz grand opening last October.
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How "Free" Marijuana May Cost Thirteen People Their Freedom

Thirteen people associated with Hoppz' Cropz stores in Colorado Springs, including co-owners Joseph Hopper, also known as "Joey Hops," and Dara Wheatley, nicknamed "Boss Lady," have been indicted on charges that they illegally distributed nearly 200 pounds of marijuana in a variation on the sort of "free" pot giveaway schemes that date back to the days before and just after the launch of legal recreational cannabis sales.

We first told you about this concept in the February 4, 2013, post "Marijuana for Free on Craigslist? Maybe With a Donation — or as a Bonus for Another Purchase." One ad that appeared around that time under the business name "Bud's Worm Farm" offered an eighth of marijuana in exchange for paid "sponsorship" of one hundred red wiggler worms. Another page, titled "Fresh and Cured Hash," touted "$60 gram for BHO and $40g for Full melt." However, the items were not for sale. "I ask [for] donations for my time, energy, the ability to grow the plant, then make oils, the cost of butane and ice for hash," the item read. Another section announced that the deal is "Amendment 64 & 20 compliant," in reference to the constitutional measures that legalized limited recreational weed sales and medical marijuana, respectively.

The following day, on February 5, we discovered a page that took this idea even further, giving away "free" weed with the purchase of a $50 bumpersticker from a company dubbed legalchronicdelivery.com.

Here's a look at the sticker:

How "Free" Marijuana May Cost Thirteen People Their Freedom
File photo

Just how legal was this service? Well, shortly after the publication of our story, the website disappeared — and by mid-February, then-Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Denver Police Chief Robert White jointly declared such deals to be unlawful.

But after January 1, 2014, when Amendment 64 was put into effect, the free-marijuana notion rushed back into the marketplace, as we reported later that month in "'Free' Marijuana Deals Budding on Denver Craigslist." Here's the text from one ad during that period:

THUNDERF*CK — $40 (DENVER)

I have high quality strains for free for an appropriate donation for gas, time, and effort.

Strains available:

Thunderfuck LA Confidential X Tangerine

All top shelf quality.

I am Amendment 64/20 compliant.

So I can only give you medicine if your are 21+ or a red card holder.

Call or text.

Price for gas, time, and effort as follows:

40 1/8

75 1/4

150 1/2

260 1

The Hoppz' Cropz indictment, announced by current Colorado Attorney General (and potential future gubernatorial candidate) Cynthia Coffman and assorted Colorado Springs officials at a press conference yesterday, alleges a more sophisticated approach to "free" marijuana.

Another Facebook photo of Joey Hops.
Another Facebook photo of Joey Hops.
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According to the indictment, accessible below, Hopper, Wheatley and alleged conspirators Adam Donaldson, Joseph Sergio Crivici, Derrick Bernard, Victoria Fernandez, Marcee Smith, Alejandra Gonzalez, Nathan Bernheisel, Raylene Rubio, Nicole Sandoval, Ashley Hefner and Melissa Colmus "engaged in a scheme whereby the members conspired to purchase medical marijuana from licensed facilities and resell it for profit under the guise the marijuana was being offered as a free giveaway with the purchase of a dramatically overpriced, yet low cost, item."

One example: Customers were supposedly charged $15 for a lighter worth only a few pennies — and as a bonus, they were provided with a gram of "free" marijuana that just happened to be valued at around $15.

The indictment goes on to say that "in essence, the enterprise possessed and distributed marijuana — and conspired to do the same — in Colorado Springs, Colorado while simultaneously engaging in tax evasion, money laundering, attempts to influence public servants, filing false tax information and failing to pay over taxes."

Why bother with such an approach post-Amendment 64 implementation? One possible reason is noted on the Visit Colorado Springs website: "Many cities and counties within Colorado have chosen not to allow the retail sale of marijuana within their jurisdiction's limits. This includes Colorado Springs and El Paso County as well as Teller County."

The assorted defendants face prosecution by the Colorado Attorney General's Office in Denver District Court, and the results will determine if "free" marijuana will cost some or all of them their freedom. Click to read the Hoppz' Cropz indictment.

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