Sweet Leaf isn't out of the law enforcement and regulatory crosshairs just because its Denver stores are no longer open. Its licenses for the three remaining Sweet Leaf dispensaries in the metro area were all suspended by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division as of today, July 26.
MED signs on the doors of Sweet Leaf dispensaries in Aurora, Federal Heights and Thornton all say that the store's licenses are suspended for "alleged violation" of state medical or retail marijuana codes.
While MED communications director Shannon Gray confirmed the closures, she declined to go into further detail other than noting that Sweet Leaf is part of an "ongoing investigation," and that any further MED disciplinary action will depend on the results of the investigation. She did note that local law enforcement agencies helped the MED serve the suspensions.
In December of last year, eight Sweet Leaf stores in Denver and Aurora were raided by the Denver Police Department and various law enforcement agencies, the culmination of a yearlong investigation into alleged looping, or selling unlawful amounts of marijuana to customers.
In police interviews, customers arrested by the DPD subsequently reported purchasing numerous pounds of marijuana in a single day. According to MED figures cited by the Denver City Attorney's Office, there were over 1,000 instances of medical marijuana looping totaling nearly $4 million at just a single Denver Sweet Leaf dispensary during a stretch from 2016 to 2017. One of the company's district managers believes that loopers accounted for 30 to 50 percent of overall sales for the company.
After suspending all 26 of the company's medical and recreational Denver business licenses immediately after the raids, the City of Denver officially revoked every license earlier this month, shutting down seven dispensaries and a handful of cultivations and infused-product facilities. Despite those revocations, Sweet Leaf recently won a stay in Denver District Court from having to destroy millions of dollars' worth of marijuana products while preparing to appeal the city’s decision, according to Marijuana Business Daily.
The Aurora location was raided in December, but it reopened shortly thereafter; Aurora officials said a city inspection of the store's operation was conducted before it was allowed to stay open. Although there are no reports of the Federal Heights dispensary being raided in December, it also closed for a short period of time after the raids before reopening.
Thornton's location wasn't open for business in December, but it had already received approval from the Thornton City Council. Despite the ongoing legal action in Denver, Thornton allowed Sweet Leaf to move forward with opening its store in April. The city conducted an unofficial review of the application, according to city spokesman Todd Barnes and city clerk Kristen Rosenbaum, who say that their city attorney found that the ownership group for Sweet Leaf Thornton was a different ownership group from Denver's. (Documents obtained through a Colorado Open Records Act request by Westword indicated that the stores are run by the same people.)
A handful of now-former Sweet Leaf employees were arrested in connection with the alleged looping. At least eighteen ex-budtenders were arrested by DPD on various charges, but a majority of them have seen their charges dropped. To date, no Sweet Leaf owners or executives have been arrested, according to the Denver District Attorney's Office.
Sweet Leaf and its legal representatives did not respond to requests for comment. The company's dispensary in Portland, Oregon, remains open.
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