Business

Former Co-Owner's Arrest Puts Dispensary's Licenses at Risk

Den-Rec operates two dispensaries in Denver.
Den-Rec operates two dispensaries in Denver. Thomas Mitchell
A Denver dispensary could lose its business licenses after a former co-owner was arrested for allegedly trying to sell pounds of marijuana to a police informant.

Denver Recreational Dispensary, better known as Den-Rec, was issued a show-cause order by the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses on January 31, citing last year's arrest of then-controlling owner Marc Monaco. Monaco was arrested on January 14, 2021, after allegedly trying to sell around 22 pounds of marijuana to a police informant.

According to the Denver Police Department, the confidential police informant reportedly agreed to buy 22 pounds of marijuana for a total of $44,000 from Monaco, with Monaco providing a little under seven pounds at the time and arranging for the rest to be picked up at his residence later that day. A DPD detective obtained a warrant to search Monaco's house, where he reportedly found just under 17 pounds of marijuana, as well as "several additional pounds of marijuana, $143,866 in cash, several firearms, a heat sealer, a digital scale, a money counter, two ledgers, and miscellaneous packaging items."

Monaco was charged with five felonies by the Denver District Attorney's Office. The Denver City Attorney's Office subsequently filed a complaint against Den-Rec, and requested Excise and Licenses to pursue disciplinary action against the business. However, Excise and Licenses didn't issue the show-cause order until a year later, on January 31, 2022.

Monaco pleaded guilty to a single marijuana concentrate conspiracy charge on February 3, 2022, and received probation, according to the Denver District Attorney's Office; the other charges were dropped. While he was the only Den-Rec owner named in the DPD report, the company has had some ongoing problems stemming from his arrest.

In the show-cause order, Excise and Licenses charged Den-Rec with violating eleven marijuana licensing rules, including the unlawful sale or distribution of marijuana and having a licensee with a criminal history. A public hearing is scheduled for March 11, after which a hearing officer will issue a recommended decision; Excise and Licenses director Molly Duplechian will ultimately decide Den-Rec's fate.

"They have to show cause why their licenses should not be revoked," says Excise and Licenses communications director Eric Escudero. "Whether in the cannabis realm or not, if there are violations and evidence it occurred, then they could lose their licenses."

The director of Excise and Licenses often sides with the hearing officer's decision, according to Escudero, who says that Den-Rec's ultimate discipline could range from a fine to total license revocation — or no punishment at all. A settlement is also a possibility, he adds.

Den-Rec operates a dispensary at 2117 Larimer Street and another store at 2042 South Bannock Street, as well as a store in Lyons and cultivation facilities. Both Denver stores as well as the dispensary in Lyons remain open.

Monaco's ownership license with the state Marijuana Enforcement Division is currently suspended. According to Den-Rec partner Ryan Buffkin, Monaco is no longer part of the company or ownership group.

Buffkin declined to comment on Monaco's personal matters, but says that "Den-Rec had nothing to do with" any illegal marijuana sales, and that Monaco's termination from Den-Rec was "immediate" after his arrest.

"As far as Den-Rec goes, we are completely compliant," Buffkin adds.

If Den-Rec's licenses are revoked, the business owners would be banned from applying for a Denver marijuana license for one year.

Westword was unable to reach Monaco for comment.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell