Denver Shuts Down 26 Legal Cannabis Businesses, Makes Arrests

closed denver dispensary

UPDATE, Dec. 15, 2017: Denver Westword’s Thomas Mitchell reports that, as of Friday, authorities had arrested 13 people in connection with the Thursday’s raids on Sweet Leaf dispensaries. Police said they conducted the raids because Sweet Leaf employees were allegedly selling customers more cannabis than allowed under state law, a practice called “looping.” State regulators have also suspended 26 of the company’s cultivation, processing, and retail licenses. A hearing is expected within 30 days. None of the chain’s co-owners were among those arrested, Mitchell reports, noting that “most of the employees taken into custody were budtenders or lower-level employees.” —Eds.

DENVER (AP) — Denver authorities shut down 26 legal marijuana businesses Thursday and arrested 12 people suspected of illegal distribution of cannabis after a yearlong criminal investigation.

Potential charges relate to marijuana sales exceeding limits set in state law, police said. Colorado allows people 21 and older to possess an ounce or less of marijuana under a measure approved by voters in 2012.

The city department that regulates marijuana businesses issued the order to close the businesses based on the police investigation, spokesman Dan Rowland said. It marked the first time the city has issued an open-ended suspension to any legal marijuana business since sales began in 2014, he said.

Colorado has made a concerted effort to avoid a federal crackdown on its marijuana experiment, including police and government enforcement against illegal marijuana grows or sales.

Denver police didn’t name any federal agencies as partners in the investigation.

Gov. John Hickenlooper highlighted those efforts in an August letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who requested information on marijuana legalization. Sessions has been a longtime opponent of state legalization and has suggested the federal government should crack down.

Special Agent Randy Ladd, a spokesman for the Denver division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said the agency wasn’t involved. Denver police didn’t name any federal agencies as partners in the investigation.

The city’s order shuttered 26 retail stores and other marijuana growing facilities operating under the name Sweet Leaf. But the police investigation focused on eight locations licensed by the company, and officers searched those addresses Thursday.

Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said he couldn’t provide more detail on the case because of the ongoing investigation. The department didn’t name the people arrested.

Matthew Aiken, Christian Johnson and Anthony Suaro, three co-owners listed on the city’s order, didn’t immediately respond to email messages seeking comment. Company officials told Marijuana Business Magazine in April that they had 350 employees and $60 million in revenue.

Rowland said the businesses can’t sell or produce any cannabis products while the order is in place. The city plans to hold a public hearing within 30 days.

“This is a way for us to put a hold on things so we can figure out what’s going on,” he said.

Under Colorado law, marijuana businesses must get separate licenses for various purposes, even if they operate out of the same building. For example, a retail store licensed to sell recreational pot also needs a medical marijuana retail license to sell products designated for medical use.

“One thing I always say about legalization is it didn’t end law enforcement,” said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver marijuana policy law professor. “If you’re going to have a system that works, people not complying with regulations need to be shut down.”

In Washington state, which also legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, no legal, regulated pot businesses have faced police raids. Some have, however, had their licenses suspended or revoked for failing to follow industry rules.

Sweet Leaf’s website lists one store in Oregon and 10 stores in Colorado. An employee who answered the phone at the Oregon store Thursday said they were open.

Oregon regulators weren’t immediately available to discuss the company’s status in that state.

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The 5 Coolest Businesses in Denver

The 5 Coolest Businesses in Denver

Not only are the residents of Denver pretty cool, there are some really interesting businesses that are in Denver as well.  The locals have brought some creativity to the local restaurant, retail and service industries.  The laid back attitude is definitely reflected in the business community and no we’re not even talking about the new marijuana industry either.  So let’s have a look at the 5 coolest businesses in Denver.

  1. Brown Palace Hotel

Not only has this extraordinary hotel been a downtown landmark since 1892, it has an incredibly beautiful lobby with cathedral ceilings and detailed architecture.  How cool is it to have bee hives on the roof.  The hives produce honey that is used in the kitchens to create some tasty baked goods you can indulge in while having afternoon tea.

  1. EVOO Marketplace

This is the place to score some premium infused specialty olive oils and vinegars.  It would even make Rachel Ray drool just a little bit.  They import olive oil from all over the world but some of the other items like jams, chutney and vinegars are created locally.

  1. Indyink

This is one wicked silkscreen shop!  Inkydink creates original posters, glassware, clothing and whatnot for the local businesses in and around Colorado.  They have a variety of cool designs and images that are available as custom embroidery.  There prints aren’t just dogs playing poker they appeal to the creatives, hipsters, skaters and nerds alike.

  1. Linger

Only in Denver could you get away with putting one of the coolest restaurants in town in a former mortuary.  Yes, the Olinger Mortuary is now a small plate style restaurant that could tease any palette.  The chef/owner Justin Cucci brilliantly created a menu of “global street food” that is meant to connect people through delicious food and different cultures.  You can sample street food from various continents and you have to try the Mongolian BBQ Duck bun or his sweet and tangy shishito peppers with cheddar curds and orange habanero jam.  Are you drooling yet…you should be.

  1. Little Man Ice Cream Shop

This ice cream parlor serves cones from a 28 foot tall cream can, that was inspired by the hot dog shaped stands that you used to find on Coney Island back in the 70’s.  Buying an ice cream cone here is so much more than just a sugary treat, the owner matches every scoop by donating rice or beans to a local community charity.  To date they have donated more than $100,000.  Denver isn’t only laid back and creative it is also a city built on kindness.