Sweet Leaf case puts Colorado’s marijuana enforcement system to the test Denver Post July 29, 2018
By all appearances, Sweet Leaf Marijuana Centers was a cannabis success story. In early December, Sweet Leaf had grown to 300 employees, brought in upward of $5 million in sales monthly, and expanded across Colorado’s Front Range with an eye on markets such as Nevada and Massachusetts.
The burgeoning cannabis chain was blowing away most of its hometown competition. On a daily basis, Sweet Leaf’s recreational shops were selling 6.75 pounds of marijuana flower — nearly four times that of a typical Denver dispensary.
Then the sweet life turned sour — and Sweet Leaf became one of the highest-profile criminal cases to emerge from the legalization of marijuana sales in Colorado. The case, which the defendants say was erroneously charged, stands for now as an example of successful enforcement by Denver and state authorities. But it also raises questions about how agencies interact on marijuana enforcement and whether authorities should have discovered the alleged misdeeds earlier.
Police and prosecutors claim Sweet Leaf reaped a substantial percentage of sales via illegitimate means: The practice of “looping,” when customers make repeated purchases of the maximum allowed marijuana in short periods of time. Several of those customers, buying in bulk, then engaged in illegal trafficking across state lines, officials alleged. For more (Denver Post July 29, 2018)
How Sweet Leaf’s Success Story Went Up in Smoke Westword August 21, 2018
The Sweet Leaf employees gathered inside a marijuana cultivation warehouse for a celebration in late 2016 were higher on the sweet smell of success than they could ever get on pot. The company had just taken home three trophies from the Cannabis Business Awards, receiving honors for its branding, retail centers and executive leadership at the national industry event. It was on track to have ten dispensaries open in 2017, and managers boasted that the company was nearing $80 million in annual sales.
Sweet Leaf had come a long way from a single dispensary in northwest Denver in 2012.
When reporters asked Sweet Leaf owners and executives how they’d managed to grow so big so quickly, they pointed to a family-like culture that provided health-care benefits and a corporate structure that emphasized internal promotions. With over 350 employees in Colorado, Sweet Leaf was one of the state’s five largest dispensary chains and was expanding into Oregon, with plans to move into Illinois and Massachusetts.
But now that success has gone up in smoke. Today no Sweet Leaf dispensaries are open in Colorado, and the owners who once sought the spotlight are desperately seeking to avoid it.
“I’m never going to forget what was said during that party,” one former employee remembers. “All of the talk was about how we were one big family, but also this big company that was going to be worth $500 million. Something just felt a little off then, and now you can see why. We were pawns.” For more (Westword August 21, 2018)
Owners of Sweet Leaf dispensary chain sentenced to a year in prison for illegal marijuana distribution
In a landmark case involving licensed Colorado marijuana retailers, the owners of the shuttered Sweat Leaf dispensary chain each were sentenced to one year in prison Friday for their role in selling large quantities of pot to the same customers in the same day.
Christian Johnson, Matthew Aiken and Anthony Sauro each pleaded guilty in Denver District Court to violating the Colorado Organized Crime Act and illegally selling and distributing marijuana. Their plea deals stipulated one year in prison, followed by one year of mandatory parole and one-year probation, to be served concurrently.
“I think this was obviously a first case in Colorado,” lead prosecutor Kenneth Boyd said in an interview. “I think it was the first in the nation where a state prosecution office went after a licensed marijuana company. We did not see this scope with anybody else.”
Before their rash of legal problems, Sweet Leaf Marijuana Centers was raking in huge sums of money across its vast pot empire in metro Denver, The Denver Post reported in July. For more (Denver Post January 25, 2019)