DENVER, Colo. – The owners of Sweet Leaf, the vertically integrated cannabis company whose 26 Denver-based licenses were revoked earlier this year by Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) due to widespread allegations of “looping” in 2016 and 2017, have agreed to “sell the licenses of their remaining businesses outside of Denver, pay seven figures in fines, and potentially face additional punishment from the MED,” Westword.com has reported.
The news comes on the immediate heels of the company’s decision late last week to waive its appeal against the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses’s decision to revoke all 26 of its cannabis cultivation, processing and dispensary licenses within the city,” added the site, which noted at the time that the decision was part of a “larger agreement between Sweet Leaf, the MED and the Denver District Attorney.”
The scope of the punishment appears to reflect not only the seriousness with which the state takes the allegations, but the fact that the federal government is watching the case and has implied that it may intervene and file federal criminal charges.
Under terms of the agreement reached October 1, the chain’s three owners—Anthony Suaro, Christian Johnson and Matthew Aiken—will surrender three additional business licenses outside of Denver, but will be permitted to sell “three different licenses—obtained for retail dispensaries in Aurora, Federal Heights and Thornton—with the MED signing off on any final deal. Any entity that buys the licenses cannot make any references to the Sweet Leaf brand, according to agreement documents,” added Westword.
Proceeds from the sale of the licenses will go to pay off taxes, penalties, and fines the Sweet Leaf owners owe the city and state, and the company has to “surrender and destroy any remaining cannabis product it was allowed to hold on to as it appealed various regulatory decisions from the MED and Denver Excise and Licenses.”
The three owners, who owe approximately $2 million to the state in taxes, penalties, interest, and fines, according to documents, also will have to surrender their MED working licenses. “They cannot reapply for fifteen years,” reported Westword, “and are also barred from holding any ownership stake or financial interest in a licensed Colorado cannabis business for the same time period, either directly or indirectly.”
Sweet Leaf dispensaries were closed last year and charges were filed following a yearlong investigation by the Denver Police into allegations of widespread looping, which refers to the selling of more than one ounce of cannabis flower to an individual in one day. Sweet Leaf lawyers argued that a loophole in Colorado law that was closed last year permitted the sale of more than one ounce in a day, but a hearing officer dismissed those claims following five days of testimony earlier this year.