Denver cannabis retail chain Sweet Leaf owners strike deal to pay fine, give up licenses

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The owners of Denver-based marijuana retail chain Sweet Leaf made a deal with Colorado’s cannabis regulatory agency to sell the company’s remaining business licenses in the state, pay roughly $2 million in fines and drop their appeal.

Alt-weekly Westword reported that owners Anthony Suaro, Christian Johnson and Matthew Aiken owe roughly $1.5 million to the state in taxes, fines and interest, as well as a fine of $550,000 to the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED).

The agreement, reached Oct. 1, states that Sweet Leaf’s owners will be allowed to sell licenses for cannabis retail stores in the Denver suburbs of Aurora, Federal Heights and Thornton.

The purchasers of the licenses can’t make reference to Sweet Leaf, and Colorado regulators must approve the sale.

Here are some other factors surrounding the situation:

  • Any proceeds of the sale will go to paying off taxes, penalties and interest the business owes to the state Department of Revenue, the Denver district attorney, the Internal Revenue Service, local jurisdictions and Sweet Leaf’s creditors – in that order.
  • Any remaining cannabis the company has been holding must be destroyed.
  • The three owners must turn in their working licenses and cannot reapply for 15 years. They also can’t own stake or financial interest in a licensed Colorado cannabis company for the same period.
  • At one time, Sweet Leaf was one of the largest cannabis retail chains in the country, with 11 storefronts in the Denver area, but law enforcement raided its businesses in December 2017 and shut down all 26 licenses, including cultivation and processing facilities.

Law enforcement went after Sweet Leaf for allegedly allowing the practice of “looping,” in which a customer would buy multiple ounces from one Sweet Leaf store in one day, far exceeding the purchasing limit as set by Colorado law.