DENVER (CBS4) – A year-long undercover sting operation led to the arrest of 13 budtenders who worked at seven ‘Sweet Leaf’ marijuana dispensaries.
More arrests would be forthcoming, police say.
As a result of the investigation into some stores allegedly selling more than 10 times the legal amount allowed under state law, the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses suspended all 26 Sweet Leaf marijuana licenses within the city and county of Denver.
Police say officers executed seven search warrants at Sweet Leaf dispensaries in Denver and at one additional store in Aurora.
Arrest records released Friday reveal that an undercover cop was able to buy 12 times the legal limit at the Sweet Leaf dispensary on 38th Avenue and Clay Street, having walked in 12 different times presenting identification over a period of just over two hours split into two sting sessions.
Some neighbors in the area were celebrating the business shutdown.
“This is something that has been a problem for a long time,” said Kodie Ketchbaw, a Denver resident who lives across the street from the Sweet Leaf on Clay Street.
Countless customers showed up at the store Friday and were surprised to find the “license suspended” sign posted on its locked door.
“It’s a little disappointing, just the fact that they got shut down,” one young woman said.
According to arrest documents, the sting operation found that Sweet Leaf budtenders in at least six Denver stores and one Aurora store were selling far more pot than state regulations allow.
Amendment 64 requires no more than one ounce of marijuana per sale.
Undercover cops wearing hidden video cameras wrote in arrest affidavits that one store sold an ounce to the same undercover buyer 14 times in less than three hours. Another store allegedly sold six times the limit in just over one hour, and still another shop allegedly sold 16 times the limit in about six hours, to name a few.
Ketchbaw said the excess sales created problems in her neighborhood.
“We’ve seen the traffic out here and just the shady characters that pull up and park, and then they stay here for hours…and then they make illegal drug deals. And then they go in and buy more,” Ketchbaw told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.
She said the extra pot on the streets led to illegal drug deals and even threats of violence experienced by her friend.
“When he came in and said ‘he threatened me with a gun,’ I was like, ‘okay, we’re calling the police,'” Ketchbaw said.
Police said complaints of criminal activity tipped them off to the illegal dispensary sales, which triggered their undercover investigation.
The 13 Sweet Leaf budtenders arrested and booked into jail were facing a combination of felony and misdemeanor charges.
Denver police said officers had yet to arrest nine additional Sweet Leaf employees with outstanding warrants.
It was unknown if or when the Sweet Leaf shops would reopen.