Green Report: Sweet Leaf’s Sour Sentence

Dylan Simonson

Cannabis Leaf held in front of an outdoor patio
Cannabis Leaf (Photo Courtesy of PabloEvans of Wikimedia Commons)

On Friday January 25th, 2019, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann sentenced the three owners of the now disbanded Sweet Leaf Dispensary to a year of prison for allowing customers to participate in “looping” at their dispensary.

Looping” is a practice where a dispensary sells more than a customer’s daily recreational limit based on a loophole in the original laws regarding recreational cannabis purchases, which said that the ounce maximum was for a “single purchase” rather than daily. A customer would typically purchase an ounce, leave the dispensary and take the purchased ounce home, or even just leave it in the car, and return to the dispensary to purchase another ounce, and repeat this process as many times as they wanted, with the Denver Post reporting that some people would do this 30-40 times a day occasionally.

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Based on the wording of this written law, the dispensary was technically not acting illegally, though that is an extremely gray area, and a different Colorado marijuana law states that recreational users 21 and over can only own and possess one ounce at a time. It is thanks to this last part that the owners were able to be charged, since it was clear they were helping “loopers” break this law.

During the year long investigation, it was predicted that more than two tons of cannabis were purchased to specifically be sold on the black market, whether elsewhere or even here in Colorado, at areas where it’s harder to obtain cannabis or to underage users.

Owners Matthew Aiken, Christian Johnson and Anthony Sauro were all given one year sentences, with a year of parole and probation following that. The budtenders previously charged have had their sentences and fines dropped and reduced down to just community service hours, while some managers received a month in jail as well.

Denver officials call this the “first local prosecution of a legal marijuana enterprise in the United States” according to Marijuana Business Daily.

Sweet Leaf was certainly not the only dispensary that allowed looping, others have been witnessed as doing the same thing (including by me at several other dispensaries in Denver), but they were the only ones caught and charged with the practice.