Denver DA files charges against Sweet Leaf budtenders allegedly involved in “looping” marijuana sales

The Denver District Attorney’s Office on Thursday announced charges filed against 10 Sweet Leaf Marijuana Center budtenders arrested following a Denver Police investigation of alleged illegal marijuana sales at the dispensaries.

The charges allege that each employee sold “unlawful amounts of marijuana” to individual customers as part of a practice commonly known as “looping.”

Related: Inside informants, loopers and undercover investigation that led to Sweet Leaf raids

The charges announced Thursday were as follows:

  • Stuart Walker, 24, Krystal Mauro, 30, Leeanne Henley, 25, Natalie Betters, 25, and Deann Miller, 45, were each charged with felony distribution of marijuana, more than four ounces.
  • Christopher Arneson, 28, Cassidy Thomas, 22, Joseph Gerlick, 28, Andrea Cutrer, 26, and Devin Waigand, 22, were each charged with misdemeanor distribution of marijuana, more than one ounce.

The felony charge has a presumptive range of six months to one year in prison and/or fines between $1,000 and $100,000. The misdemeanor charge has a presumptive range of six to 18 months in jail and/or fines between $500 and $5,000.

The Denver District Attorney’s Office did not provide details as to the other three Sweet Leaf employees arrested following Denver Police raids on Dec. 14 of Sweet Leaf locations: Ian Matthew Ferguson, 27, Jonathan Sublette, 37, and Dana Velasquez, 27. Ken Lane, a spokesman for the Denver District Attorney’s Office, said he had no information regarding the three individuals, adding that it’s possible that charges are still pending.

The charges are the result of a year-long criminal investigation into alleged illegal cannabis sales at Denver-area Sweet Leaf stores, officials said.

The Denver Police Department began its investigation after receiving a complaint from a neighbor of one of the Sweet Leaf locations, according to the Denver District Attorney’s Office. The neighbor reported seeing several people “making multiple trips each day to and from their parked vehicles, to the store, continuing these ‘loops’ for several hours at a time,” according to officials.

The Sweet Leaf locations are under investigation include six locations in Denver, 2647 W. 38th Ave.; 5100 W. 38th Ave.; 2609 Walnut St.; 4400 E. Evans Ave.; 7200 E. Smith Road; and 4125 Elati St.; and one location in Aurora, 15200 E. Sixth Ave., officials said.

The investigation is ongoing.

Colorado law stipulates that adults over the age of 21 can buy and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana at a time.

Officials for Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division earlier this year released a position statement on what constitutes a “single sales transaction:”

The division will seek administrative action against licensees attempting to circumvent the statutory and rule requirement imposing the limitation of one ounce per transaction of retail marijuana. Sales that are structured as multiple, stand-alone transactions may be viewed by the division as an attempt to evade quantity limitations on the sale of retail marijuana, resulting in recommendation for administrative action.

Further, an individual in possession of more than one ounce of retail marijuana or its equivalent is acting unlawfully.

This fall, marijuana regulators and industry members sought to address the “looping” concerns during the rulemaking process.

Effective Jan. 1, new rules further expand on the sales limitations applying per day for medical and recreational marijuana retailers, Marijuana Enforcement Division officials said.

The adopted recreational rules state: “A retail marijuana store and its employees are prohibited from transferring more than one ounce of retail marijuana flower or its equivalent in retail marijuana concentrate or retail marijuana product in a single transaction to a consumer. A single transaction includes multiple transfers to the same consumer during the same business day where the retail marijuana store employee knows or reasonably should know that such transfer would result in that consumer possessing more than one ounce of marijuana.”