13 Sweet Leaf budtenders swept up in Denver police raids

The 13 people arrested Thursday in a yearlong investigation into suspected illegal marijuana sales at Sweet Leaf Marijuana Centers were budtenders, The Cannabist’s preliminary review of arrest affidavits released Friday found.

The criminal activities alleged include sales of cannabis in violation of Colorado law, which stipulates that adults over the age of 21 can buy and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana at a time, according to Denver police.

Sweet Leaf owners Christian Johnson, Matthew Aiken and Anthony Suaro were not named in the documents released Friday by police.

The investigation is still ongoing, Denver police spokesman Doug Schepman told The Cannabist Friday. There are nine outstanding arrest warrants in the case, he said.

Search and arrest warrants were executed Thursday morning in raids of eight Sweet Leaf locations in Denver and Aurora. In concert with the police action, the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses suspended 26 licenses — including medical, retail, cultivation and extraction operations — for entities that do business as Sweet Leaf.


Previously: Police raid eight Sweet Leaf Marijuana Center locations in Denver and Aurora


The arrest affidavits released Friday provide a window into an undercover police operation that’s been under way for more than a year.

The alleged violations occurred during covert visits to Sweet Leaf locations on Dec. 7, 2016; Dec. 14, 2016; Jan. 5, 2017; Feb. 23, 2017; July 26, 2017; Aug. 3, 2017; and Oct. 5, 2017, according to the affidavits.

On each date, an undercover detective entered a single location multiple times — as few as five times and as many as 16 — during windows of time ranging from 59 minutes to 5 hours and 50 minutes, according to the affidavits.

The affidavits say that during each covert visit, a detective equipped with a hidden video camera would enter the store and provide his ID to the employee behind the glass window in the lobby. That employee then would provide the ID to the budtender, who then would escort the undercover detective to the sales floor.

From that budtender the detective then typically purchased “The Special,” identified as 1 ounce of marijuana for $120, with strains including Afghani, Blue Dream, Cheese Quake or Tangerine Kush, according to the affidavits. The detective exited the store and put the marijuana in his vehicle.

Minutes later, the detective would walk back into the store and make another 1 ounce purchase — often from the same budtender, according to the affidavits.

The arrest affidavits for the respective budtenders outline how each of them allegedly made at least two same-day sales to an undercover detective. Those sales allegedly made by the respective budtenders totaled anywhere from nearly 2 ounces to close to 5 ounces.

When contacted by The Cannabist, Sweet Leaf officials responded by providing a screenshot of page 77 of Colorado’s marijuana code. Circled with a red marker was the following provision:

A Retail Marijuana Store and its employees are prohibited from selling more than one ounce of retail marijuana flower or its equivalent in retail marijuana concentrate or retail marijuana product during a sales transaction to a consumer. Except that non-edible, non-psychoactive retail marijuana products including ointments, lotions, balms and other non-transdermal topical products are exempt from the one-ounce quantity limitation on sales.

a. One ounce of retail marijuana flower shall be equivalent to eight grams of retail marijuana concentrate.

b. One ounce of retail marijuana flower shall be equivalent to 80 ten-milligram servings of THC in retail marijuana product.

Officials for the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division declined comment on the Sweet Leaf case, citing an ongoing investigation. Officials also provided a position statement on the definition of a “single sales transaction.”

MED officials stated that what constitutes a “single sales transaction” is dependent on “the facts and totality of circumstances of each indivudial case,” adding:

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.

Denver police initially announced Thursday that 12 individuals were arrested for investigation of illegal distribution of marijuana. One additional arrest was made late Thursday following that announcement, police said Friday.

In all, 13 people were arrested Thursday:

• Christopher Arneson, 28, of Denver, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 1 ounce

• Natalie Betters, 25, of Aurora, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 4 ounces

• Andrea Cutrer, 26, of Denver, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 1 ounce

• Ian Matthew Ferguson, 27, of Denver, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 1 ounce

• Joseph Gerlick, 28, of Englewood, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 1 ounce

• Leeanne Henley, 25, of Arvada, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 4 ounces

• Krystal Mauro, 36, of Lakewood, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 4 ounces

• Deann Miller, 45, of Denver, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 4 ounces

• Jonathan Sublette, 37, of Englewood, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 1 ounce

• Cassidy Thomas, 22, of Northglenn, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 1 ounce

• Dana Velasquez, 27, of Aurora, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 1 ounce

• Devin Waigand, 22, of Denver, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 1 ounce

• Stuart Walker, 24, on suspicion of distribution of marijuana of more than 4 ounces

Denver Police booking photos of the 13 Sweet Leaf budtenders arrested Thursday

Ian Matthew Ferguson, 27, of Denver. (Provided by Denver Police Department)

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