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Sweet Leaf case puts Colorado’s marijuana enforcement system to the test

By all appearances, Sweet Leaf Marijuana Centers was a cannabis success story.

In early December, Sweet Leaf had grown to 300 employees, brought in upward of $5 million in sales monthly, and expanded across Colorado’s Front Range with an eye on markets such as Nevada and Massachusetts.

The burgeoning cannabis chain was blowing away most of its hometown competition. On a daily basis, Sweet Leaf’s recreational shops were selling 6.75 pounds of marijuana flower — nearly four times that of a typical Denver dispensary.

Then the sweet life turned sour — and Sweet Leaf became one of the highest-profile criminal cases to emerge from the legalization of marijuana sales in Colorado. The case, which the defendants say was erroneously charged, stands for now as an example of successful enforcement by Denver and state authorities. But it also raises questions about how agencies interact on marijuana enforcement and whether authorities should have discovered the alleged misdeeds earlier.

Police and prosecutors claim Sweet Leaf reaped a substantial percentage of sales via illegitimate means: The practice of “looping,” when customers make repeated purchases of the maximum allowed marijuana in short periods of time. Several of those customers, buying in bulk, then engaged in illegal trafficking across state lines, officials alleged. [Read more at The Denver Post]

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