Last traces of Sweet Leaf marijuana dispensaries vanish as new chain moves into Aurora, Thornton, Federal Heights locations

With Sweet Leaf’s co-owners sentenced to prison earlier this year, the last vestiges of the once vast marijuana dispensary network are being plastered over as a new company takes control of the chain’s final three locations.

A company going by Xclusive Cannabis has taken to the web to announce it has moved into the pot shop at 12500 E. 6th Ave. in Aurora.

“Xclusive Colorado is Aurora’s newest recreational dispensary,” the website reads right above advertisements for marijuana concentrates and $1.99 joints. “We have a mission to provide quality cannabis products at a reasonable price.”

The Aurora shop was one of three Sweet Leaf dispensaries allowed to keep their licenses under the terms of a legal agreement the company’s three owners, Christian Johnson, Anthony Sauro and Matthew Aiken, signed with the Colorado Department of Revenue in September. Under the terms, the trio also agreed to sell the licenses covering dispensaries in Thornton and the “Federal Corridor,” while surrendering 29 other licenses covering retail stores, medical dispensaries, grow operations and manufacturing facilities.

Calls and emails sent to Xclusive Cannabis representatives were not returned this week, but a web search shows the company has also taken over a former Sweet Leaf location at  9462 Federal Blvd. in Federal Heights. According to Westword’s Thomas Mitchell, who first reported on Xclusive’s takeover of former Sweet Leaf locations last week, the company has also moved into the Thornton location.

Johnson, Suaro and Aiken also agreed to pay proceeds earned from the sale of the licenses to taxes, penalties and interest owed the Department of Revenue. The total was north of $2 million. Money that remained beyond that was earmarked for payments owed to the Denver District Attorney’s office, the IRS and the company’s creditors.

Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division spokeswoman Shannon Gray confirmed last week that the three licenses were sold but could not say how much money was raised. That is protected financial information, she said.

Xclusive is required to fully rebrand the three stores under the terms of sale set forth in the September revenue department documents. That includes barring anyone associated with the shop from referencing Sweet Leaf or its owners on its website or marketing materials.

Sweet Leaf’s empire — once bringing in $5 million in sales monthly — crumbled in December 2017 when Denver police raided the chain’s stores following a lengthy undercover investigation into “looping” sales. Budtenders at the shops were selling some customers maximum purchase amounts of pot multiple times a day, merchandise that then fed the black market, investigators say.

Johnson, Sauro and Aiken took plea deals in January that mandated each serve a year in prison. The trio was also ordered by a Denver judge to pay $8.8 million to a landlord after failing to meet commitments on four properties they were leasing.