Colo. hits pot sellers with fines, closure orders


DENVER — State marijuana enforcers have levied tens of thousands of dollars in fines and even banned several people from selling legal pot for a decade, records obtained by KUSA-TV and USA TODAY show.

Legal marijuana growers and sellers are subject to strict regulations if they want to keep their state licenses, and surprise inspections by Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division have caught dozens of store owners breaking the rules. In some cases, stores were ordered to shut down and had their marijuana destroyed.

Some of the violations found by the state are mundane: the wrong kind of door locks or poorly positioned security cameras. Others were much more significant. In several cases, state inspectors — who are sworn law enforcement officers — found unlicensed — and therefore illegal — grow operations. At other stores, they found workers selling marijuana that had never been entered into the state’s mandatory tracking system.

In the wake of an audit finding lax oversight of medical marijuana companies, Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division has beefed up its full-time staff to 55.

“Twenty-nine of those employees are sworn police officers who do investigative work out in the field,” said Lewis Koski, who heads the division. “Largely their work is focused on conducting inspections.”

In Denver, they ordered the owners of several interconnected marijuana stores to stay out of the industry for 10 years, and ordered the couple to pay a $30,000 fine to settle allegations they violated the rules. And they also yanked the licenses of Luis and Gerardo Uribe, brothers whose medical marijuana stores were raided by federal officers last fall and accused of running a massive money-laundering operation. In their reports, state inspectors said the Uribes’ medical marijuana stores were selling pot outside of normal business hours, weren’t properly tracking who they sold it to, and had more marijuana than they could legally account for.

In Pueblo, state inspectors summarily suspended the license of a store for failing to track its sales, having uncalibrated scales, building illegal greenhouses (and showing them on Facebook) and failing to disclose what kinds of chemicals were used to help grow the marijuana.

KUSA-TV and USA TODAY obtained the records as part of a broader investigation into how the state is using the vast amounts of data it’s collecting about Colorado’s legal marijuana market.

State marijuana enforcers say their work has focused on keeping marijuana off the black market, and keeping profits out of the hands of known criminals and international drug cartels. In one case, the state forced the co-owner of a Boulder marijuana store to sell his share to his partner because he hadn’t been paying his taxes.



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