The embattled owners of a once-thriving string of cannabis businesses along Colorado’s Front Range have been ordered by a Denver judge to pay $8.8 million after finding they failed to honor commitments to the owner of properties they were buying in Denver.
The decision issued Wednesday by Denver District Judge Edward Bronfin said the co-owners of Sweet Leaf breached the lease agreements on four commercial properties owned by Ryan Fox. Matthew Aiken, Christian Johnson and Anthony Sauro failed to pay rent, late fees and interest, and failed to obtain surety bonds to guarantee lease payments, according to the court.
“We will be appealing this order but otherwise do not comment on pending litigation,” attorney John Chanin, who represents Sauro, said Friday.
The judgment against the three follows Sweet Leaf’s agreement in October with the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division to relinquish 29 business licenses for its cannabis operations and stores in the state and pay about $2 million in fines and unpaid taxes.
In December 2017, Denver police capped a year-long undercover investigation of Sweet Leaf by raiding stores, seizing assets and arresting employees. The business was accused of repeatedly allowing customers to exceed the maximum amount of marijuana they were allowed to buy over a set period of time.
The owners denied knowledge of wrongdoing.
In the property dispute, lawyers with the law firm GreenSpoon Marder said the Sweet Leaf owners failed to honor an agreement made with property owner Fox in 2016. The case is important because it shows the courts view a cannabis business the same way as any other business, said Anton Handal, GreenSpoon Marder’s lead attorney on the case.
“As cannabis businesses join the mainstream business community, persons that do business with them can rely on the fact that courts will enforce agreements made with them,” Handal said in a statement.