Christmas bonuses given, taken away after police raid marijuana shops

Out of work employees struggling to make ends meet

DENVER -- It's a growing industry in a booming Colorado economy, but out of work employees at Sweet Leaf marijuana centers say they're having a tough time finding other jobs because of a recent raid by Denver Police.

DPD raided eight Sweet Leaf locations on December 14, after a sting operation found a dozen sales people allegedly selling marijuana to customers in amounts larger than allowed by law.

The shops remain shuttered, with an estimated 300 people out of work.

Signs posted on the shops' front doors indicate that licenses to operate have been suspended for alleged violations of state law.

One out of work employee, who asked not to be identified, said "there's been no communication with upper management."

She said the raids were a surprise to everyone.

"I understand the idea of making people follow guidelines," she said, "I don't understand zeroing in on one company."

The woman told Denver7 that the sudden closure of the Sweet Leaf locations has put her family "at rock bottom."

"There's a chance we may have to move back home to stay with family," she said, "and borrow money just to figure out how to get my daughter back to the doctor again."

She said her daughter has a degenerative brain disease that is affecting her hearing and eyesight. That's the main reason she wants to find another job, so she can take care of her daughter.

"I got into the marijuana business because I'm an uneducated female in society's eyes," she said. "This is the most opportunity you're going to find for someone like me."

Double Whammy

The woman said Sweet Leaf's closure has been a financial double whammy.

Not only did she lose her job, she lost a Christmas bonus that had already been placed in her account.

"Our Christmas bonuses were taken out of our accounts after everything else happened," she said. "I don't know if Sweet Leaf was behind that, or the government."

She said initially, Sweet Leaf did a great job looking after its employees, hosting get-togethers, providing opportunities to grow and even looking into the possibility of 401-Ks.

Now, she said, the only thing she's been told is to apply for unemployment.

"If they were doing something for their employees," she said, "I would believe that communication would be the first thing."

Fundraiser

Last week, several people in the marijuana industry hosted a fundraiser for Sweet Leaf "budtenders."

"There's no budtenders union," said Duane Allen, a sales team member at iPuff Vape. "There's no person looking out for that guy."

Allen told Denver7 the initial idea was to provide Christmas toys, holiday meals and perhaps some emergency cash.

But the demand was much greater than the money raised.

The Sweet Leaf employee who talked to Denver7 said she applied for some of the funds, but didn't receive any.

"I believe the idea was great, but I believe the organization of it was still a little mess," she said.

Mr. Allen said the fundraiser was a spur of the moment thing.

"In the future," he said, "I hope it can be more organized and hope we'll be able to do more."

Future

A dozen people were arrested during the raids for "illegal distribution of marijuana." Their cases are still winding their way through court.

It's not known yet when, or if, the Denver Sweet Leaf locations will reopen. Some of the chains stores in other jurisdictions are still open.

Out of work employees hope the Denver locations reopen soon.

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