Sugar Magnolias: A Novel

There it is. Right there on the TV. I can’t hear it, but the chyron on the bottom of the screen reads “10 budtenders arrested after year-long sting”. The anchor, with her pointed, librarian-looking glasses and coiffed dark brown hair, is trapped in the glass box talking without sound, her face moving under the ten static, small, and sour faces suspended above her, the mugshots of ten people, most of them in their 20s, about half-and-half women and men, looking like they hadn’t gotten particularly done up for work that day, the men unshaven, the women without much makeup especially compared to the woman reading the news, all of it glowing out from above the bar.

I’m sitting there with my pint glass of session IPA half gone. A couple next to me is making out. The guy is somehow simultaneously sliding his hand up the girl’s shirt while ordering an Uber on his phone with his other hand up behind her head.

This is Denver, Colorado in 2018.

To say I know the case on the TV well would be a massive understatement. I’ve been involved with this company Sugar Magnolias since I got screwed by the hedge fund assholes who bought the Denver Daily News — along with pretty much everyone else who worked there — and lost my reporting job.

The last year has been a weird ride, but not as wild for me as it has been for the people who own Magnolias. I’d much rather be sitting here watching it all play out than to be in the mess they’re in. A mess of their own making, maybe, but still, no one sets out to fail so spectacularly. And fail spectacularly they have.

The guy must have been able to make the app work, because the seat opens up next to me and I look out at the bar. There are substantially more men than women here — one reason to like this city. The guys are mostly wearing flat-billed hats, plenty of them backwards, a lot of beards, a lot of plaid, a lot of brown boots. The women aren’t much more complicated, at least not at this brewery. T-shirts under fleece or nylon jackets and jeans. Outdoor casual. No one here’s going to win a fashion contest, but they’ll probably be able to hike to the top of a fourteen-thousand-foot mountain or camp for a week in a tent without a shower.

I pull up the Daily News on my phone to read more details about the Magnolias case.

10 budtenders arrested in pot shop investigation

By Carla Mecklenburg

DENVER — The Denver police department today arrested 10 budtenders who work for cannabis retail company Sugar Magnolias and suspended all 30 of the company’s business licenses.

Sugar Magnolias owns 15 retail stores in the city as well as cultivation and extraction licenses for selling and producing medical and recreational cannabis. All stores are closed indefinitely.

The employees have been charged with selling more than the legal limit of marijuana to one person in one day. Colorado recreational marijuana regulations set a purchasing limit of one ounce per person per day.

According to court documents obtained by the Denver Daily News, several of the budtenders have been charged with felonies for allegedly selling more than four ounces to one customer in the same day. Others have been charged with misdemeanors for allegedly selling more than one ounce but less than four.

The arrests are the result of a year-long investigation into a practice that’s been dubbed “looping,” where a customer visits a dispensary, buys an ounce, takes it off the property, typically to a nearby parked car, then returns to the store to make another purchase.

Denver police detectives both videoed several instances of people allegedly engaged in looping as well as made multiple purchases of one ounce in one day themselves. The court documents state that detectives observed one person make up to 16 one-ounce purchases in one day from the same Sugar Magnolias store. The police then made contact with the buyers and allegedly found up to a pound of legal Colorado marijuana in their cars.

Many of the buyers were from out of state, including from Texas, Kansas and Florida, states that currently don’t have legal adult-use marijuana programs.

So far none of the owners of Sugar Magnolias — Landon Brown, Daniela Garcia or Taylor Hobson — has been charged with any crimes.

Bart Schaneman
4 min
6 cards

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