Colorado cops show off cannabis harassment tactics for CNBC crew, give tickets for cigarettes
Last Tuesday, Colorado police in the Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge showed off their cannabis enforcement tactics for a CNBC news crew filming a segment at a private social club where members typically consume cannabis. The business news network has been touring Colorado reporting on the state’s cannabis culture and industry as it has evolved during the first year of legalization.
According to multiple witnesses, Wheat Ridge officers “barged right in” the closed front door of Three Kings Dab Lounge. The front door is typically locked and a sign instructs visitors to ring the doorbell for assistance. The door was unlocked because of the segment being filmed at the time.
One of owners, Shelton Howard, was outside in front of the club discussing business with the camera crew who had only been on location for about 15 minutes when Wheat Ridge police officers arrived on scene. Howard greeted the officers and politely asked them not to enter the club before showing a warrant. Wheat Ridge police ignored the request and proceeded to enter the club claiming they were responding to a call related to the building being over its legal occupancy limit of 12 people. Nearly 10 officers participated in the surprise police action, which appeared like a softer raid without SWAT gear and tactics.
Howard further noted that the neighbor on the opposite adjacent property behind the club’s outdoor area was the party who’s complaint was the stated reason for police responding to the location. As the action progressed, Wheat Ridge PD attempted to elicit incriminating statements from the club members by inquiring as to the owners of the multiple cannabis rigs in plain view. Officers eventually settled on issuing citations for the club related to occupancy and an unapproved structure in the outdoor area which Howard described as a small extension to the back porch awning. Howard again asked the officers to step outside as they had unlawfully entered in his opinion.
The first video shows officers exiting the club at this point.
Once outside again, the officers issued a citation to one member for smoking a cigarette, in violation of ordinances to prevent indoor smoking in commercial businesses open to the public. Witnesses stated the man was outside at the time and officers made him walk over to the front of the building to put the cigarette out before ticketing him.
Wheat Ridge police also attempted to cite the same member’s girlfriend for smoking a cigarette as well. Police were unable to issue the citation because she is legally hearing impaired and required an interpreter to complete the process. Wheat Ridge officers waited for about an hour for an interpreter to respond but declined to continue after the woman complained about the waiting time.
The videos of the incident were posted by a well known professional in the local cannabis industry, AJ Hashman, who frequents the lounge. The two videos corroborate the various details as well as the curious timing of the police arrival.
The club has been temporarily shut down as a result of the citations in combination with pending violations for operating a “marijuana club” unlawfully. Howard characterized the ongoing attempts to shut the club down as harassment, mainly from the adjacent home owner and police following up on the litany of complaints which he described as frivolous. Many of the regular members have described local police efforts as a “waste of resources” which could better serve the community by being focused on real crimes.
Three Kings has been a target for police activity as it is a consistent gathering spot for Colorado’s most active cannabis industry professionals, many of whom were in the club at the time, including the state’s most prominent cannabis activist attorney Robert Corry, Jr.
Howard noted that the club has been accepting donations for a legal defense fund and vows to re-open after the 30 day closure. He stated “they’re going to do anything they can to stop us from operating peacefully” as he insisted that the club was run responsibly and according to the laws of the State of Colorado.
ABC7 Denver described the previous legal troubles at length.
WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. – The owners of a Wheat Ridge head shop who were cited for operating an illegal marijuana club, pleaded not guilty in municipal court Monday, and then minutes later withdrew their pleas and asked that their arraignments be continued.
Bryant Bonet and Shelton Howard, owners of Three Kings Dab Supply at 12390 West 44th Avenue, received a Cease and Desist letter from the City of Wheat Ridge ordering them to stop all unlicensed activity: sales, use and consumption of marijuana and marijuana products, tattoo or body art services.
The letter states that Three Kings Dab Supply was found to:
Openly and widely advertise on-site consumption of marijuana and hashish on Craigslist.
Advertise a hashish smoking event scheduled for July 10th on Facebook.
Have posted pictures on Instagram of on-site consumption while advertising a “fastest gram challenge” with product supplied by Three Kings.
Have posted a YouTube video of a “fasted gram competition” winner from an event at Three Kings on June 27th.
Be widely viewed on the internet as a place where marijuana and hashish are consumed.
Three Kings does not have a Wheat Ridge retail or medical marijuana license.
Wheat Ridge municipal code states that “No person shall operate a retail marijuana establishment within the city without a valid and appropriate license to operate such establishment issued by the state licensing authority in accordance with the provisions of the Colorado Retail Marijuana Code.”
In addition, the code states that “No marijuana clubs may operate or obtain a business license to operate within the city.”
Three Kings’ Defense Attorney Matt Buck told 7NEWS that his clients “vehemently deny” operating an illegal marijuana club.
“It’s a social club,” Buck said, “where people happen to partake in the use of marijuana, which is totally legal.”
Buck said that after discussing the “not guilty” plea with the City Attorney, they talked about “ways we could fix the problem, which is to obtain a legal business license to all Three Kings to operate a ‘social club’ in the same location that they’re operating the head shop.”
When asked if the city of Wheat Ridge had such a license, Buck replied, “Well, they don’t have a marijuana club license, but we’re not trying to obtain that. But they do have a social club license in the same way that the Elks Club would obtain a license. We’re going to operate something just akin to an Elks Club, which is a little more marijuana friendly.”
When reminded that city code doesn’t allow on-site consumption, Buck said, “This will be a business that’s operating at the same location, which is separate from the head shop which is being operated in the front. So it will be as if there are two businesses operating at one address.”
Buck said that if Three Kings can obtain a social license, he expects the owners will pay a small fine and move on with their lives.
Police began investigating the head shop after receiving complaints from neighbors.
One neighbor told 7NEWS that the parking lot gets packed with people who show up to smoke in the back yard behind the head shop.
That neighbor had photographed copies of the postings from Craigslist and Facebook.
He said the owners are “operating Three Kings as a lounge and that’s illegal.”
The Municipal Judge said he wants to see the owners in 30 days to determine if they’ve made headway getting the case resolved with the city.