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Dab Lounge cannabis club fights criminal charges 

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click to enlarge Dab Lounge owner Dan Goodman says police confiscated a glass bong his friend made to look like his dog, Dabs. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Dab Lounge owner Dan Goodman says police confiscated a glass bong his friend made to look like his dog, Dabs.
 Back when Colorado Springs City Council banned cannabis clubs in 2016 — and required their owners to apply for licenses — Dan Goodman, owner of the Dab Lounge, declined.

“The very first sentence of [the marijuana consumption club license] was that you must close your doors in eight years,” Goodman says. “So that was a non-option, getting that license.”

Indeed, the city’s license requires the clubs, which allow patrons to consume cannabis on their premises, to stop operating by March 22, 2024. Currently, just two businesses — Studio A64 and the Speakeasy Lounge and Cannabis Club — are licensed by the city.

“That’s not a license,” Goodman argues. “That’s a essentially a fucking death sentence right there.”

But despite receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the city in September of 2016, and having its facilities raided multiple times by law enforcement officers, the Dab Lounge kept operating.

And the business is now in a heap of trouble, as are Goodman and his general manager, Ben Verbeck.

Both Goodman and Verbeck were arrested at the Dab Lounge’s current location near Airport Road and Circle Drive on Aug. 9. They face charges in a 28-count grand jury indictment accusing Goodman, Verbeck, the Dab Lounge and seven other defendants of participating in a “criminal enterprise which endeavored to illegally distribute marijuana through several retail storefronts” — basically, a drug-trafficking organization.

Their first court date is Sept. 26.

Goodman and Verbeck stand by their business. They say the cannabis-friendly space (which also hosts regular comedy shows) offers a healthy alternative to hard drugs and drinking for a tight-knit community.

“We keep people off the streets, you know,” Verbeck says. “We see a lot of vets suffering with PTSD and high anxiety, and we offer them a safe, comfortable place to relax and use cannabis. And these are people who don’t want to be going out to bars and drinking. This is their preferred method of relaxing, and we stand by the fact that we’re offering a needed service in this area.”

click to enlarge General manager Ben Verbeck, part of the comedy collective You Got it Dude!, hosts weekly open mic nights at the Dab Lounge. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • General manager Ben Verbeck, part of the comedy collective You Got it Dude!, hosts weekly open mic nights at the Dab Lounge.

Goodman and Verbeck
are charged with several violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, including racketeering and conspiracy; possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture or distribute; marijuana extraction (to make concentrate); money laundering; and tax evasion.

The charges stem from an investigation spanning more than three years, led by the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Metro Vice, Narcotics & Intelligence Unit. Court documents describe multiple occasions when undercover officers allegedly found evidence that the Dab Lounge (along with other businesses tied to Goodman) was purchasing medical marijuana products, as well as products from illegal growers. Police say they sold the products to the lounge’s customers via an “imaginary points” system and membership fees.

Meanwhile, the indictment says, they avoided paying tens of thousands of dollars in state sales taxes and wage taxes for employees they called “volunteers.”

The indictment lists six other people described as being currently or formerly associated with Goodman’s cannabis clubs, and as belonging to the same criminal enterprise. It also names DL Heady’s, a now-closed cannabis club formerly owned by Goodman, as a defendant.

Verbeck says it’s been years since he’s had contact with some of the people listed in the indictment.

Moreover, he and Goodman say the indictment connects them to illegal activity far beyond what went on at the Dab Lounge.

Specifically, there’s Pur Farm Extracts. According to the indictment, that business was a supplier to the Dab Lounge. El Paso County SWAT deputies raided a property in Yoder tied to Pur Farm Extracts’ operators, defendants Jason Weiczorek and Chandler Knickerbocker, in 2017. The deputies seized 102 marijuana plants, 20 pounds of refined marijuana and a handgun, along with equipment to extract marijuana concentrate.

But tying Pur Farm Extracts to the Dab Lounge as part of the same illegal enterprise — which the indictment does — is misleading, Goodman says.

“Those growers in Yoder ... have nothing to do with me,” he argues. “I never financed their grow. I never bought any of their grow — their product was garbage. They hung out here. They tried to peddle their shit in here, and we eventually had to ban them for it.”

Meanwhile, he says, the periodic raids of his businesses didn’t result in legal action until now.

“Let’s say you’re the police and you know somebody who’s doing something wrong,” Goodman posits. “Hypothetically speaking, they’re selling heroin out of their house. The police don’t just go there, take the heroin and leave. They go there, they take the heroin, and then they arrest them for having heroin.

“They don’t just leave, come back six months later, and do it again ... and then go, ‘Well, they’ve been doing it for four years, it’s racketeering.’ That’s stupid,” he says. “It’s like they fabricated a case.”
As for whether and how the club supplies cannabis to its customers, Goodman is vague.

While they don’t sell the product, he says, “we make sure people are safely taken care of.”

The indictment, however, lists instances in which undercover officers were able to buy cannabis products from the Dab Lounge.

Some describe a “credits” system — a customer could buy 13 credits for $13, for example, and use those credits to purchase cannabis. The customer would, in some instances, have to also purchase a $5 membership fee.

In a February interview with a Dab Lounge “volunteer” who was paid in tips, detectives were told the business sold about 2 ounces of flower and between ¼ and ½ pound of concentrate every day through a credits system.

Verbeck declined to comment on those details from the indictment. However, he says the business would “absolutely” apply for a license if offered the chance.

“We would love to be able to work with the city and pay taxes and become a legitimate entity in this place,” he says. “... I feel like the powers that be kind of think that cannabis tarnishes the reputation of this city. But there are so many more legitimate problems that the city is facing.”

A state bill passed earlier this year allows local jurisdictions to license and regulate businesses where customers can both consume cannabis on premises and buy limited amounts of cannabis products.

However, Mayor John Suthers told the Colorado Springs Business Journal in May that he doubted the bill would change anything for cannabis clubs in the Springs.

“It would take a dramatic change of direction by the Council to [issue more licenses],” Suthers said at the time. “Unless the Council decides to do a complete about-face and all of a sudden embrace consumption clubs, [the bill] should not have any impact.”

Given that it’s legal for anyone over 21 to consume cannabis in Colorado Springs, Verbeck says businesses like the Dab Lounge serve an important purpose. Many of his customers don’t like to smoke in front of their kids at home, or — like longtime regular Amanda Havens — they can’t smoke at all in their residences.

“A lot of us are in apartments or leases that say ‘no cannabis,’” Havens says. She’s been coming to the Dab Lounge since before it moved to the Airport Road location this spring and calls the other regulars her “extended family.”

“It’s definitely a second home,” she says.

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