Boulder County Judge Noel Blum ruled that prosecutors have not shown probable cause to pursue charges of aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery against Justin St. John, 29; David Henderson, 40; and Lamare McGee, 22.
The judge ruled that there was no evidence McGee used his hands as deadly weapons when, police say, he grabbed New Options Wellness employee Carisa Rhodes by the wrists to restrain her as he and a fourth suspect -- Walter Carter, 21 -- stole pot, cash and surveillance equipment from the facility.
Carter waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday.
Aggravated robbery charges can bring a prison sentence of eight to 24 years.
Prosecutor Anne Marie Pignatiello argued that Rhodes was "shaking uncontrollably" after the incident and couldn't even drink from a cup without spilling.
"She did not see a gun or knife, but the threats that were made to her, coupled with the grabbing of the hands, would lead a reasonable person to believe that those hands would be used to cause her serious bodily injury," Pignatiello said.
But McGee's attorney, Julia Lee, said her client never made fists with his hands, nor did he put them around Rhodes' neck in a manner to hurt her.
The judge let other felony charges stand, including robbery and second-degree burglary.
McGee and Carter each face an additional charge of second-degree kidnapping because, police say, they were the ones who went into New Options posing as medical marijuana customers before forcing their way into the back of the dispensary.
Thursday's preliminary hearing consisted of testimony from two Boulder police detectives.
Detective Jeremy Frenzen said St. John told his girlfriend, "We robbed a weed bank," in a recorded jailhouse phone conversation.
Frenzen told the court that a fifth, unidentified man -- whom the others met at Daddy Bruce's Bar-B-Que restaurant in Boulder -- gave St. John forged paperwork designed to allow him to buy marijuana at New Options.
"He knew it to be illegitimate paperwork," Frenzen said of St. John.
After St. John scoped out the facility, McGee and Carter entered and robbed it, Frenzen said, taking off with pot, cash and equipment and jumping into a black Escalade that Henderson was driving.
The four men were stopped by police on U.S. 36 a little while later, Frenzen said, and Rhodes identified Carter and McGee as they stood on the side of the highway.
Boulder police Detective Ruth Christopher provided the court with her memory of a conversation she had with Rhodes, in which the medical marijuana employee said McGee grabbed her wrists after she told him and Carter that she couldn't sell them any pot without a proper ID card.
Rhodes said McGee led her by her wrists to the "green room," where the pot was kept, according to Christopher.
As she protested, Rhodes said McGee told her to shut up or he would hurt her.
"How can I shut up, how can I be quiet when you're doing this to me?" Rhodes reported telling McGee in an interview with the detective.
Christopher testified that Rhodes told her she was forced into a back room, where McGee and Carter emptied out two Rubbermaid tubs and filled them with marijuana.
Police found 26 pint jars with marijuana, 72 sample packs of the drug, canisters of hashish, cannibis pills, pipes, security system components and $1,128 in cash in the Escalade, she said.
Christopher testified that Rhodes' keys and purse were also found in the SUV.
McGee told the detective that Henderson set up the entire venture by telling the others that he had a "work opportunity" in Boulder for them. At the barbecue restaurant, it became clear to McGee the plan included ripping off New Options, Christopher said.
An arraignment will be held for McGee, St. John and Henderson on Sept. 11. Carter is scheduled to enter a plea in the case Sept. 25.
McGee and St. John are free on bond, while Carter and Henderson are still in custody.