If you are a consumer of cannabis and find yourself in Colorado for a ski vacation, dispensary hopping can feel daunting. In part 1 of this blog, I detailed the laws and rules associated with purchasing pot at Colorado dispensaries. A secondary but equally important follow-up analysis necessarily centers on the differences between cannabis stores. Is there a Zagat Survey that collects and correlates the ratings of dispensaries by consumers for pot? Not yet, but my must-read guide on Where To Shop comes in handy.
This past November, I traveled to Denver to research my book on cannabis and its role as a developing wedge issue in American politics. Over a period of three days, I visited dozens of dispensaries in the Denver area, getting a sense of their respective ethos, objectives, and sales processes.
Do not expect to find cannabis sold in dark and smelly de facto stores where merchants are glorified drug dealers and surfer ski bums. Nearly all brick-and-mortar thresholds I crossed were comfortable, friendly, clean, and professional. I attributed storeowner’s cannabis intelligentsia to the passion of the participants, as well as the rigorous procedural hurdles erected for those who wish to open such businesses. All the people I met had invested both their time and money, and were in it to win it. (Opening a cannabis dispensary is expensive, legally demanding, and requires more than a mere affection for getting high on one’s own supply.)
Cannabis dispensaries are not altogether different from the finest cheese shops, wine stores, and European chocolatiers, which offer entry-level products (Big Mac) to sophisticated ones (Kobe beef harvested in Hyogo prefecture in Japan). Without further adieu, the list below represents some of my favorite finds culled from meeting movers and shakers in the Denver cannabis community. (I saved the best one for last.)
Best No-Frills Dispensary: Denver Relief www.Denverrelief.com 1 Broadway St. A150, Denver, CO 80203 (303) 420-6337
Denver Relief offers multiple levels of medical and recreational marijuana products at competitive prices. They have a series of “top shelf” expensive choices, and the smaller, more intimate layout of the shop made for a relaxing, unhurried experience. Denver Relief has an informative website, making it the best virtual experience of this group.
Best Selection: Green Solutions www.tgscolorado.com Multiple locations, including 4400 Grape St., Denver, CO 80216 (303) 990-9723
I visited Green Solutions because they are one of the larger, more commercialized dispensaries in Colorado. The variety, quality, and passion of sales associates mirror that of the revered Apple Store employee (blue t-shirt not included). Employees know the lay of the land and can satisfy everyone from beginners to connoisseurs. Their inventory includes award-winning flowers and the broadest selection of plants, extracts, concentrates, and edibles at fair prices. Green Solutions has one location that is open until 10 p.m., while almost all dispensaries in Denver close by 7 p.m.
Best Edibles and Topicals: Native Roots Apothecary http://www.nativeroots303.com Multiple locations, including1555 Champa St., Denver, CO 80202 (303) 623-1900
They carry the latest and greatest cannabis products, including cough syrups, candies, cookies, and even a new cannabis-infused “personal lubricant” for ladies called Foria, which I’m told is flying off the shelves. While Native Roots had a more limited plant selection than its competitors, their staff’s far-reaching knowledge was striking. The store was clean and sleek with a modern edge. (Design and décor matters in this evolutionary field of cannabis dispensaries because you want people to feel safe and invited.) They also provide a unique shopping area exclusively for Colorado residents who hold a medical marijuana card, but that section was inaccessible to me, a non-Colorado resident.
Best of the Best: L’Eagle www.leagledenver.com 380 Quivas St., Denver, CO 80223 (303) 825-0497
If you can only visit one dispensary in Denver, it should be L’Eagle. “L’Eagle Services offers discerning clientele top-quality natural products, unparalleled personal service, therapeutic knowledge, and exceptional industry compliance,” notes the company’s website. I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. L’Eagle is to cannabis what Napa Valley is to Cabernet Sauvignon. L’Eagle takes it up three notches in quality and strength, offering not just painstakingly perfected and award-winning strains but an innovative cannabis experience. For example, you can try their Aged Golden Goat, a strain harvested in the prior year and held in a cellar environment at 61 degrees to permit the full development of the active compounds. The pièce de résistanceis their world-class hashish, which is unlike anything I have observed in California or Holland. The couple that owns the place is devoted to this plant and nothing indicated prior to my visit how five-star this place really was. (I only discovered it among the sea of dispensaries in Denver because the concierge at my hotel recommended it.)