I still grin like a kid in Wonkaland when I lay eyes on a bud bar. Yet, as dispensaries go, there are the good, the bad, and every shade of green in between. There are those that sell amateurish product resembling something grown in your college roommate’s closet, and others whose nugs assuredly need to be in a hall of fame. It’s an adventure, for sure. As 303’s MMJ dispensary blogger, I’ll be seeking out and reporting on the best our city has to offer. I hope to become a trusted source in separating the kind from the shake. –CC
Whether through over-the-top T&A-filled appeals, employing some clown to dance and twirl a sign on a street corner, or even touting compassionate care principles, Colorado dispensaries are engaged in a battle royale to set themselves apart from the competition. It’s a fierce market where many are vying for a piece of the ganja pie … which will seemingly be won by whomever can shout the loudest and be most visible, right?
The first thing I noticed about Highland Health is the fact that I didn’t notice it. There is no sign out front and the seemingly-requisite Hideously Painful Dispensary Lime Green paint job is MIA. True, for some businesses, this level of Secret Squirrel incognito play would be marketing suicide. But the fact that Highland Health is discreetly hidden away on the fourth floor of an office complex totally works for them. See, although public attitude towards marijuana is rapidly evolving, there are still certain stigmas that are associated with medicating, especially in some professional circles. In other words, there are many people in this world who might not want to risk announcing their red-card holding status to the world by pulling up at a dispensary. At least that’s what Highland Health is counting on, and, so far, it’s working well for them.
The location is easily accessible – right off I-25 and Speer in a building which, among other businesses, also houses the offices of District 1 City Councilwoman Paula Sandoval. It’s a non-descript multi-storied office building like countless others, likely filled with cubicles and red Swingline staplers. And this, my friends, is where the genius lies. Anyone can join the stream of professionally-dressed folks entering and exiting the building on a daily basis. No one needs to know your business is in Suite 420.
Highland Health’s cheerfully-decorated front room has several beautiful paper lamps that make the space feel slightly exotic, yet still homey. The waiting area is fairly small, which makes the back area seem all the more cavernous in comparison. In fact, when first entering the back, the curved glass cases filled with bud, hash, edibles and other goodies are almost overlooked … almost. Interesting artwork (including a must-see wood-burned skateboard piece) hangs on the mural-covered walls, adding a bit of hip art gallery flavor to the space. The giant loft – filled with the sweet, sweet sounds of Led Zeppelin on my visit – comes complete with track lighting, hardwood floors, seating areas with plush chairs, instruments and amps and an unparalleled view of the city. Classy, understated and slightly bohemian, it’s quite comfortable and a welcoming space catering to anyone who wants a little class with their smoke. And, while I tend to not play the female card often, I have to say my sister medicaters will appreciate the clean, safe and gorgeous surroundings.
Like many old school medicine users, most of what I grew up smoking was grown in a friend’s closet or back yard, well before hydroponics became super-popular and accessible. I was surprised to find out Highland Health keeps it retro like this, relying on good ol’ organic soil-grown plants to stock their shelves. There is much debate out there on what method of growing is superior, but there is little argument that soil-grown marijuana has the potential to produce a more robust flavored bud with more pronounced olfactory notes. What initially attracted me to Highland was the 3rd place showing of two of their strains – Banana Kush and Chem Dawg – at the High Times Medical Cannabis Cup this spring. What intrigued me once I was at the dispensary, however, was their ever-growing House Strain Menu of unique treats their growers have spent hours perfecting. Highland’s hashes are all water-based, with typical test results from Full Spectrum at upwards of 62% active cannabinoids.
I was eager to get acquainted with Highlands’ soil-grown organic goodies. I picked out a few old favorites and a few house strains and was on my way.
Ummm, did I do that?
I doubt anyone imagined the high-water pants wearin’ nerd known as Steve Urkle would ever inspire a marijuana strain, but stranger things have happened. This delicious strain, known as Querkle, is a house-made cross of Purple Urkle and Space Queen. This fluffy bud with its dense carpet of ginger hairs was covered with so many crystals it looked like it had been dipped in powdered sugar. Once broken, it revealed a gorgeous collage of colors ranging from lime to kelly green. It had an interesting smell of citrus and berry, perhaps tangerine and raspberry? And a hint of light pine. The robust smoke was soft, yet also carried with it a (dare I say it?) slight hint of bacon. I’d live on bacon if I could. So, of course, I almost didn’t want to exhale. But I did, and I settled into a crippling high that left me spaced out and grinning. I can see this one being amazing for anyone with pain and stomach issues – I think I ate every bit of food in the house … after I was able to get up off the couch, of course. Approach with caution, my friends.
Don’t doubt my commitment to this Sparkle Motion
I’ve seen many a Super Silver Haze in my time, but never one like this. Seriously, kids, this bud glistened like Tinkerbell had a field day sprinkling pixie dust in every last little crevice. Sparkly with crystals to the point of ridiculousness, this lovely bud had the typical SSH odor of what I can best describe as parmesan cheese and soft pine, with perhaps a hint of parsley or spearmint – in other words, very herbaceous and savory. It was a little on the dry side, but I like rolling joints so that’s not a big deal to me. The taste was surprisingly lemony and sweet, and the smoke was very hot, yet almost creamy. A real cougher, but delish nonetheless, resulting in a super energetic full-body stone that had me contemplating tough issues like world peace, if Greedo or Han shot first, and why anyone gives a flying fuck about Kim Kardashian’s ass. Anyway …
Each strain at Highland has its own specific label. So this one, the S.S.O.G (Super Silver Haze x O.G. Kush), which the label touts as “stronger than Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk combined,” caught my eye. We’ve already discussed my nerdiness (see “Last Survivor of the Nostromo…”), so quit judging, kids. All that said, this House Strain is one intense looking mofo. Hairier than a potential lovechild of Beast and Wolverine, this spongy dense little curly-leafed bud packs a whallop. Smells range from light citrus to a stronger ammonia, and the smoke is hot, thick and burns your throat with a slight kerosene aftertaste that dissolves quickly. One hit will dent your head in faster than – and you know I have to go there – a speeding bullet.
Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?
I don’t tend to be a hash user, but something about Highland’s Lavender Haze hash made me pause and take notice. Perhaps it’s the distinctive lavender scent –one of my favorites – or perhaps it’s the purity of their process which keeps it completely organic and natural, but I had to try it. The consistency made me quite skeptical when I broke off a piece – it broke like powder, almost like pressed keef. However, it was a sweet smoke that tasted exactly as high-quality hash should taste. This is top shelf stuff you’d want to be selfish with. Perhaps share with your bros. Or not. But if you need a treat after a long day, our lady Lavender is your gal.
Bottom line: Highland definitely caters to the crowd who wants to fly under the radar. That said, don’t think this is an exclusive club – any and all patients are welcome here, and the friendly, knowledgeable staff is available to consult and answer just about any question thrown their way. Highland’s soil-grown product is definitely high on the flava-meter, yet be warned that with that extra flavor sometimes comes some hotter, thicker smoke than you might be used to. Everything I saw and sampled was cured well, and trimmed excellently. All loose bud comes packaged in heat-sealed bags that keep smell down and protect you from having the liability of open medicine in your car, however the pleats in the bottom of the bags trapped some shake and stripped the bud of some of its crystals. Still, this is some of the most crystalline and premium weed I’ve seen in a long time. As someone who is not getting any younger, I tend to take more note of what I’m putting in my body, and I have a lot of respect for the organic aspect of Highland’s product. Be sure to take a moment to check out all the clever, sometimes hilarious, custom designed strain labels.
Highland Health Medical Dispensary and Wellness Center
Open 7 days a week 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
2727 Bryant Street, Suite 420, Denver, CO 80211 / 303 455-0810
Bud: $30-40 eighth
Hash: $25-160, $10 samplers
Edibles: various prices. Also, note that HH will be soon opening a made-to-order edibles kitchen. Exciting!
Tincture: $20 or 2/$35
Pre-rolls: $7-10, each about a gram, all top shelf
Events: July 2 – Patient Appreciation Party. Mobile Docs (MDARX) will be onsite for medical visits, and there will be music, food and specials running all day.