The changes to Denver Kush Club since our first visit in May 2010 haven't been drastic, but the transition from stoner den with a thrown-together lounge and dispensary to a slick storefront with memorable herb made for a great second first impression.
2615 Welton Street 303-736-6550 www.denverkushclub.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Online menu: Yes. Other types of medicine: Hash, BHO, edibles. Handicap-accessible?: Yes.
Not everything has changed. You still walk through a cinderblock-walled, penitentiary-esque locked security room at the front, but being safe is better than being sorry, and I'm not the one sitting behind the bulletproof window looking out every day. After showing my ID and red card, the guy behind the counter buzzed me through to the patient waiting room. (Side note: Don't forget to feed your meter. The meter maids are ruthless on Welton.)
Inside, though, things have matured. Gone is the seating area that at one time the owners had hoped would turn into an Amsterdam-style ganja lounge. Instead, stacks of Denver Kush Club shirts and hoodies were displayed in the middle of the room, and a glass pyramid of assorted custom baseball caps and Air Jordan sneakers were highlighted in a glass pyramid along the back wall. Jazzy beats thumped through the lobby and bud bar in the back; I could hear the customer ahead of me laughing back there with his budtender, while a young guy named Lee in skinny jeans, a flat-brimmed cap and a lip ring copied my paperwork and put me into the shop's computer system.
While the artwork at most dispensaries is something to overlook, the awesome urban art on the walls here is worth checking out. The red walls are decked out with paintings and murals from Denver artist Michael Ortiz, who blends amazing abstract color work with Colorado-themed stencils and tag writing.
It's probably not a place for your hip-hop-hating dad with a red card, but it feels perfectly at home in the heart of a diverse neighborhood populated by everyone from black families who have been in the area for generations to hippies and, lately, twenty-something hipsters and musicians.
Lee was friendly and warned me up-front about the low stock in back. He said the place had been hit hard over the weekend and that they were down to the bottom of the jars, but that almost everything had also been lowered to the $25-per-eighth range. I have actually found some pretty good herb at that price recently, so I wasn't too discouraged. On the way tot he back, he pointed out that Denver Kush is also in the personal vaporizer business, selling the Kryptonite personal vaporizer.
Like the Omicron (read more in our product-review blog, Stoner MacGyver), the DKC's version of the vaporizer pen works on cartridges filled with extracts of your choice, either by the shop or at home. Lee gave the thing a rousing review, saying it pulls better than a Volcano vaporizer and is the first vape he's really been able to enjoy using. Fans of discreet vaping might be interested; the filled cartridges sell for about $10 at DKC.
In the back bud room, herb is divided between two glass counters, with a cash register in the middle to separate things. The day I was in, herb grown at Denver Kush Club was on the right side and herb bought from other shops was on the left, making it convenient for people like me who want to see what the shop really has to offer. A small Plexiglas display case full of concentrates was on top of the counter as well, easing the selection process.
The only top-shelf buds still available was a full jar of $40 Skywalker OG that I checked out first. It was very well done, with a deep, earthy kush smell, but my eyes kept drifting to the lower-priced buds. Lee hadn't lied: The shop was definitely down to the ends of the inventory. Dozens of empty, crystal-coated glass jars were stacked in the back corner. And at the counter, no more than six housegrown strains were down to mostly larfy leftovers.
At first this seemed somewhat disappointing, but once I started popping lids, I saw the silver lining. Strains like the Chemdawg and Bruce Banner that I brought home were only lacking in size. Still coated in crystals with a distinct and pronounced smell out of both jars, those strains and others were well-grown flowers. Also notable was the outdoor Elephant cut that had a sugary-sweet smell, and a skunky-smelling and orange-haired Island Sweet Skunk. Everything is grown in coco fiber mix with mostly organic nutes.
Aside from the Skywalker, the only other purely Kush strains on the shelf looked good and were priced appropriately at up to about $35 an eighth. Although there was still plenty of out-of-shop herb, I was more interested in puffing on what Denver Kush Club grows in its garden.
When I called later, staff members were mortified to learn when I had been in; they assured me that the shelves haven't looked that low in a long time, and said they have been hit with a lot of new patients lately. You can't knock a place for selling good herb and being successful, though, and based on what I saw, I'll definitely be back when the fresh harvest is in later this week and next.
Chemdawg - $25/eighth Though pickings were slim on my visit, I probably would have gone home with this undeniably sweet and earthy-smelling Chemdawg cut in any case. It was bright green, with a dusty coating of trichomes on the dried buds that dropped like tiny snowflakes to the top of the glass countertop as the budtender rolled out a nug and held it in his fingertips for me to examine. Though I didn't get to inspect any big nuggets, the two-grams-plus of a half-eighth that I got was enough to get an idea of how well done the cut was. Round, fat calyxes and cupped sugar leaves that made me do a double take to check for fat seeds beneath, but nothing but trichomes fell out. Rolling it up in my palm to break up the nug for a spliff left my hand sticky and stinky for the rest of the evening. The herb burned clean, though it was understandably somewhat dry and quick to ash, since it had been taken out of the bottom of the stock jar. Usually an uplifting, energetic and munchies-producing strain regardless of what phenotype, this one packed a punch, with small bowls doing me just right before meals and giving me a coffee-like pep afterward. It's very well priced and very well grown as a $40 eighth, but especially welcome moved to $25 near the end of the jar.
Bruce Banner - $25/eighth Wrecked. That was my first thought after a few pulls from a vaporizer packed with this delicious sample. Appropriately named after the calmer side of the Incredible Hulk, I originally found this strain only at one other of our first-reviewed shops, Delta 9 Caregivers on Broadway. It has since found its way out to a lot of other growers and shops over the last few years, and thankfully, it ended up at Denver Kush Club. This was not the best sample and clearly from the bottom of the jar; still, these wispy ends were light years better done than crap selling at discount shops for the same $25 price. It also made me want to come back and get first pick of the herb when it's fresh out of curing next round. Though it's a sativa-dominant cross of Strawberry Diesel and OG Kush, I've always found it to be a mental and physical stress-destroyer with an amazingly mentholated Kush aftertaste to zone out and enjoy.
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Lamb's Breath BHO - $30/gram I'm not a Rasta (clearly), but I have a deep love for all things given to us by Jah warriors in the ganja fields of Jamaica, most important this sativa strain and its eye-opening, amazing island sativa. Sure, the name gets tossed around a lot on strains in Jamaica and everywhere else, but this wax was as close to the Red Bull-like sativa rush of the strain as you could want without freaking out, mon. A gram has proven to be a lot to puff, as only small dabs on top of a bowl are needed to either balance out the mellow mood of the Bruce Banner or add a bit of THC to the already powerful Chemdawg. Dropping small chunks on a titanium nail and dome were almost too much to handle after a three-week hiatus from concentrates this past month. Good to see butane concentrates priced at the $30 mark as well.
William Breathes is the pen name of Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic. Read more of his reviews in our pot blog, Mile Highs and Lows, and keep up with all your marijuana news over at The Latest Word.