As Colorado's medical-marijuana industry grows, marijuana dispensaries of all types and sizes are proliferating around the state. Some resemble swanky bars or sterile dentist offices; others feel like a dope dealer's college dorm room. To help keep them all straight, Westword will be offering a no-holds-barred look at what goes on behind these unusual operations' locked doors in "Mile Highs and Lows," a regular online review of dispensaries around the metro area and beyond. (You can also search our directory of dispensaries for one near you.)
This week, The Wildflower Seed reviews Fresh Baked Dispensary :
Fresh Baked Dispensary 2539 Pearl Street, Boulder 303-440-9393 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hours of operation: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Owner: Would like remain anonymous. Owner's statement: "Myself, I don't like to smoke. We emphasize edibles." Opened: February 19, 2010. Raw marijuana price range: 1 gram, $12 to $16; eighths average $45 and max out at $50. Other types of medicine: Tinctures, oils, salves and a large selection of edibles. Patient services and amenities: ADA-accessible, delivery for qualified patients.
Our take: I grew up Irish Catholic in a neighborhood peppered with Philippine and Korean families, and as kids, our play had a communal, revolving-door policy. Sharing my Cabbage Patch Kids, G.I. Joes and peanut-butter sandwiches, I picked up bits of their cultures along the way. As a result, I still take my shoes off at the front door and consider fish-head soup and rice a breakfast food.
So I felt right at home at Fresh Baked Dispensary, a new, edible-focused shop in Boulder run by four friends who went to high school together in the town. "We're Asian," says one, who asks that the owners remain anonymous. "He's Chinese, I'm Korean; we're all like brothers." And they're all about the sweet, sweet chronic. Not heavy smokers themselves, they figured they would focus on edible ways to deliver marijuana medication. "We're all about natural herbs, natural medicine, teas, incense," says the co-owner. "I think patients paying more than $15 to $16 a gram -- I think that's almost outrageous. The patients that we've seen with cancer, MS, glaucoma, who actually need pain relief, can't afford this."
Instead, he says, Fresh Baked provides great-tasting organic meds at a good price with an emphasis on functionality, "for professional people who have jobs, kids, things to do during the day."
When I checked out the dispensary, I was immediately reassured that the herb was organic by the earthy scent emanating from every one of the 23 jars on the counter, split nearly equally between indica and sativa strains; Fresh Baked also carries a few nice hybrids. The S.A.G.E. smelled top-notch, but only a few fragrant crumbs were left. A bargain shopper, I went for the herb on special: a $13 gram of organic AK. It was sweet, sticky and well-cured with a resinous scent; I couldn't resist putting a little in my mouth and chewing. It tasted like lettuce, and nicely numbed the roof of my mouth.
But I was really there for the edibles, so I picked up a red velvet cake, chocolate cake and confetti cake, as well as a fabulous chocolate croissant. As a first-time client, I got BOGO and only had to pay for half the items. Boo-yah! The cakes were more like cupcakes, but I enjoyed the variety -- and the croissant was divine.
In an effort to cut out the middleman and control costs, Fresh Baked is hoping to open a commercial kitchen at the dispensary. But the rules for such facilities fall in a vast, regulatory wasteland, where legality becomes subjective and patients can get lost in the semantics of forging new legal ground. Who knew a little ol' pot brownie could get so complex?
But complex it is. Edibles? "That's a really challenging one," says Lane Drager, coordinator for the Food Safety Program at the Boulder County Health Department.
The biggest hurdle: The Food and Drug Administration still considers marijuana illegal. "The FDA regulates approved drugs and food," Drager continues. "Because marijuana is outlawed federally, it is not, and cannot be, considered approved. It is illicit, and once food becomes crossed with marijuana, the FDA considers it 'adulterated,' and it cannot be sold. It is not approved for human consumption."
The owners of Fresh Baked have their own take. "That's a biased answer," one says. "This whole industry is not cleared up. The whole industry is based on criminal law, not civil law."
But Drager says his agency's hands are essentially tied, and he's not about to challenge the feds on this one -- especially because, in many ways, he agrees with them. "This is not approved," he continues. "How do you safely put marijuana in food? The feds say you can't do it safely. From our standpoint, we agree. There is not a safe way to do it."
Drager acknowledges that this makes things awkward for both producers of medicated edible products and their patients. "A lot of people want to do it as safely as they can, and we're kind of stuck," he says. "Obviously, you want to reduce smoking. We'd love to be able to give them guidance. It's really challenging."
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Some guidance may soon be coming from the legislature. House Bill 1284, which passed committee on March 22, currently states that "the bill provides an exception to the adulterated food offenses for medical marijuana centers that manufacture or sell food that contains medical marijuana if the food is labeled as containing medical marijuana and the label specifies the amount of medical marijuana." In plain language, Drager says, if passed, this measure will require medicinal kitchens to follow food-safety regulations, but they will still not be licensed by the state as "commercial kitchens."
In the meantime, Fresh Baked will celebrate its grand opening from March 28 to April 3, as students roll back from spring break. On hand will be cakes, candy, brownies, ice cream, lemon cups and all sorts of yummy, edible MMJ products, many of which the dispensary bakes itself, most for a very palatable $4 per edible.
The Wildflower Seed and William Breathes are the pot pen names of our two alternating medical marijuana dispensary reviewers. Read their bios here.