Medical marijuana dispensary re-review: Verde Wellness Center in Denver

I flew back to Denver from a holiday trip on New Year's Day. And while my trip was great, I couldn't stop thinking about how I'd left myself absolutely no marijuana back at the house. With little time to spare, I made my way into one of the few shops open in Denver, Verde, and found the best herb I've discovered this year — all 72 hours of it.

Verde Wellness Center

5101 East Colfax Avenue Denver, CO 80220 303-474-4489

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays. Raw marijuana price range (members): $10/gram, $225/ounce Raw marijuana price range non-members: $13/gram, $250 ounce Other types of medicine: Bubble hash, edibles. Online menu? Yes. Handicap accessible? Yes.

Since our first review of Verde in 2011, the dispensary has undergone some major behind-the-scenes changes, like twice switching grow operations and eventually partnering up with Pink House. But despite the melding of the two companies, Verde founder Chuck Blackton is trying to maintain a lot of what made the shop a success over the last two-plus years.

Blackton has kept things like the glass pipe shop tucked away in a nook in the front half of the dispensary, which is open to everyone, not just medical marijuana patients. "Glass pipe shop" doesn't sound formal enough for what it is, though: more like a "functional glass" art gallery filled not only with production pieces from Sheldon Black and Molecule, but also bowl slides and pipes from local and national glass artists.

They've also maintained the same unique layout and approach to how they serve patients at the bud bar. Verde's buds are displayed in jars in tall wood-and-glass display shelves set up along the back wall, while both the patients and the budtenders stand in front of the case talking about the strains. It's a small nuance, but it makes a big difference in the tone of the whole transaction. Instead of separating patients and budtenders with an herb-filled countertop, like most places, Verde's layout makes shopping feel more like a conversation. And a very weed-centric one, at that, as manager and budtender Ian Williams knows his ganja.

What has changed at Verde is the pricing, dropping from a cap of $55 for an eighth of herb back in 2011 to $35/eighths for members and $225 ounces. Williams, who has been with the shop through the changes, says that's due to finally pairing up with a grow that could handle their demand.

Blackton says he had to leave his first grow because they just weren't up to his standards. The second grow he paired up with was eventually shut down, leaving him stranded. But because of that, Blackton says, he wound up pairing with Pink House and is finally where he wants to be. The downside is that a lot of the herb is the same between the Pink House stores and Verde, but Williams hinted that a few strains are still reserved for Verde alone.

Another factor was keeping up with the clientele on Colfax. They found that can be a challenge when a lot of their walk-in customers are looking for the low-end cannabis they see selling for $120 an ounce at other shops. Verde has managed to maintain a few $25/eighth strains in the shop, but Blackton said they get people coming in saying even that is too expensive. But at some point you're sacrificing quality for quantity, he adds, and he isn't interested in becoming a low-quality shop.

As before, Verde focuses on keeping a handful of quality strains on deck instead of two dozen (often similar) choices that other shops carry. Herb is broken down into two levels: regular and VIP. The VIP cabinet is mostly for members, but at certain times it is open for limited purchases from non-members as well — mostly when the back stock can allow for it. There were three such strains the day I was in: A menthol-kushy jar of the Bruce Banner #3 cut, a sour-citrus Amnesia Haze batch and a jar loaded with Oaksterdam OG spear-tipped buds. The buds on the regular shelves weren't nearly as well kept as the less-handled VIP strains, but they were still all worthwhile, including a crazy spicy and hazy Black Ice, ridiculously fruity Cotton Candy Romulan, and a batch of Hong Kong that struck the right smell balance between kushy tart and Chinese takeout. I opted for two ends of the VIP spectrum with the Oaksterdam and the Amnesia Haze, only taking home half-eighths of each. The smell on the latter was a mix of lemon-lime citrus, licorice and the musky Haze aroma, which came through extremely loud and clear in a clean dry pipe as well as in my Silver Surfer vape. Much like Super Silver Haze, a small bowl of the pine-forest-green, silver-trichomed Amnesia Haze was perfect for increasing my appetite. Very clean and very well grown, dried and cured: This is the type of medicine you should be looking for if you sign up a shop to be your primary grower. Non-members pay about $3 more on the gram, with ounces going for $250.

The Oaksterdam was more of the same impressive quality. The beautifully stacked, nearly pyramid-shaped buds oozed with kushy waxes and oils that put a lasting funk on the fingers, noticeable well after the bowl of the rubbery, kushy, almost cedar-smelling buds had been burned. Very clean, and under the 'scope, the amber-tipped trichome glands looked like lollipops. The Oaksterdam was very potent as well. I blew out my back, and these buds interspersed with some Aleve are the two things that have kept me mobile for the last couple of days. Again, a great buy for the price for members at $35 an eighth, though non-members will have to pay about $10 more on the eighth — if there's enough to go around, that is.

The Verde merge with Pink House also means that Verde's hash is being processed by Essential Extracts, which operates out of Pink House facilities. Verde had a sizable collection of about nine different strain-specific hashes all divided into half-gram jars selling for $15-$20 a pop. At the high end, the 70 micron Golden Romulan and Lavender Haze were appealing, but I opted for the 25 micron "OG" hash. Opening up the little half-gram hash container let out nearly the same strength smell as popping open the ounce jar of Oaksterdam OG on the shelf, and the tiny granules of orange hash were waxy and perfectly dried. Melty on top of a bowl and perfect just by itself, this added a delicious extra pain-relieving kick to my bowls this week.

While you can head over to any of the Pink House shops and get a lot of similar strains and about the same quality, Verde still maintains the connoisseur vibe without coming off snobbish or pretentious. It's also a shop worth considering if your New Year's resolution is to find a new dispensary for your primary center.

Read more reviews from Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic, William Breathes, in our Mile Highs and Lows blog, and keep up with all your Colorado marijuana news over at The Latest Word.