Mile Highs and Lows: The ReLeaf Center

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 Westword's directory of dispensaries for one near you).

This week's review: The ReLeaf Center. See our review after the jump.

The ReLeaf Center 2000 West 32nd Ave Denver,Colorado 80211 303-458-LEAF (5323)

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m, Monday through Saturday. No appointment necessary. Size: 1,700 square feet Date opened: August 3, 2009 Clients: 350-plus as of mid September 2009 Patient services: Handicap accessible; no delivery service. Doctor evaluations on site: No. Must customers make the dispensary their designated caregiver: No, but offer incentives for customers to do so. Raw marijuana price range: $85 to $120 per quarter ounce Other types of medicine: edibles, tinctures, hash Amenities: Massage therapy for premium members, plans to offer housecleaning, chiropractic, doctor consultations and other services, most of which is focused on premium members.

Our take: Turns out a marijuana dispensary can be a boon to a neighborhood. Before the ReLeaf Center moved in there this summer, the vacant storefront at the southwest corner of 32nd Avenue and Tejon Street in northwest Denver had seen better days. Now, apart from the metal bars that still grace the windows, the joint's had a total makeover.

The amount of elbow grease invested in the place is apparent as soon as customers walk in the door. The spacious front waiting room, where people show their marijuana-patient IDs to an employee behind a glass window before getting access to the dispensary, is all classy hardwood floors and mirrored walls, like a dance studio. The clean, sterile vibe continues into the heart of the store. Eventually, the owners say they hope to install additional dispensary operations and other amenities. But so far, the sprawling operation is nearly empty save for a piano missing its bench, assorted security cameras, paintings for sale that seem to be channeling Tim Burton and a small shelf of brochures that includes menus for Mary Janes Pizza, a not-so-subtly-named restaurant that recently opened across the street. There's nearly enough space and hardwood floor for a medical-marijuana squash court.

Everyone who stopped by the ReLeaf Center on a recent afternoon seemed to be the sort of guys who'd fit in at LoHi SteakBar, the swanky new eatery nearby. Do these customers really need medical marijuana? One of them did, since he detailed a tale of woe and misery that included busting his knees while working at a psych ward and crushing a few spinal discs during a construction job. In other words, don't expect him to hit the aforementioned squash court.

The ReLeaf Center's professional-looking pharmacy offers two glass display cases full of medicine. Along with a variety of marijuana types, from top-of-the-line strains like "G13" to bargain-basement outdoor-grown bud, there are tinctures, hash and kief for sale. There's a credit-card scanner as well, a free edible with first purchase and a sign noting, "We sell medicine. Describe it as such." The small fridge reserved for edibles was a little bare, however, offering only a few selections of caramels, oils and hummus.

The staffers were quick to offer thoughtful suggestions and had a digital microscope on hand so customers could take a hyper-detailed look at their product. They were also keen to push their "premium membership," in which customers received free "Cultivation Kickback" medicine, a 10 percent discount on all purchases and other premiums in exchange for designating as their primary caregiver someone associated with the dispensary. As with many nascent dispensaries, the ReLeaf Center seems to be eager to expand its patient base so it can grow more medicine.

Whether you take the bait or not, the ReLeaf Center offers all its customers a professional atmosphere and knowledgeable staff. With places like this, Lower Highlands is movin' on up.