Medical marijuana dispensary review: The Ridge, a Strainwise dispensary in Wheat Ridge

The Ridge is our second Strainwise dispensary to review. Last September, we stopped by The Retreat on Colorado Boulevard in Denver, at the time one of the newest Strainwise shops. We were not too excited by their buds, but hopeful that they would improve on their newly found "blank canvas" under their new owners. A year's worth of progress seems to have done the chain well -- at least judging by the (few) strains on hand at their sister store, The Ridge.

Strainwise - The Ridge

10185 W. 49th Ave. Wheat Ridge, CO 80033 720-508-4827

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Raw marijuana price range members/first timers: $20-$35/eighth-ounce, $125-200/ounce. Members receive $25/eighths, ounce specials to $125. Other types of medicine: BHO, CO2 oil, kief, hash, edibles, tinctures, lotions, drinks. Online menu? No. Handicap-accessible? Yes.

The Ridge is in an out-of-place former single-story home that somehow remained while shopping centers, low-rent motels and I-70 seemed to consumed the neighborhood around it. It's not hard to find the place, but if you've never been in the area, you can easily drive past and, like me, first see it in your rear-view mirror. Parking out front isn't a problem, and even if the Ridge lot is full, there's plenty of space on the street.

It goes without saying that the dispensary is tiny, based on the dollhouse building it's crammed into. But the folks at Ridge have done a good job of keeping it roomy inside, painting the walls dark gray and black and decorating them with vinyl stickers of the Strainwise logo and a light-blue dispensary logo. There's a welcome lack of green in the otherwise crisp and clean shop -- aside from the green in the jars in the adjacent bud room, that is. A taller guy in a Strainwise T-shirt greeted me from behind the glass desk to the left when I walked in, taking my card and ID and passing me off to my tattooed, pierced and awesome budtender Rachel.

The back bud bar is more of the same dark paint and cool, relaxed atmosphere, with bud kept in glass display cases separated for the most part by price, with top-shelf, $35/eighth buds on top and $25/eighth strains on the bottom. The shop also has discount shake selling at a severe discount -- though I passed right over it without noting just how cheap it was. Unfortunately, the shop doesn't have an online menu, which means you'll have to either call ahead to see what is on the shelves or blindly swing by, like I did. That's an easy fix on their end, and one that they should really look into doing.

Which, of course, can lead to situations like the one I found myself in: The shop was really, really low on strain selection. In total, I think there were no more than eight jars on display. Out of the eight, a lot of them were very closely related in the Chem family: 707 Headband, Chem 4, Sour D.

All of the strains were well grown, with little popcorn buds of tiny, round calyxes to varying degrees and all with a solid, underlying tart citrus-diesel fuel smell. I think there might have even been a jar of Deathstar in there that I didn't get around to checking out. Either way, you get the point: lots of funky, spacey balanced hybrid, if not slightly indica-dominant strains. Rachel was happy to show them off and had a personal aside for each of the strains, noting which were better for pain, nausea and simply getting a blues-busting buzz.

But that was it, for the most part. There was a more indica-leaning, creamsicle-esque Vanilla that was down to the kiefy-shakey bottom of the jar, and a sweet, sugary Romulan-heavy version of Space Queen -- also down to shake. My budtender told me that they had seen a huge rush on their shop in the last few days, with a large number of students on break and home for the week visiting family in Denver.

That same rush on the shop was the reason behind its being completely cleared out on waxes, butters and icewater hashes -- including scissor hash, which sells for $5 a gram on special when they've got it. Wax is usually produced from Strainwise trim by Mahatma. They should have some back in stock by today, though Black Friday deals dropped hash down to some ridiculously cheap price like $10 a gram, so it might be worth calling ahead if that's all you're shopping for. They did have a line of CO2- and BHO-filled syringes for easy refilling of vape pens from Healing Leaf (I think that's what she said) for $25-$30, but they both looked the color of old brake fluid. Judging by the full jar of hash-oil syringes and the otherwise empty concentrate shelves, I think other people feel the same way I did about the dark-brown oils.

I opted for a jar of the Chem 4, which had a really distinct fruitiness to the turned-earth smell and a flavor like a spoonful of Froot Loops cereal. Under a scope the tiny ball-headed trichomes coated the flower like an amber fuzz of Velcro. The buds had a dependable potency as well, with just a bowl through the vape or pipe satisfying the need for both appetite and a buzz to deal with dozens of people in the house for Thanksgiving. Compared to bud we got from a Strainwise dispensary last year, this was head and shoulders higher in overall quality. Even nicer was patient pricing and specials that brought an eighth of this down to $20 and an ounce down to $150 for a first-time patient or members.

My other choice was the stupidly similar 707 Headband, though I justified it at the time thinking I would get more of a body buzz and overall relaxation with the Headband that might come in handy post-turkey day. What really sold me, though, was the extremely potent and spot-on strain distinct odors coming from the sample jar in the shop. Like the Chem 4, the fat, plump calyxes were frosted with amber trichomes, these with much fatter, more pronounced heads that gave the buds a sandier appearance. Broken down, the flowers had a slightly over-fertilized funk but they burned clean and down to a white ash with an enjoyable, pine-sol aftertaste.

The Ridge will remain a medical marijuana dispensary, but three other Strainwise dispensaries - Grove, Haven and Shelter - will be converting to recreational pot shops at some point in the new year. The chain also operates Annies out of Central City, which received the first retail sales license anywhere earlier this month when the chief of police issued their local sales license. All four shops are still awaiting approval from the state Marijuana Enforcement Division.

The shop has some pretty decent herb from what limited amounts we saw, which could serve them well with word-of-mouth sales. What they'll clearly have to work on, though, is production. If a Thanksgiving weekend can crush them with a customer base of just over 100,000 people statewide, retail sales will wipe them out clean in days.

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.