High Grade Alternatives is a high point on the dispensary scene

This dispensary has closed.

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 is 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 High Grade Alternatives:

High Grade Alternatives 3370 Arapahoe Road, Boulder 303-449-1905

Hours of operation: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 1-5 p.m. Saturday Owner: Adam Mahon Owner's statement: "I opened a dispensary because I lost a very close family member to cancer, and I figured I could help sick people feel better. Pretty simple... MMJ helps everyone who tries it. There is plenty of incredible medicine being grown here, and we want all the proceeds to stay in the local economy." Opened: October 15, 2009 Raw marijuana price range: $10-$16 per gram (including top-shelf at $14.50 per gram). Other types of medicine: Glycerin tinctures; hash; a wide variety of edibles, including ice cream, brownies and cookies.

Our take: Memorial Day Weekend is a great time to chill out and enjoy a few days of simple pleasures -- the backyard grill, flowers blooming, and (if we're lucky) some gorgeous Colorado weather. If the sun's out, the Boulder Creek Festival (May 29-31 along the Boulder Creek Path) is always a fun way to add some Boulder-style weirdness to your holiday. And while you're in the People's Republic, you can check out its ever-evolving dispensary scene, including one of my new favorites, High Grade Alternatives.

With the passage of HB1284, which will, for better or for worse, regulate MMJ dispensaries -- at least until it is challenged in court or recreational marijuana is legalized -- many dispensary owners are scrambling to decide if they can stay afloat in the coming year. Let's hope the ones who do survive hold to certain standards that may not be included in HB1284. Standards like a well-kept shop, a good selection of high-quality products at fair prices, a friendly and knowledgeable staff, and an interest in educating patients on both the MMJ legal battle and the healing benefits of marijuana.

High Grade Alternatives gets all of this right, and if the dispensary is running as smoothly behind the scenes as it is up front, I predict this shop will not only survive, but thrive. I visited on a recent sunny Saturday afternoon, as did plenty of other happy customers. The place was full of artsy weed and Grateful Dead references, with patients and staffers sharing easy conversation rather than awkward silence. Although the waiting area was buzzing, I was soon welcomed into the dispensing area, which featured two separate stations -- not a bad idea, with crowds like this.

At least fifty strains tempted me from their candy jars. The wide variety made choosing fun, especially since I had some time on my hands. If you're in a hurry, you might want to have a few strains in mind before you start shopping; chances are some will be in stock.

As a new customer, I was given my choice of a free edible, so I picked up a big chocolate chip cookie. I also purchased a CannaBlizz Tincture, Extra-Strength -- a Northern Lights elixir in a glycerin-and-honey base. I like tinctures a lot. They're great for nighttime relaxation, but they're also a perfect way to curb smoking. (I enjoy smoking herb, and I miss the ritual when I medicate with edibles only.) I use the tincture first -- in a cup of coffee, for example; then, if I do smoke, I only need a small amount to boost the MMJ effect. I also picked up some yummy, house-grown Durban, a 100 percent sativa strain whose original mother -- like the original mother of all of us -- hails from Africa.

I also looked for a nice indica for the end of the day. After changing my mind about a million times, I finally settled on Sour Blue, a cross of Sour Diesel and Blueberry that I felt compelled to explore. This old-school (Blueberry)/new-school (Sour Diesel) mash-up would technically produce a near-even split of indica and sativa. The Sour Blue didn't have much of an aroma, but as an herb smoker who seeks organics, I am willing to sacrifice pungent scent for purity. But not for taste -- and certainly not for strength! This hybrid was shy of both, producing little taste and, for me, a lackluster high.

The soil-grown Durban also had a light scent, with a touch of earthy spice. Given that, it packed a surprisingly pungent kick to the tastebuds when burned and went straight to my muscles, relieving tension and taking the edge off my joint pain. The tincture was also very effective; I really enjoyed a small bit in my coffee in the morning, when my back often hurts like all get-out, and it allowed me to peacefully engage in a few yoga moves before moving forward with my busy day.

So I forgave High Grade for the Sour Blue. With the dispensary's big selection, I'm sure there's something for everyone there. And who doesn't love a big, medicated chocolate chip cookie?

The Wildflower Seed and William Breathes are the pot pen names of our two alternating medical marijuana dispensary reviewers. Read their bios here.

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The Wildflower Seed