Med. marijuana dispensary review: Groundswell Cannabis Boutique and Gallery on Colfax

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Groundswell's sign has the usual green, leaf-like images on it, but it looked like an art gallery the first time I drove past. Confused, I circled around and parked in a 7-Eleven parking lot to get a better look at the place, and before I knew it, I was inside. Later, owner Christopher Butler told me that's his goal: to attract people by offering the unexpected.


303-309-0078 3121 East Colfax Avenue www.groundswelldenver.com

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week Owner/manager: Christian Butler Opened: June 2011 Raw marijuana prices for members: $12.50/ gram, 40/eighth, 75/quarter, 250/ounce. Raw marijuana prices for non-members: $14.50/gram, $50/eighth $95/quarter, $285/ounce. Other types of medicine: Edibles, hash, THC refills for eCigarette-like vaporizers, wax, caviar, breath spray. Handicap accessible? Yes.

The front of the space facing Colfax is separate from the actual dispensary that's used as an art gallery. Eventually, the gallery, which is open to the public, will feature local artists and provide public space for the surrounding neighborhood. "The concept is to be a neighborhood presence," Butler says. "That's why we have an art gallery up front for anyone to visit. We want to bring the public into the space to demystify the dispensary experience -- show them we're not some drug dealers moving into the neighborhood."

I wandered through the wide-open gallery while finding my way to the receptionist window, which is tucked away behind the gallery wall. Patrick, a red-haired guy behind the glass partition, greeted me, checked my paperwork and buzzed me through the security door to the right. Inside, I filled out the standard paperwork at the receptionist desk. After signing my life away to yet another dispensary, Don, my budtender (and co-owner of the shop), came in from the bud-bar room to greet me and bring me back for a tour.

The shop is only a few months old, which helps add to the clean and fresh appearance of the decor. Butler is also an architect: He designed the space himself and says the home-grown feel of the local medical marijuana industry prompted him to use Colorado products in his design. Two of the four walls and the ceiling are lined with white, ashy pine beetle-kill wood from the high country. The wood softens the room and gives it a light, cool feeling despite the fact that it was noticeably warm inside the shop when I stopped by. In retrospect, the room felt oddly like an organic wooden version of the spaceship from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Aside from the normal edibles the shop carries, including the dangerously delicious Granny T's kettle chips, Groundswell specializes in making in-house tinctures and even a breath spray called re.fresh. I had never seen pot breath spray before, but it instantly made sense to me. Now you can clear up bong breath and take one last hit of cannabis at the same time. The shop also carried the THC cartridges for e-cigs, which my budtender told me he was quickly becoming a huge fan of, mostly because of how stealth it makes medicating.

In keeping with the gallery vibe, samples of the herb are kept on display like artwork on square porcelain plates in a glass case amid the reclaimed pine bud bar. Each plate had a small card in front of it with the strain and a very brief description of its qualities. Stunning presentation, but keeping the samples out in the light and air makes them lose some of their olfactory-pleasing qualities. Not that big a deal, as my budtender was happy to pull down the bulk jars for me to smell. Some cuts looked better than others, like the NYC Diesel and the Berry Skunk, but most looked well-dried and cured -- healthy buds from a medium-sized warehouse. Also notable was a nose-tickling Melon Haze and Pineapple Kush. Nothing basement-level, but the dozen or so strains were easily better than the Walmart-sized inventory some shops carry.

Butler said the shop only has about sixteen in-house strains, which they like to focus on and rotate in and out. The idea is to not overwhelm patients with shelves full of similar strains while still offering a wide selection of medically beneficial herb. Herb is grown in a soil mix, and though the rooting hormones in use aren't organic, most everything else in the process is.

The shop has decent pricing for members, with $40 eighths, $75 quarters and $250 ounces. Non-members can expect to pay about $10 to $35 more depending on amount, which is slightly on the expensive side for the weekly buyer if you aren't making them your caregiver. That's especially true with average non-member prices for comparable herb at other shops floating around $45 these days. The shop does rotate one 20-percent-off strain every day, and gives a great discount for first-time customers.

Page down to see what Breathes took home this week. NYC Diesel: $50/eighth (nonmember pricing) In the shop, the jar of herb had a very mellow, earthy soil smell going on, with a light touch of the Diesel tang and a barely discernable coffee finish behind it for good measure. There was a solid, well-developed structure to the herb. Nothing outrageously foxtailed or crystal-covered, and it looked a bit closely trimmed for my taste, but overall it was a worthwhile choice to bring home. Pinching the bud and breaking it up brought out a lot more of the diesel-fuel tinge and left my fingers tacky with resin. The taste wasn't as robust as other NYC Diesel cuts I've had, but it burned well in a joint, and smoking it through the bubbler brought out a sweet, almost fruity finish. As always, this is a stoney but energetic strain for me, and one that I can rely on for increasing my appetite even with low doses. Cherry Lime Kush: $50/eighth (non-member pricing) Lately I've been letting the budtender make at least one of my selections for me, and this was the shop selection this week. After I popped open a bud, it smelled like a slightly melted red Popsicle, which was a nice image to bring up considering how effing hot it's been. The buds had an almost brown appearance due to the rust-colored pistils, amber trichomes and green-to-purple sugar leaves left behind from trimming. Despite the overwhelmingly delicious smell, the herb had an unimpressive spicy, sage-like taste when smoked. But taste isn't always everything. The smoke expanded in my lungs and I felt the strong herb almost instantly behind my eyes, leaving me in a relaxed, stoney mood for a good hour before popping out of it without a heavy crash and burn. Lower doses mixed in with more uplifting strains would be a good way to deal with dull, lingering pain through the day. Cherry Lime Kush icewater hash: $20/gram (nonmember pricing) I brought home rock-hard chunks of hash, but with a little heat, they broke down easily into small, orange-tan crumbles. Much like the flower, the hash had the similar peppery, sage finish, but it was much more pronounced and flavorful than the flower itself. Putting the hash on the flower was the next logical step, and the mixture of the two delivered a potent, buzzing sedation to my head and upper body.

William Breathes is the pot pen name for our roving medical marijuana critic. Read more from him here and catch up on all things ganja-related in our marijuana blogs.

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