Medical marijuana dispensary review: Frosted Leaf on Federal

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It's not so much that I don't know who owns what in the dispensary world. It's that I try my hardest not to pay attention to it when selecting a dispensary. So it came as a surprise even to me that I was in for a re-review this week when I took a seat at Frosted Leaf and noticed the Alpine Herbal Wellness matches in a bowl on a coffee table.

Frosted Leaf

445 Federal Blvd. Denver, CO 80204 303-355-4372 (HERB) www.frostedleaf.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Raw marijuana price range: $30 to $35 per eighth, for non-members; $25 to $30/eigh for members. Ounces capped at $170. Other types of medicine: Edibles, BHO, tincture drops Handicap-accessible? Yes.

I was still sitting half-confused when -- as if on a timer -- the receptionist welcomed me to the "new" Alpine Herbal Wellness, in what was formerly Serenity Moon's alternate location...now (obviously) re-dubbed Frosted Leaf.

Confused? It took me a minute to figure out, too, and I lived it, man. See, Alpine Herbal Wellness and Serenity Moon were the same shop, but with different names. Both outfits were shut down for being too close to schools -- Alpine for its proximity to Bromwell Elementary School in Cherry Creek and Serenity Moon because it fell within 1,000 feet of DU. At some point, Serenity Moon took over this location on Federal, but I never saw that. I just passed by the Frosted Leaf sign a few times and figured I would try out a new show. Suddenly, like an errant seed in a bowl, an unintentional re-review of not one, but two dispensaries had crept into my week.

And like the odd combination described above implies, Frosted Leaf is basically a combination of the two shops I visited last year -- just in a different shape. My butt was sitting on the same leather couches, now in the middle of the wide-open dispensary instead of in the narrow waiting room they were in before. Which brings up a major improvement: Making the entire space handicap-accessible. At its Cherry Creek location, Alpine Herbal Wellness was in a unique but not-so-wheelchair-friendly multi-level spot. Now it's no sweat for two-wheeled patients to roll to and through the front door and right up to the bud bar.

Which, incidentally, is the exact same bud bar that was at Alpine Herbal Wellness, minus the old-timey brass cashier-window overhangs. The results look a lot better in their new location than in the cramped upstairs of the tri-level. Whereas Alpine was somewhat fancified and formal to match the tony Cherry Creek surroundings, Frosted Leaf is much more laid-back. My budtenders were two younger women, both friendly and chatty, like people who work around cannabis all day should be.

The stools in front are the same low-back, Sharper Image-style ones from Serentity Moon. Opposite the bud bar on the other side of the shop are office spaces for management. Across from the entrance and receptionist desk is where the shop keeps the edibles -- although, as usual, I didn't do much browsing for food.

After my visit to Alpine Herbal Wellness last June, the owners told us they were working to streamline and improve their grow outfit as well as dropping their (at the time) ridiculously high prices for mediocre marijuana. Judging by my recent trip to their latest venture, it seems they've only accomplished about half of that goal, unfortunately.

The plus side is that eighths of top-shelf buds are capped at $30 for members and $35 for non-members, with a decent selection of mid-shelf buds for about $5 less per pricing tier. Even better, top-shelf ounces sell for $160 for members and $165 for non-members. But the downside is that the bud I saw was about what you would expect for the rock-bottom pricing.

Page down for the rest of the review and photos. To be fair, even the budtender recognized that the shelves looked like crap when I walked in and apologized for the limited selection. Frosted Leaf hadn't brought in its new harvest yet, and the majority of the buds on sale were from vendors - and it looked as if they'd been purchased sight unseen from the first person who called with a surplus.

One by one, the budtender grabbed jars and popped the lids off strains like the leafy Highlands Kush and the freshly-cut-smelling Romulan, setting them down on the counter below my nose -- and incrementally, the smell of bundled hay increased. Most had the dull, well-kiefed look of mass-produced and machine-trimmed ganja as opposed to delicate, hand-trimmed, crystal-covered, shining examples of cannabis. There were three offerings from Frosted Leaf's garden -- two on the top shelf and one from the $30 lower shelf. But unfortunately, none were that much better than the imported mid-grade offerings. The Grand Daddy Purps, for example, didn't have a hue of purple. Not even a shade of lavender, a brush of thistle, a wisp of wisteria, and definitely not any amethyst. Judging by the condition, the buds didn't have enough time to get to that stage in fall coloring. They were chopped down small and early, machine trimmed, dried and sent immediately to the shelves with pretty orange hairs, tiny clear crystals and a hay odor out of the jar. Broken up, I managed to catch a whiff of a more sweet finish to the buds, but nothing helped the generally bland taste. Considering that the buds sell for as low as $25 an eighth, however, I didn't expect much to begin with.

Same goes for the Super Lemon Haze. The buds were more dense and developed than the GDP, with an undeniable musky haze finish to the smell out of the jar. But that character was lost in the murky taste of the buds when burned in a bowl. I didn't see anything gnarly under a scope, like bugs or white powdery mildew, but I also didn't see much trichome coverage, either -- and the Ultra Lemon Haze's potency was indicative of that. Not bad for morning smoking to increase appetite, but it wasn't strong enough to handle nausea and cramping.

For hash, the shop had grams of either mixed-strain BHO or Golden Goat strain-specific BHO. I went with the strain-specific, but instead of the unique spiciness of GG, the wax smelled exactly like my fingers after breaking up old-school compressed brick weed -- a kind of Crayola-meets-bong-resin mixture. Granted, that's a smell I haven't experienced in probably ten years now, but things like that tend to stick with you when you're a lifelong cannabis user. That's not to say this was made from such things, but it does come from Frosted Leaf buds that failed to make much of a first (or second) impression on me. Thankfully, it doesn't take good herb to make decent BHO, and a clean-burning but bland-tasting gram was made even better by its $25 price tag.

Despite the mid-grade quality, the shop was clearly popular with folks looking to get a cheap bag of herb. The shop also sells bowls-to-go for around $2.50 and has a $5 blunt Friday special that the budtender said was extremely popular. And (as always) the timing of my visit was off, and apparently there are more than thirty strains hitting the shelves later this week and into next -- all fresh from the Frosted Leaf garden. But based on what I saw this visit, I'll leave Frosted Leaf to the discount shoppers for now.

Read more medical marijuana center reviews from in-house cannabis critic William Breathes over at Mile Highs and Lows and keep up with all of your marijuana news over at The Latest Word.

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