Medical marijuana dispensary review: Gaia Plant-Based Medicine in Denver

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As much as I would like to say there was a more cannabis-related reason for my visit to Gaia, what really brought me to the shop's doorstep was a Cuban sandwich.

Far enough down East Colfax to still be East Colfax, Gaia Plant-Based Medicine is nevertheless in a decent location, with a sidewalk storefront between a salon and what's easily one of the best low-key lunch spots in Denver: La Guarida Cubana.

Gaia Plant-Based Medicine

5926 E. Colfax Ave. Denver, CO 80220 303-573-6337 GaiaPBM.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Raw marijuana price range: $10/gram $30/eighth-ounce, $200/ounce. Members receive 10 percent off purchase. Other types of medicine: wax, edibles, topicals Online menu? Yes. Handicap-accessible? Yes.

That's not to say the center hasn't had its share of press lately. In fact, a lot of people know about Gaia these days thanks to the Rolling Stone article on their head grower, Phillip Hague, formerly with Golden Goat and New House Seeds.

Gaia is undergoing some transitions of its own, switching from a Greenwerkz Location to Gaia's own standalone shop (one of three statewide). That's meant a complete overhaul of the grow, with the owners scrubbing most of the genetics and bringing in an entirely new crew.

Frankly, I wasn't aware of the switchover, which happened earlier this spring. That was just long enough for Hague to get things under control in the grow room, but (unfortunately for my visit) not enough time to get his work out on the shelves. I'll probably make Gaia one of the quickest re-reviews I've ever done once the herb from Hague's hands gets on the shelf. But for now, I played the hand I was dealt.

I was the only person in on the day I visited, and while the gal behind the counter took my card and information, I was buzzed back through the steel-plated wall and heavy security door to fill out a short, two-page form while sitting on the couch in the patient lounge. It's a cozy place, and even though it was clean, it felt more like a tossed-together twenty-something's pad (or a Nederland coffee shop) than any themed, corporate-ish dispensary. That's appropriate enough for the blue-collar surroundings of near-Aurora.

The long bud bar takes up the entire space next door to the lobby; it runs along the back wall as you walk in and is crammed with edibles, pipes, hash and pot. The space is big, and in the summertime, the shop seems to get pretty toasty thanks to the morning sun blazing in through the knee-to-ceiling eastern-facing frosted windows, not to mention residual heat from the concrete and blacktop of nearby Colfax.

My budtender was a chill, nice guy with an apparent gold obsession: a gold teeth T-shirt, a gold watch, gold jewelry, gold hat embroidery. He wasn't much of a salesman, but I don't mean that in a bad way. He wasn't pushing any strains on me, only pulling out the jars I wanted to look at after giving first approval through the glass display case.

There were about twenty jars on the shelves -- mostly indica, and only about half worth pulling out and looking over. The other half were either too wispy or premature or simply too filled with shake to look appealing. They seemed to have a lot of shake, come to think of it -- including ounces of sugar leaves in sandwich bags on the bottom of the display cabinet selling for $100 an ounce or less.

Among the few worth noting was a piney Sour Kush, a chunky Blowfish, some lightly purple Purps with a 23 percent THC content, and a Dieslrella that had all of the Cindy qualities and just the bud structure of a Diesel.

Continue for the rest of the review, including another photo. The meager-looking sample of Durban Poison I brought home reminded me of "fifty-sacks" I've paid for in less-than-legal parts of the world: a tiny plastic baggie filled with scrappy buds that really didn't kick off much of a smell until you cracked the Ziploc open. But holy crap, did the buds pack a rotten-lemon, black-pepper exotic spice flavor, along with the brain-liftoff buzz. For me, strains like this are good for two things: appetite and energy. (Okay, they are also good for getting nice and rocked and going to a concert.) According to Gaia's online menu, the shop's Durban tested out clean and at nearly 27 percent THC. Yeah, THC levels vary from plant to plant and even bud to bud, but this one felt like all 27 percent THC was there, with a buzz that lasted two hours or more. One of the best $20 eighths of Durban Poison I've found.

Cracked open, the buds of the George's Cross had an odor like the artificial lemon of Windex sprayed onto a hot, sunny window. This cross of Purple Rain x Mini AK-47 and Pre-'98 Bubba didn't have much of a flavor, though the tail end of the initial green hit had a light Flo-like lavender coolness to it. Nothing special, though it did have a heavy, face-melting indica body high within the first fifteen minutes that tapered off into sleepy eyes and mild pain relief. It burned okay, with no pops, crackles or chunks of charcoal left behind, but generally, it's about what you'd expect for a $20 eighth.

For concentrates, the shop had seven or eight different strain-specific and blended waxes, varying in shades of amber and consistency. The lids were sealed on the tiny puck containers -- so going on looks alone, I narrowed it down to the Lou Berry, Sativa Blend and OG Ghandi Silver, finally opting for the latter at the budtender's suggestion.

The wax had more of an organic hash odor than the usual BHO dullness, but it also burned down and left a huge chunk of black leftover gunk in my nail after sizzling like water on a hot-stove-top frying pan. Yes, it got me lunar-satellite high. To-the-moon-and-back high. But I would like to see it burn cleaner if it's going in my lungs. It's priced to move at $25 a gram, though, so I'm sure it sells. A manager I spoke with on the phone afterward told me the center is getting new shipments of hash in every Wednesday and Friday, and more shatter oil from TC Labs will soon be on the shelves.

Overall, the shop isn't bad. It's just not great, and the crew clearly recognizes that. Gaia Plant-Based Medicine is in need of the overhaul it's currently getting in the grow room. The manager I spoke with called himself a weed snob and admitted that there wasn't much on the shelves right now that drew his attention, either. But he said the best is yet to come, and was really excited about the room of new genetics being harvested this week. It'll be ready in about a month.

If things are on par with what we've seen from Hague in previous shops, Gaia's transition will be worth checking out again and again.

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.

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