Medical Marijuana Dispensary Review: Groundswell in Denver

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For a medical marijuana dispensary, Groundswell has probably had the most non-patient visits over the past few years than any other shop in Denver. Not for the pot, but for the well-received art gallery showcasing local artists that's located in its front room.

But the gallery part of Groundswell is going away to make room for its recreational cannabis shop, scheduled to open on April 1, and it will be missed — because while Groundswell isn’t the first dispensary to have the work of local artists on display, it was the only one that made it seem like a natural fit. Gallery openings and mural displays at Groundswell were common, with plenty of cool shows taking place there over time. The gallery even won a 2013 MasterMind Award from Westword and regularly received accolades from our art writers. But the owners clearly believe that recreational cannabis will contribute more to paying the mortgage than paintings and artwork did.

3121 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO  80206
(303) 309-0078

Hours:  11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Raw marijuana price range: $12.5/gram $25-$35/eighth-ounce, $175-$225/ounce. Nonmembers pay about 10 percent more.
Other types of medicine: Edibles, wax, transdermal patches.
Online menu? Yes.
Handicap-accessible? Yes.
Recreational sales? Yes, sales start April 1.

Currently the entire gallery space is blocked off from view by tarps and black sheets, and the smell of an unfinished building project (fresh-cut wood, paint) fills the Groundswell space. The receptionist, who explained the changeover to me while copying my ID and purple card seemed slightly disappointed, judging by the tone of her voice. There’s still going to be artwork from local artists, she said, but the space up front will be devoted strictly to public pot sales.

The change isn’t going to affect patients much (unless taking in some local art was part of their weekly medical-pot shopping routine). According to the receptionist, the front half of the shop that used to house the gallery will be dedicated to adult-use sales. The back half that has served as the medical cannabis dispensary will remain separate – that way, staffers can continue to serve medical patients (including those aged eighteen to twenty). That’s a good thing, as the shop has done a nice job of cultivating their medical cannabis customer base: I hear Groundwell mentioned all the time in conversations I have with other patients.

And for good reason. The shop has one of the coolest interiors of any dispensary in the state. It’s like the inside of a wooden space ship, with walls covered by planks of blond beetle-kill pine that's wrapped in a way that gives a rounded, curved feel to the square space. It is unique and envelops you in an organic smoothness that completely influences the mood of the shop as a whole.

Bud is displayed in a small glass cutout in the bud bar, with a single, photogenic sample bud per strain laid out on little white ceramic plates, like pieces of sushi. And, as is often the case with me and sushi, I wanted to devour just about everything in front of me. During my first visit four years ago, the budtender brought out the sample trays to give patients a closer look. Fine, but the smell of the buds was lost after sitting in the air all day. This time around, my purple-haired budtender pulled out the frosted, tubular glass stock jars of every strain I was curious about so I could get a better sniff and view.

For hash and concentrates, the shop had three or four different waxes made by Viola, 710 labs and Epic Extracts. I wasn’t all that knocked out by what I saw, but frankly, waxes don’t impress me much anymore regardless. I may be in the minority, but they just don’t seem right to me anymore. There’s literally too much wax in them that I don’t need to be smoking in concentrated form. It’s either shatter or icewater hash for me these days. I’ve also been doing really well, stomach-wise, lately and haven’t had the need for concentrates since at least December. Either way, all concentrates were selling at $40 a gram, and all were made from Groundswell buds and trim.

Instead, I spent most of my short visit checking out the buds — about a dozen in total. Tops on the list was the orange-peel Tangerine Kush, the spicy, diesel-fuel NYC Diesel and the purple/black-colored Grape Drink. The stock jars of each strain were filled with crystal-coated buds identical to the choice ones on display. Well-grown buds all around, no doubt. But I don’t like that that there were humidifiers in the big jars, and the buds I ended up bringing home were a little too spongy-fresh out of the film-canister-sized container. At first, stems bent and tore instead of snapping, and trying to break the buds up by hand only made them more dense and compact. I’ve always felt that humidifier packs just aren’t necessary if the bud is dried and cured properly, and it’s really only in dispensaries that I see them in use. I get that there’s shrinkage in weight these businesses want to avoid (they are businesses, after all), but the end result doesn’t seem to be worth it.

Buds like the Fire Alien I grabbed were too good to need the humidifier packs anyway. The fire-red pistils wrapping around the dark, conifer-green buds looked like small feelers poking out of the cracks and crannies. Tight and compact, the buds still had a healthy crop-dusting of trichomes on the round, fat calxyes. It definitely had a rubbery, earthy kushiness to it, but it was really piney on top. It didn’t burn down very clean, charcoaling out to black chunks at the end of bowls. But the flavor was there, and the piney/earthy flavor came through on green hits. I was hungry before I knew it, and after a bowl late last night, I walked straight to the kitchen and was making a sandwich before my stomach sent the message upstairs with some grumbles. I’ve also been under the weather, and the mood-elevating high of the buds was also a much-needed pick-me-up after being a sniffling, sore grumpy-ass all week.
The Master OG batch smelled like a hot lemon with a ripe, citrus tartness that lingered around for a few seconds after the jar was taken away. It also, unfortunately, had a slight funkiness, like the fertilizer aisle of an Ace Hardware. It burned with a full flavor on first and second hits, but like the Fire Alien, the buds charcoaled out at the end. Very much a strong head high, and the type of bud that would be great for dealing with aches and pains, back tension and sleep issues; it put me to bed within a half hour of a bowl, thanks to its potency. While it wasn’t the best cure and could have probably used some more time being flushed, the buds were tolerable enough to enjoy every bowl. Pricing could be better, though. It’s not bad, but at $40 and up for an eighth of cannabis for non-members, the buds shouldn’t charcoal out or have a slight chemical odor, either. That said, you don’t have to pay full price. There are specials each day of the week; Wednesdays offer 20 percent off concentrates, for example. 
The cost isn't enough to keep me or anyone else away.

That's especially true with the change to a dual-use shop coming up.

Given Groundswell's location and already well-known name among non-medical patients, it's probably already got a built-in market for recreational ready to go.

And if the shop can get the herb consistently up to the same quality as the artwork showcased up front, it should do just fine.

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