It's been years since I was last in La Conte's. Back in 2011, it was one of the few shops offering buds below $40 an eighth, with hash oil selling at $30 a gram. It wasn't the best bud, but the value was good, and overall the shop got a great review that was even linked on its home page.
Last month, though, La Conte's took second place at the High Times Cannabis Cup -- and that sparked my curiosity as to how much the quality had improved in the past three years, during which it's gone from a mom-and-pop to a booming dual-use recreational and medical pot shop.
5194 Washington Street Denver, CO 80216 303-292-2252 LaContesCBD.com
Hours:10 a.m. to 6:50 p.m. daily. Raw marijuana price range: $10-20/gram $25-$30/eighth-ounce, $125-$180/ounce. Members receive monthly discounts and daily specials. Other types of medicine: O.pen Vape refils, shatter oil, wax, edibles. Online menu? Yes. Handicap-accessible? Yes. (Recreational menu also available)>
Since my last visit, the shop has changed things around considerably. Gone are the days when you bellied up to the actual former wooden bar and herb was kept back where liquor bottles used to be. Instead, that setup has been turned into the literal "clone bar" part of La Conte's. It's still one of the coolest dispensary spaces in Colorado, however, and it deserves style points for the way it was converted from a dingy drunk tank into a dispensary that feels like it's been around for decades.
I spent about five minutes checking out dozens of freshly rooted little plants, and for the most part, they seemed tall and healthy enough -- no noticeable mildew or pests. A few were wilting, including one of the remaining Bubba Kush cuts, but the shop does offer a pretty much no-questions-asked return policy on clones; if you manage to kill it in the first thirty days, you can bring it in for an exchange. Members pay $10 for a clone, non-members pay $15, and recreational customers pay $30 (plus tax).
La Conte's has also ventured into seed production and now sells its own beans both recreationally and medically. Obviously, I haven't been able to grow any to judge the quality of the finished product, and who knows how accurate the genetics are. But if you're just starting out or have a few spots to fill in your garden, the clone bar is worth a look for the low prices.
Continue for the rest of the reviews and photos. The rest of the space has been remodeled so that the shop can serve both recreational and medical marijuana customers at the same time. The bud bar now runs the length of the shop from front to back opposite the old liquor bar; it's divided, with recreational herb on the left half and medical on the right. Recreational buyers enter through the front door of the old bar and are greeted by a security guard with his cargo pants tucked into his combat boots; he checks IDs and then sends patrons through the rope maze to the counter. Medical patients come in through a side entrance, where they encounter another security guard before being sent to the tiny receptionist desk set up in the corner of the room to check in. The after-work crowd in the store was pretty evenly split between people going recreational and those shopping for medical. Recreational pot prices range from $45 to $55 an eighth for herb and $70 per gram for hash oil.
I can't imagine that it's easy to pay double the price for herb (it's why I haven't been to a recreational shop since January 1). But to watch people ten feet away getting a relative bargain would be pretty frustrating. Taxes are one thing, and, yes, they are high. But jacking the price up of the buds (a move almost all recreational shops are guilty of, not just La Conte's) is something I just haven't been able to get used to at all.
But I was on the medical side, where prices are down to a very reasonable $25 to $30 range at the eighth level and $125 to $180 for an ounce. Unfortunately, the Chem Crush and other cup entries were on a special top-tier level and sold for $20 a gram -- and customers were limited to one gram at a time. While the buds were noticeably more developed than the shakey bits and pieces of the regular-priced buds, they weren't twice-the-price better. The Grape OG was stinky, but the buds looked machine-trimmed; the Chem Berry was loaded in crystals and had probably the most intense smells in the shop; and the Chem Crush was certainly a pretty strain worth checking out if it wasn't twice as expensive as everything else in the shop.
Therein lies the big issue: The quality of the cup entries is light-years better than everything else the shop sells. It's great that the dispensary won an award, but devoting a special batch for contest entries is a grand bait-and-switch for the customers who come in expecting everything out of the garden to be Cup-quality.
And unfortunately, that wasn't the case for me. Most of the large jars of regular-priced buds on display were full of lackluster examples, like a pebbly three ounces or so of Flo, a wispy discounted Bubblegum, Lambo that smelled like a wet sock, and a batch of Orange Crush with little or no orange tang to it.
The Killa Watt I brought home was a decent example of the quality overall. The buds had a sweet smell out of the jar in the shop, but the couple of grams I brought home dried out to a cut-grass odor and burned with a dull, generic, skunky weed flavor. The potency matched; there was a decent buzz with some mild appetite stimulation for the first hour before it quickly tapered off. It wasn't awful, but it's nothing you can't find for the same price elsewhere in town.
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The Double OG x Tange (labeled as just Double OG in the shop, if I remember correctly) I brought home was a little better, though by looking at the photos of the larfy crumbles, you probably wouldn't have guessed it. The buds had a fruit-punch sweetness when broken up and a light, earthy flavor to the first few hits out of a bowl. The coating of tiny silver trichomes gave them more of a punch than the Killa Watt, too, offering solid stomach-cramp relief after two or three hits. Still, they didn't have an overwhelming OG blast and left a fertilizer-like stink on my fingers after breaking them up. Again, nothing you can't find elsewhere for the same price.
So aside from the clones, the only other reason to check out La Conte's right now is if you're in the market for a vape pen. The shop is a huge distributor of the O.pen cartridges and has display stands, posters and stickers for pens all over. I've actually been puffing on one of these for a few weeks now, and while I'd choose a real dab or even a one-hitter in most situations, they are amazing for stealth use. O.pen has a buttonless design, so all you have to do is inhale to get the thing going -- and the hash oil inside seems less diluted with polyethylene glycol than other brands I've tried in the past. La Conte's has strain-specific 500-milligram refills for $45, which is reasonable, from what I've been seeing around town. The shop also had 250-milligram and 150-milligram cartridges starting at $20 and some pretty clean-looking shatter produced by Native Roots; strain-specific grams go for $40 a pop.
If La Conte's can get its entire garden up to the level of the Cup entries and manage to keep prices down around where they are now (in the $30-$35 range for an eighth and $200 or less for an ounce), the shop will be top-notch. But to do that, the folks there need to address the gulf in quality between the buds they show off and the buds they sell.