From the outside, and even once you walk in, not much appears to have changed at The Releaf Center since our Mae Coleman first visited back in September of 2009. The bars on the front windows are gone, but they still have ample floor space, a dance-studio mirrored wall in the entryway and cases of ganja in back.
But what has changed made me want to check them out for a second review: lower prices and an emphasis on providing a diverse range of concentrates.
Location: 2000 w. 32nd Avenue Phone number: 303-458-5323 (LEAF) website: www.thereleafcenter.com Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Manager: Jake Browne Mission statement: "The Releaf Center is committed to providing Colorado Medical Marijuana patients with the highest quality Marijuana and THC derived medicine available." Opened: August 2009 Raw marijuana price range: $35/eighth to $45/eighth Other types of medicine: Hash ($25-$60/gram), Kief, large selection of vendor edibles, medicated sodas Patient amenities: Clones and seed packs for sale, pipes, locally made vaporizers. Handicap-accessible: Yes.
I caught the shop in a momentary lull last week, walking in as three employees were chatting in a back office separated from the spacious lobby by a security window. I handed over my paperwork and as one guy behind the counter copied it, I was buzzed past the security door to a second lounge area for patients. Instead of the sort of bright, migraine-inducing colors on the walls -- a scheme still sadly popular in the dispensary world -- Releaf Center opts for a more neutral beige tint, accented by a few framed paintings and assorted artwork here and there. I got a brief look at the room before a burly budtender I'll call Bear Man, for his grizzly beard and big, friendly smile, greeted me and took me back to the bud bar for a quick tour.
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The Releaf Center carries three grades of herb, with A-grade being their best and C-grade on the bottom. Manager Jake Browne said that, for the most part, their lower grade herb comes from growers associated with other dispensaries. There was only two C-grade strains and one B-grade strain in the shop, and I didn't get a good look at any of them because my attention was drawn immediately to nearly a dozen jars on the same counter-top filled with different colored globs of hash. Browne said lately they have been working to carry every kind of concentrate, from traditional pressed kief to modern butane-extracted oils. The most impressive was their straight bubble hash, and though their hash menu got up as high as $60 a gram for higher grades of the stuff, they did have plenty of strains from $20-$35 per gram to choose from.
I got a brief glance at the fifteen-or-so jars of A-grade herb before following my budtender back to another room to sign the shop's paperwork at a dining room table turned conference desk. All was good for me that day, but Browne told me later they'd recently dealt with a lot of customers who didn't have a proof of mailing for their marijuana-registry paperwork. "We went from having a record month in August to having to turn people away in September," he said. But not all of the changes caused by new laws have been bad for the shop, he admitted. Among the things he credited with improving the dispensary is the requirement that shops provide at least 70 percent of their medicine. Because they now produce more herb cheaper than they could purchase from vendors back in the day, he said, the shop has been able to drop prices on their meds from $120 a quarter a year ago to just under $90 currently (and, he predicts, even lower in the future).
Back in the dispensary room, I explained to Bear Man that I have been medicating with indica-heavy strains the past few weeks to deal with stomach pains after my hospital visit -- but as those pains have gone down, I have focused on getting my appetite back up with sativa-dominant strains. Each jar was labeled in front with a small plaque that had various bits of information on the plant, its suggested medical benefits and, occasionally, what type of grow medium was employed. Browne said the shop runs a variety of mediums depending on the needs of each strain.The big jars beneath ranged from the sort of medium qulity you could expect for $45 to some good looking cuts. He brought out a few standard-looking jars, including some Blueberry x Sour D and a leafy strain called Jock Horror that another budtender said was grown in organic soil "under the Colorado sun." But the shop also had some noteworthy strains, including jars of some stinky Ingrid, neon green and orange Flo, and a bright, almost teal-colored Blue Dream.
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Aside from being the first place in the Highlands that I didn't leave disappointed, the overall pricing and selection at Releaf Center is well done. I walked out with two half-eighths and a half-gram of hash for just under $65. The shop also had a massive assortment of edibles, but I'll have to save that for another trip.
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Blue Dream The Blue Dream had a sweet, candy-like smell out of the jar. Breaking open the nug released more of the sweet smell as well as a slight haze spice. The herb was also covered from top to bottom in sugary amber crystals that covered my black desk after splitting open a nugget to load in a pipe. Aside from burning a bit harsh with a few pops in the bowl, it had a mild floral taste with just a touch of that hazy spice. In fact, there was more of a haze funk in the lingering smoke around my house than I ever tasted in the bowl. I wasn't instantly affected by this strain, but after ten minutes, my mouth went dry and I spent the next hour cleaning up my office before realizing how incredibly hungry I was and finishing off a box of Cheerios. Maui Over the summer, I grew a stunted little houseplant of Maui in organic soil, but I'm no green thumb. Still, it was nice to compare my meager work against a good example of the strain done hydroponically by Releaf Center. While clearly grown for quantity and not as well presented as the Blue Dream, the Maui was still a well-cured, well-cared-for cut that had a steady light green and clover color. The buds I got were flushed well and burned with a slight cotton-candy taste in a spliff. Not as powerful as the Blue Dream, the Maui worked well over the week as a very functional medication that wouldn't overwhelm me for an hour. Red Dragon x Utopia Haze bubble hash As I said last week, I'm having a hard time adjusting to high prices for hash, but the dark army-green color, melting crayon consistency and turpentine earthy smell of batch out of the jar in the shop made spending $18 for the half-gram seem reasonable. Flattened out over a bowl, the dab of hash bubbled up in huge domes when smoked, melting into the ganja packed in the bowl as good bubble should. Smoked on its own with paddles (the new version of hot knives, for you old hippies out there), the hash had a light, flowery taste and instantly relaxed my body. Puffing too much left my arms feeling like they were floating in front of me as I typed out this paragraph. So, my call on this is: not good for writing a pot review, but great for ending the day or dealing with nagging aches and sore muscles from raking these late fall leaves.
William Breathes is the pot pen name of our medical marijuana dispensary reviewer. Read the William Breathes bio here and be sure to check out our archive of Mile Highs and Lows medical marijuana dispensary reviews.