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Medical marijuana dispensary review: Riverside Wellness in Denver

This dispensary has closed.

I first heard about Riverside Wellness a few weeks ago, after burglars had broken in and stolen $8 in cash. The staff seemed to take it in stride, showing a sense of humor by pointing out that the money was stolen from a "karma jar" -- and karma tends to work both ways.

Riverside Wellness

3722 Chestnut Place Denver, CO 80216 720-381-0214 www.riversidewellnessmedical.com

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday. Online Menu? Yes. Other types of medicine: Hash, kief, BHO, edibles. Handicap-accessible? Yes.

Riverside is somewhat hidden, as dispensaries go. It's tucked back on Chestnut Place near the Pepsi bottling plant along the Platte River, and drive-by traffic doesn't seem to be very heavy. The shop itself is in an old warehouse building, with a mix of dark-brown and light-tan bricks and wooden siding that gives it a lot of character on the outside without screaming "YOU CAN BUY WEED HERE!"

The inside of the shop was just as subtle as the outside. I was buzzed in the front door by my budtender to the secured lobby area. Things are simple inside, and the walls have been painted a neutral beige that's a welcome relief from the loud greens that some dispensary owners still feel they have to use everywhere just because they're selling greenery. The receptionist counter is at the top of a small flight of stairs, although Riverside has also set up a wheelchair lift for handicapped patients. To your left as you walk in is the flowering-room viewing area, but since I was the only person in during my visit, I didn't get a chance to check it out.

While my budtender was copying my card and ID and entering me into Riverside's system, I was buzzed back to the actual waiting room. A huge flat-screen is hung on one wall, but it was turned off in favor of some dubstep over the high-end, surround-sound system laid out around the few couches and chairs. It felt like the living room of a pre-furnished condo or a display at Furniture Row, with no art hung on the walls and matching poofy couches. I didn't take a seat, however. Instead, budtender Lisa and I chatted about Colorado springtime and our favorite small mountain towns to visit and unwind.

After a few minutes, she finished up the paperwork and took me back through a closed door in the waiting room to the bud bar. Much like the rest of the shop, the space is simple and uncluttered, with a lot of empty counters in an L-shaped setup spanning the back third of the room. One cabinet had a few pipes and vaporizers, while another held all of the hash and edibles. Herb was kept on top of the counter in aluminum-topped glass jars for patients to pick up and check out as they wanted.

Unfortunately, my timing was awful, and the harvest on the shelves was down to the bottom of the dozen or so jars. Lisa told me that management recently had to fire the entire grow team and bring on a new master grower and crew. She said the last growers were increasingly lazy with their methods, and the quality of the herb had dipped considerably. It was a disappointing lead into my visit, but I appreciated her honesty more than if she had been touting the stock on hand as being top-shelf.

Lisa said the new growers are already light-years beyond the last crew and that the harvest they pulled down about two weeks ago is fantastic. Too bad that harvest hadn't completed the drying and curing process and wasn't out on the shelves. What I was left with were the jar-bottom leavings of about a dozen strains. Herb is broken down into two price ranges, with top shelf going for $35 an eighth and mid-range selling for $25. The shop also had $16 eighths of mixed bottom buds and straight trim selling for even less -- about $50 an ounce.

For edibles, Riverside carried a small selection of sweets and treats from Dixie, Edi-Pure, Cheeba Chews and Sarah's. The shop also sells BHO wax made by Dixie from Riverside trim for $20 a gram and $25 for shatter oil. I avoided the shatter oil due to its used-motor-oil color, opting for the orange wax instead.

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As for the herb: The dozen or so strains were okay, but as Lisa conceded, they could have used some more TLC during their grow cycle. The Sweet Diesel and Sweet Tooth were wispy and underdeveloped, and strains like the Alaskan Ice and Heavy Duty Fruity could have used a better trim. The pre-98 Bubba Kush had a great smell, but like the rest of the stock, it was down to the bottom of the jar. By the time this review is up, however, none of the old harvest should be on the shelves anymore, and the MMC should be stocked with fresh herb from the new growers.

Overall, Riverside has a lot of good things going for it. The staff made me feel more like a friend than a customer, the prices are great, and the shop itself is a clean, inviting spot that doesn't feel like a back-alley, black-market pot shop. Because of the shift in grow staff, it's hard to get a read on what the dispensary is capable of putting out. But based on my experience this first time, I think Riverside will be worth checking out again down the line.

Page down for strain reviews and photos. Pre-98 Bubba Kush: $35 eighth A really nice and strong earthiness to the little popcorn buds in the jar in the shop, but after a few days in the baggie I brought home, the OG funk faded to a mild, skunky sweetness. The buds came from the bottom of the jar, but despite the size, the little buds had a coating of amber trichomes on their tiny, stacked, bb-shaped calyxes. I imagine the fatter buds that sold over the last few weeks were great eye candy, with chunks of light to dark purple in the folds of the flowers. Taste wasn't overpowering and more sugary-sweet than sour and rubbery, but it left a buttery-smooth OG aftertaste after the first three or four hits from a clean, dry pipe. Overall not bad, but since Riverside is switching up how the shop is growing and who is growing it, who knows what the next harvest will look like? Alaskan Ice: $25/eighth "You said this was Indo... smells like out-do." That marijuana movie quote from Friday is one of my all-time favorites, if only because it comes to mind so often when I bring home herb like this. A few days in the baggie drying out didn't help things, and on first sniff, the bud didn't seem to have much of a smell aside from a piney, walk-in-the-foothills-in-May scent. It looked more like outdoor herb I've had in places like Jamaica and New Zealand, as well, with long, reedy sugar leaves and a dusty, copper appearance likely from the haze lineage. Medicine-wise, this White Widow cross was a creeping mix of sativa energy and appetite and a numbing dose of pain relief on the side. Nothing superb about the taste and overall a mid-range, forgettable smoke this go-round. But a spliff did leave a musky haze floating above my desk that I would love to see the growers bring out in the next harvest. Cheesequake Earwax: $20/gram This jar of wax sat almost unused all week long on my desk, but two or three dabs of the still-moist orange BHO (with the consistency of wet kief) was enough. Not strain-specific, nor is it made in-house. But it uses Riverside trim and sells for $20 a gram, so I rounded out my order with a small jarful. In retrospect, neither this nor the motor-oil-colored shatter looked that great, and whoever is doing this process for Riverside needs to step up his game and do some better purging. My last hit sizzled like a drop of egg in bacon grease and left a glob of sticky plant waxes and oils behind on the nail.

William Breathes is the pot pen name for Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic. Read more of his reviews in our medical marijuana culture blog, Mile Highs and Lows and keep up with all your marijuana news over at The Latest Word.

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