Medical marijuana dispensary review: Root Organic in Boulder

Root Organic and Boulder Wellness are situated directly next to each other in the back of a small strip center just east of central Boulder on Arapahoe Road. I hadn't realized that until I parked and got out of my car, doing a double take and wondering if I was making the better of the two choices before me.

The Root Organic receptionists told me they see people doing exactly what I did all the time, and often make small wagers on which shop they'll eventually walk into.

Root Organic

5420 Arapahoe Ave. Boulder, CO 80303 303-443-0240 www.rootorganicmmc.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Raw marijuana price range: $8-12/gram, $25-45/eighth-ounce, $175-$250/ounce. Other types of medicine: Icewater hash, edibles, tinctures, lotions, drinks. Online menu? Yes. Handicap-accessible? Yes.

Inside, the shop is slick, clean and non-threatening. Huge windows dominate the front area, allowing plenty of natural light to seep through even on overcast winter days to warm up the earthy-green painted space. You won't find thumb-tacked pictures hung on the walls, either. Instead, framed artwork hangs over new-looking leather chairs and stools set up like an Ikea-furnished post-college first apartment.

The girls behind the desk were giggly and friendly, taking my red card and ID down and then shooing me back through a locked security door to the open, echoing chamber that is Root Organic's bud bar. Herb isn't kept in large tubs or containers here. Only small sample glass jars containing two or three nuggets from each strain were on display, making it easy to pick and choose what to look at without crowding the small counter space. Edibles are strewn about the store. they ranged from your standard cookies and candies to lotions, potions and tinctures.

My budtender, Patrick, could easily be in the running for budtender of the year. Not only did he go through each and every strain with me, but he had a veritable science report to give on the effects and history of each strain. A personable guy, he was truly enthused about finding the right strain for me -- which in this case was a ripping sativa to aid in my ongoing quest to put on a few pounds to my otherwise slim frame.

Though the breadth of the selection was great -- with a lot of different strains offering a multitude of medical benefits -- the quality at which everything was grown, dried and cured needs some attention. Examples included the dull Hash Plant and the lackluster fragments of Bubblegum Bubba Kush on display. On the very top-tier was Root Organic's signature Alpha Blue, but I failed to see why it was so unique when compared to the rest of their stock. Unfortunately, what was on the shelf seemed to be on par with the average massive warehouse grow. Like the White Widow, with its extremely dense bud structure, chop-job of a trim and hardly any strain-distinct smell.

I eventually settled on the 303 Headband, one my favorite blends to float around Colorado. Even though the buds in the display jar didn't have quite enough nose-tickling funk for my tastes, I opted for a gram, since the medicinal effects of this correspond perfectly with my stomach condition. The Sour D-like bud structure and dark green coloring were spot on, as was the coating of oily amber trichomes. The gram I brought home was clean of any bugs or nastiness from what I could tell; overall, it seems to have been grown out right. Sadly, the same can't be said for the curing process. Breaking up the bud released a faint earthy aroma, but for the most part, it gave off more of a generic cannabis scent. Clearly, though, Root Organic recognized the bud's faults as well, since it was priced on the lowest tier -- $25 for members and $30 for non-members.

The Durban, on the other hand, was a stinker from the get-go, with very strong rotten lemon and exotic spice aromas emitting from the tiny gram jar I brought home. They weren't the prettiest samples, with most looking like they were pulled apart from a larger, more appealing cola, but they made up for that in the fullness of the taste and a powerful and uplifting sativa buzz. This strain works great for increasing my appetite, but it's also a good motivator. Better, it's the type of herb that gets you up off your ass and cleaning your entire house until you come down about two hours later and realize you haven't even stopped to take a breath. Overall, it's not the most glaringly perfect example of Durban Poison. But at $25 for members and $30 for non-members, it's in the right price range.

Page down for the rest of the review. Unfortunately, everything at the center is pre-weighed and pre-packaged - one of my biggest pet peeves with dispensaries. Almost without fail, the buds you bring home aren't up to the same level as the few selected to go on display. That was true with Root Organic as well. Like the 303 Headband that had lost all of its amazingly potent, rubbery smell by the time I popped the lid on my single-gram jar.

My other gripe is that grams are overpriced when compared to the per-gram price of an eighth -- the same as it was in 2010 with The Farm. I can understand the logic of not wanting to always weigh out grams for patients and offering an incentive to them for buying in bulk, but 3.5 grams is not bulk and the choice to pre-weigh everything has already been made. So the shop is forcing patients on a budget who want to take home some variety to pay more than $50 for an eighth's worth of herb.

I know that this was a policy at the Farm, and has been since we reviewed it nearly three years ago, but Root Organic should look into changing that. Plus, the MMC isn't really offering any price breaks for the middle-tier bud, which sells at $29 an eighth. Buying by the ounce will save you about $8 in total. The shop does offer member discounts, like an additional half-gram for every eighth-ounce purchased or 25 percent off hash, but you have to choose one deal or the other.

While Root Organic has a lot of positive things going for it -- notably the inviting, mature atmosphere, great edibles selection and an amazing knowledgeable staff -- the small things start to add up. It makes you wonder: Why re-visit, especially when other shops are selling better herb for roughly the same prices? I'll have to check out Boulder Wellness soon to see if making a left instead of a right would have been a better choice.

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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