Medical marijuana dispensary review: Summit Wellness in Denver

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The ink on the first recreational and dual-use marijuana retail applications has hardly even dried.

And the licenses for such shops are still months away from being issued.

But already, shops are making moves to shift to a new customer base of walk-in downtowners and discount-hunting tourists.

Take, for example, Summit Wellness.

Summit Wellness

2117 Larimer Street Denver, CO 80205 720-407-8112 DenversBestDispensary.com

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Raw marijuana price range (members) $5.71/gram $20/eighth-ounce, $70/half-ounce $140/ounce. Raw marijuana price range (non-members): $7.14/gram $25/eighth-ounce, $85/half-ounce $155/ounce. Other types of medicine: BHO, icewater hash, tinctures, topicals, edibles, drinks. Online menu? Yes. Handicap-accessible? Yes.

The shop has a dark brown-on-brown thing going, with tan and brown paint on the walls, deeply stained wood floors, heavy oak furniture and natural wood trim on the doors. It's cozy and warm, but somewhat dated-feeling -- if that is at all possible for an industry less than five years old in this state. It's like my old DIY uncle's South Fork cabin, complete with homemade wooden everything.

My budtender was piddling around on an iPad at the receptionist desk while SportsCenter played on the flat-screen above his head. Dude had a trumpet out and looked like a bigger, more-metal version of Chuck Mangione -- hat and all. I half expected "Feels so Good" to start as soon as the two of us walked through the locked door toward the back.

Sadly, no sweeping funky melodies awaited me -- just a bud bar in the midst of a major expansion. The same dark-brown mood is kept up, though it's hard to say what the actual bud bar will look like now, as the shop is currently expanding to accommodate the eventual shift to a recreational marijuana store, according to my budtender. He didn't want to say too much, but noted that the central-downtown location sets the center up nicely for tourist walk-ins and the like. And while he implied that nothing is set in stone, the shop looks like it has tripled the size of its bud-bar space by eliminating a few walls and moving some private offices.

For now, construction looms around the small corner bud-bar area, set up with a belly-high bar and a stack of about a dozen jars set out inside the glass-topped counter, some filled with chunky buds, and others with shakey bits and pieces. Hash selection seemed promising from the online menu and website, which has some gorgeous pictures of shatter oil. But when I stopped by, all that was left of the icewater hash was rolling around in the tiny grooves at the bottom of the Mason jar, and the only other concentrates were chunks of "Honeycomb" wax from Moonrocks for $30 per gram. It was way too oily and sugary-looking for my tastes these days, like crumbled-up yellow candle wax. I could hear it sizzle on my nail just looking at it. With few options, I opted out of concentrates at Summit.

Continue for the rest of the review and photos of the meds. Edible selection was pretty large and was mostly kept on display behind the counter, as well as on the countertop itself. Dixie, TinctureBelle, Dabba, Gaia's and Cheeba Chews were all represented well. A tall display fridge in the far corner of the room sending its droning hum bouncing around the hollow space held a few drinks, plus cooking butter from Julie and Kate -- a cannabis treat we thoroughly enjoyed when reviewing it a few months back in our Chronicle dispensary guide. The shop also had $25 jars of Dixie tinctures and topicals from Dixie, Apothecanna and TinctureBelle beginning at $20. My doctor recently recommended those to me for a sore back, actually. But instead, I passed it up for more immediate relief in the form of good, old-fashioned cannabis.

I asked my budtender for his selections, and that turned out to be a good move, because the dude knew his stuff and certainly had an eye for the better buds. He was also quick to point out strains that didn't quite meet his standards, like a BLANCA that smelled appropriately blank and boring. Others looked more full of shake and flowers trimmed down tightly into popcorn buds. Deathstar was one of those. It was shakey and the buds were scraggly, though it did have a strong, familiar earthy-skunkiness to it. Cannalope haze had similar qualities: no looks, but a lot of smell. Other strains weren't as memorable. My budtender shooed me away from the bland-looking Bruce Banner, for example, and presented the jar of Mango with the caveat that the buds were pretty much gone.

At his suggestion, I opted for the electric-green Chem 91. The itty-bitty round calyxes looked like miniature limes tucked into the crystal-coated amber folds of the bud. Chopped tight and slightly overdried, the buds had mellowed on smell by the time I was checking them out in the shop. Still, I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised with the results. I wouldn't pull it out to smoke with any grower friends, but it was passable Chem 91, with a decent tart, rubbery smell and light flavor when broken up and vaped -- even more so through a clean, dry pipe. The buds burned a little on the harsh side, with some pops and crackles, but the potency made up for that. I was hungry within about ten minutes and buzzed-up like a double shot of espresso for an hour and a half, all for just over $20 an eighth.

The Grandma Cindy, meanwhile, was the sleeper of the two that I brought home. The baby-powder/scratch-and-sniff strawberry-shortcake smell of the buds in the shop is what sold me, even though they all seemed on the small, slightly premature side -- and it didn't help that homeboy kept shaking up the jars before he handed them over to me. Budtenders: Stop doing this. You're shaking down the kief and breaking up buds. Still, I was blown away by the fullness of the flavor. Freakishly rich, it was a mix of fruit-cup sweetness and fresh-turned potting soil that left a distinctive, nose-tickling haze in the air. I would love to see this grown better, because even this sample was up there for me. Great for puffing a bowl both to deal with the soreness of raking up fall leaves as well as getting ready to do so. For my money, there's no better way to enjoy all of the beautiful trees than with a head full of trees.

I walked out with about four grams of cannabis in total for just under $25. Quality was about what you'd expect overall for herb selling in that ballpark, but I got the impression that the shop's plate was too full right now due to future plans and expansion. There didn't seem to be as much focus on the herb in the jars, but that could easily improve with some TLC in the grow room. After all, that's what is going to keep the doors open once the initial wave of curious first-time customers gets past the shock and awe of being able to legally purchase cannabis.

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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