Medical marijuana dispensary review: Terrapin Care Station in Boulder

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Terrapin Care Station has grown up since my first visit nearly two years ago, swapping the patchouli and tapestry atmosphere for something more professional -- like a college kid who bought a pair of puffy brown couches and started framing his Further and Railroad Earth posters instead of tacking them up with gum.

Terrapin Care Station

5370 Manhattan Cir. #104 Boulder, CO 80305 303-954-8402 www.terrapincarestation.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. daily. Raw marijuana price range members: $17.50-$28/eighth, $140 cap on ounces. Raw marijuana price range non-members: $21-$31.50/eighth, $168 cap on ounces. Other types of medicine: BHO, hash, edibles, tinctures, salves, THC/CBD caps. Online menu? Yes. Handicap-accessible? Yes.

The shop started out life as a straight-up hippie den. Like, Cartman's-worst-nightmare style, with a couch clearly pulled from either Goodwill or someone's alley thrown in the front room and a glass counter in back with maybe five strains at most sitting lonely in a huge glass case. I've blocked some of the details from my memory, but I distinctly remember that one of my two heady budtenders was walking around barefoot while some jammy band played over a distant stereo.

Honestly, it wasn't too far off from my college house near DU. Which is fine when you're 21 and it's your house, but not really the best front when you're trying to be an upstanding medical marijuana dispensary. (No, seriously man, it's medical!) But the changes made, including a simple coat of paint on the walls and reorganizing the shop into sections, with a proper receptionist area and bud bar, have transformed the place. Well, almost.

The staff was still pretty heady. You're not going to find middle-aged squares in medical coats here, man. My budtender was a tall guy, early twenties, with dreadlocks and a stoney disposition. But let's face it: This is Boulder, and the budtender reflects Terrapin Care Station's demographic. The owners aren't hiding it; just look at their Dead-referencing name. And there are plenty of aging hippies around with bad joints and backs from ski bumming through the '80s and too many nights noodle dancing to Jerry at Red Rocks. All legit reasons for a card, mind you.

Plus, Terrapin Care Station has always managed to keep its prices low. And not just Boulder low: I'm talking South Broadway in Denver low. Eighths have been below $35 as long as I've known about the place, and that price is all but unheard of in Boulder.

The herb I bought was good, but not good enough for a review here -- and it didn't inspire me to return to Terrapin Care during the last year-plus.

This time around, the shop had two pricing levels, and nothing more than $32 an eighth and $170 an ounce. While the prices have dropped, the quality level has stayed about the same. Everything is soil-grown and while a few servings on the bud menu were standouts, most everything else was on-par with the wholesale buds your regular dispensary sells when stock runs low. A few weren't worth even pulling down, and I could tell from the look of buds in the tall square jars of strains like the HOG and Coal Creek Skunk that we wouldn't be friends. Of course, almost all of the strains sell for under $20 an eighth.

At the higher end (though still under $35) was the top-tier Triple Diesel. This is actually one of the strains I've had from Terrapin Care station before, and while the flower looks like it was grown well, the curing process for the current batch must have been forgotten. The smell was paltry out of the big jar in the shop and nonexistent from the buds I brought home. Even broken up, the tart Sour D smell was nowhere to be found. In its place was a bland, wet dirt smell (not to be confused with the organic soil funk of a really solid OG). It burned down to a fine white ash, but with almost no flavor whatsoever out of a bubbler, vape and a dry pipe. Last time I had this strain from Terrapin, it had a much more enjoyable, robust flavor to it. Still a cerebral high that kicked off my appetite quite well after a single bowl, but it would be nice to see this crop finished to its stinky glory.

Continue for the rest of the review. Their sours and kushes weren't necessarily the greatest, but other strains made up for what those two varieties lacked in flavor. Namely, the fruity strains like a mixed-fruit candy Cranberry and a rum punch Blowfish that instantly got set aside to come home with me.

Like a rum punch made with an extra splash of lime, the fruity Blowfish would have been a good addition to a relaxing day on the beach (actual beach or ski hill beach, it doesn't matter). Despite being on the lanky side, it still was a pretty sample, with long orange pistils reaching around it like tentacles and a wild sativa vibe. The tiny round golf-ball bud hiding in the back of the picture lived up to the buzzy head high and delivered the surprisingly strong body-numbing effects it is known for. Not a bad taste either, with a sugary tartness through the firs two hits. Unfortunately, the big bud I brought home had some unappealing, borderline-powdery mildew-ness to it when compared to its smaller counterpart. It wasn't overwhelming or even really offensive, but still enough to make me set the bud aside and not touch it since.

The best finds in the shop were the relatively plain-looking nugs of Blue Moonshine. The little conifer-tip buds were trimmed tight and left to dry to a candied appearance. There was a cool, earthy Flo-ness to these buds in the shop, and occasionally when I would open the bag I brought home. But it wasn't until crushed and cracked open that the leathery, lemony smells really came out though. Though the bag appeal of these buds wasn't the highest, they made up for that with a solid, cool earthiness to the bowl through the very end and an indica-heavy buzz that squashed the pain in my neck, which I tweaked while scraping heavy wet snow off my windshield the other day. Definitely a cool strain worth checking out if you're in the area, especially at $17.50 an eighth for members.

For you non-puffers, the edibles line was pleasantly large as well, and most 80-100 milligram foods were under $10. Treats from Julie and Kate, Beyond Mars, Blue Kudu, Mountain High and Marqaha were spread out between the main dispensary and an auxiliary bud bar. The second room had all of the same strains as the front room, just a whole lot more space devoted entirely to edibles. I noticed candies, cookies, tinctures, oils, drinks, and hash caps before heading back over to the main bud bar to settle with my budtender at the cash register.

In all, my visit was a cheap one -- snagging about six grams of cannabis for just over $35 after taxes. While the herb still isn't at a level that would encourage a drive to Boulder every week for my meds, it's the cheapest you'll find in the Boulder Valley. I think if the staffers spent a little bit more time giving TLC to their crops, Terrapin Care Station could easily become a destination visit, though. Unless, of course, you simply loathe hippies.

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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