Medical marijuana dispensary review: The Retreat in Denver

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There's not much online about The Retreat -- just its location and its connection with five other dispensaries, including many of the former Colorado Dispensary Services (CDS) locations. That means no online menu, no website telling its story, nothing. Just the basics.

Which, in hindsight, is much like the dispensary itself.

The Retreat

2420 South Colorado Boulevard Denver, CO 80222 720-974-9327 www.strainwise.com

Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 6 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday. Raw marijuana price range: $25/eighth and $200/ounce for members. $25-$40/eighth non-members. Ounces vary. Online menu? No. Other types of medicine: Hash, BHO, edibles. Handicap-accessible? Yes.

Frankly, I hadn't ever even heard of the Retreat until a few weeks ago, when I was down the street getting my tires rotated and noticed its discreet and well-placed strip-center location between a taco joint, a Philly cheese-steak restaurant and a cut-rate sushi bar. The munchies trap of that trio alone has to bring in a few patients.

The shop is back in the corner of the strip, in a roomy space made more so by the nearly complete lack of furniture, artwork or any distinguishable decoration aside from a shelf near the ATM with a few magazines and a handful of chairs set against the window for waiting patients.

Decor really doesn't matter in the long run, and the Retreat was nice and clean -- but it felt like the business had just moved to the location and hadn't unpacked, kinda like an MTV Cribs episode about a rapper's brand-new house before it's been fully furnished.

And my assessment isn't far off. A manager I spoke with afterward said the Retreat was bought out by Strainwise, a collective of dispensaries made up of many of the old CDS centers, including CDS Wheat Ridge, which has now been renamed The Ridge. The Retreat has been operating since April, and the manager says the staff is working on creating a more welcoming space.

I was the only person in during my visit, so I didn't have to wait long for my budtender to copy my card into the system and come out from behind the bank teller-like window to let me in the security door. He was a nice guy and was clearly bored when I walked in, interrupting a movie playing on the laptop.

Like the waiting room, the bud bar felt cavernous despite being a relatively cozy size because of the lack of anything beyond what is necessary: a display counter with hash, edibles, bud and smoking accessories. Hash sells for between $15 and $35 a gram, depending on the extraction method.

For raw cannabis, members and first-timers get $25 eighths across the board and $200 ounces, which makes the shop reasonable on the wallet. Prices for non-members are on the jars, with most still in the $25-30 range, though a few are as high as $40 an eighth.

A few of the higher-priced strains, like the fluffy, truly lavender Lavender Kush at $30 and the chunky, and lightly spicy Master Kush, were worth checking out. The shop's top-shel, signature strain is a mix of Original Kush and Appalachia called Tiger's Milk that produced some dense, bulbous-looking buds coated in amber trichomes. Though it only had a mild, sweet pine-sap odor to back the strain up, it was impressive on sight, and the jar was quickly relegated to the take-home pile. The manager I spoke with didn't go into details, but he said that the Retreat's grow is all done in organic soil.

In general, though, there wasn't much outstanding in the shop's otherwise solid selection of genetics, and most of the ten to twelve strains were like the White Bubba I saw: mid-range, warehouse-dispensary quality. Some jars were down to the leafy, shaky bottoms, and I didn't even bother having the budtender pull them out. Least impressive was the jar of airy, wispy, premature Fort Collins Cough that lacked any of that strain's musky aroma or initial bag appeal.

As a whole, the shop isn't bad, but not yet great, either. The good news, though, is that they're essentially starting with a blank canvas.

Continue down for strain reviews and photos. Lavender Kush I wasn't intending to take home such larfy buds; I made my selection based on the thick, well-developed colas in the jar at the shop. Nevertheless, the buds I wound up with had the same distinct, lavender-oil smell to them, and they burned with an enjoyably sweet, lavender-honey-like aftertaste out of a clean, dry pipe. It wasn't the most coated strain, but under magnification, the small, clear trichomes looked like glass protective spikes on the yellow calyxes. This was a nice calming strain with enough potency to make it good for taking the edge off of a stressful day at work or in conjunction with a more powerful indica to help deal with muscle and nerve pain. I didn't want to like what I brought home based on the looks, but this cut won me over in the end. Tiger's Milk Not much of a smell to the big jar; more of a dried-hay scent with only small hints of the nutrient-rich soil finish of a Kush. But this was still easily the most enticing strain in the shop, and just looking at the chunky, dense, crystal-coated buds gave me cottonmouth. The buds scoped clean, and I didn't see any signs of mold or pests on the trichome-coated calyxes and sugar leaves. Ground up, the buds left a waxy sheen on my thumb and a dusting of trichomes on my desk. Not much Kush flavor to this Kush-based hybrid, but it certainly had the Kush power behind it, and it went straight to my head. This is the type of strain that works great for everything: pain, nausea, listening to Rush, appetite stimulation. It's all in how much or little you puff. Despite the poor cure, which left it scentless and tasteless, the Tiger's Milk was a good find and an indication of what the Retreat is capable of. Blended BHO I didn't pick up on any solvent smells or nasty butane residue in the hash in the shop; it just looked like dark amber Swiss cheese, with a smell like wet icewater hash made from uncured trim. But burned on a titanium nail, this BHO sizzled like an ice cube on a griddle and left a chunk of charred, flaky black residue behind. I never got around to how it tastes or anything like that. Based on the burning wax smell of the test dab I did, I wasn't all that excited to smoke it. Your best bet is to try the Retreat's pressed hash if you want concentrates. And the Retreat's best bet? Finding a better BHO producer.

Read more reviews from William Breathes in our marijuana blog, Mile Highs and Lows and keep up with all your cannabis news over at The Latest Word.

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