Wellness Center of Denver is probably the closest dispensary I've found to the dispensary-less wasteland that is Aurora.
Due to their proximity to A-Town, the folks there really didn't need to do much more than set up a cash register and fill some jars with warehouse buds.
Instead, they've opted for a fancy weed lounge and retreat that feels more Cherry Creek than Havana Street.
330 S. Dayton St. Denver, CO 80247 303-665-4968 wellnesscenterofdenver.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. daily. Raw marijuana price range: $9-13/gram $30-45/eighth-ounce, $200-260/ounce. Other types of medicine: BHO, CO2 oil, kief, hash, edibles, tinctures, lotions, drinks. Online menu? Yes. Handicap-accessible? Yes.
The inside feels like someone walked through American Furniture Warehouse saying, "I want that, and that, and that, and that" for a whole day. Dark-chocolate-colored leather chairs circle a coffee table in the middle of the room, creating one waiting area, while two other cream-colored chairs in the back of the room produce a second.
The shop also has two rooms devoted to massage, acupuncture and other wellness services, though my budtender later told me that the in-house masseuse recently took up a full-time gig elsewhere; as a result, the rooms have mostly sat empty while staffers try to figure out what to do with them. One possibility is that they could be turned into merchandise rooms with pipes, shirts and other Wellness Center of Denver swag.
Compared to the open, bright, breezy atmosphere of the waiting room, the bud room feels like a cozy weed lair. Most of that is due to the room's being separated off into three distinct booths that have been built out to create private bud counters, each with its own budtender. Those of you who are uber-paranoid can even pull a curtain shut along the back to seal yourself off from the prying eyes of your fellow customers walking past you.
All the little booths open up to the larger bud bar area, where the herb, edibles and concentrates are kept on display along a counter about six feet away. My budtender, Emily, gave me the quick rundown, pointing out that first-time patients get member pricing -- about $5 less per eighth. The buds were just far enough out of reach that you have to ask to see everything; simply window-shopping the jars themselves isn't all that easy. Prices and strain names are written out on cards taped to the massive black chalkboard above the bud jars.
I started out on the sativa side, with top-shelf jars of NYC Diesel and Strawberry Cough. The NYCD was okay, with a lot of small, spear-like buds. No reason to spend much time on that jar, though. The Strawberry Cough was impressive even on the shelf, like a glass barrel full of dark-green and orange cotton balls. Uncorked, buds in the stock jar let out a distinctly strawberry cake-like creaminess, and one look at the trichome-laden sugar leaves and fat, ripe calyxes, and I instantly made up my mind.
Though the taste wasn't nearly as sweet and full as the smell, the buds were potent little time bombs of THC that had my head lifted along with my appetite. A bowl in the afternoon had me snacking through to dinner. Not a great bud to smoke if you've got a lot of concentrating to do, though. I was hyper-ADD in the morning after a bubbler-full.
Continue for the rest of the review. Top shelf on the indica side was about the same range of quality as Wellness Center of Denver's sativa selection. The funky, chunky but surprisingly purple-less Grape God buds were worth a consideration, while the Bubba Kush failed to impress with its lackluster smell. Member pricing puts the top-shelf buds at $45, tax included, which honestly is about $5 too high per price tier. Dropping everyone down to member prices wouldn't be a bad option.
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The lower-priced herb seemed to be more consistent. The shop had a foxtailed, wispy but stinky Sour Diesel on sale for $30 an eighth along with a lavender-scented batch of golf ball Blue Dream buds. I ended up bringing home a sale eighth of the Tangerine Haze. It was hairy and thin, but the smell (like fresh clementine peel) was overwhelming, and Emily assured me that the taste was equally strong. But what I missed in my excitement were the tiny, immature seeds tucked into the pods and calyxes. Breaking up the bud methodically at home took care of most of that problem, but a few would always manage to find their way into a bowl to muck up the otherwise orange-pineapple tartness. Finding a random bean in a bag is acceptable now and then, but buds with seeds like this should either be turned into hash or come with a warning. There's no way that the grower didn't notice that happened.
For hash, the shop had three different levels of icewater extraction: grams pressed into dice-sized cubes for $15 per-gram, patties of dried bubble hash for $25 per gram and kief for $20 a gram. Wellness Center of Denver also had BHO in stock made from trim by an outside producer selling for $40 a gram, though my budtender said she was happy to break it down to a quarter-gram on the scale. The OG Kush blend had much more of a strain-distinct smell than the Kush buds on the shelf and vaporized down on a titanium nail very cleanly with a musky haze/earthy mix of flavor. Very potent, especially since I haven't been smoking much wax at all lately. A BB-sized dab was more than enough to knock out lower abdominal pain and cramping while turning my stomach's mood from pukey to hungry.
For the most part, the shop has a lot to offer: It's clean and inviting, and the cannabis -- minus the seeded Tangerine Haze -- seemed well-grown and well-kept. Again, my only gripe is the price structure being about 10 percent too high for non-members across the board.