Native Roots Apothecary has better mall shopping than the souvenir stores

In "Mile Highs and Lows," Westword offers a no-holds-barred look at what goes on behind the locked doors of marijuana dispensaries, whether they resemble swanky bars, sterile dentist's offices or a dope dealer's college dorm room.

See our current dispensary list here, and keep reading for William Breathes's review of Native Roots Apothecary:

Native Roots Apothecary 910 16th Street 303-623-1900

Hours of operation: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Owner: Rhett Jordan Owner's statement: "We try to accomplish what everyone else isn't accomplishing -- being discreet, classy and professional." Opened: February 25, 2010 Raw marijuana price range: $15/gram, $45/eighth for members; $17.50/gram, $50/eighth for non-members. Other types of medicine: In-house edibles, hash, hash oil, tincture, pre-rolled joints. Patient services and amenities: Yoga, food preparation, nutrition counseling, small selection of hand-blown glass and grinders, handicap-accessible.

Our Take: When someone mentions the 16th Street Mall, what's the first thing I think of? The term "tourist trap." This is the place to go for a miniature buffalo, an "I'm a member of the Mile High Club" T-shirt and a knockoff watch, not medical marijuana. But Rhett Jordan, owner of Native Roots Apothecary, wants to change that by offering upscale service and quality ganja -- if not easy parking.

I finally found a spot four blocks away and headed down the mall, strolling past panhandlers, gaggles of Hispanic tween girls with towering bangs, gutter punks, mouth-gaping tourists, hustling businessmen and crackheads playing pianos (who gave them pianos?) until I reached the ornate, turn-of-the-century AC Foster/University Building. The lobby here easily qualifies as the fanciest I've seen at a dispensary, even if technically it doesn't belong to Native Roots. To reach the dispensary, I rode a brass-adorned elevator up to the eighth floor, and stepping out into the marble foyer -- with an old-time barbershop across from the elevator doors -- was like stepping into a time warp. But that impression faded as I rounded the corner and buzzed the doorbell that let me into the Native Roots waiting room.

Despite its venerable surroundings, the spot felt new and clean. Jordan says he was going for "classic comfort" with the decor of light-wood floors, tea-green paint, leather chairs and marble countertops to match the marble elsewhere in the historic building. I'm not sure what a "classic" dispensary looks like, but it was definitely comfortable. Although I'd arrived early on a weekday afternoon, the place was busy. Four more patients came in behind me, so I found a seat in the patient lounge and flipped through a copy of High Times waiting on the guy in front of me.

The bud bar was in the back corner of the store, separated from the waiting room by a low-hanging arch; inside two glass counters was an impressive selection of cannabis goodies, including edibles made by Jordan's other venture, Conscious Confections. Slices of baklava, granola bars and some trail mix sat on one countertop next to several grams of sepia-colored hash. The other countertop held about a dozen different strains -- most all in-house, I was told by a budtender I only later learned was Jordan, the owner. He talked me through the offerings, which included Count Skunkula, Hong Kong Star and Sweet Tooth.

All of the herbs looked and smelled good for a warehouse grow; several of the strains had recently been tested for purity at Full Spectrum, and he was happy to discuss the results. Native Roots had a restaurant-style folding menu on top of the case, with bud descriptions that are updated weekly. They also threw a smaller, take-home version of the menu in the bag with my purchase, a helpful tool for the occasionally forgetful dispensary critic.

I ended up walking out with an eighth of popcorn-sized LifeSaver buds. The owner told me the strain tested with a 20 percent THC rating -- the highest-percentage the shop currently had in stock. I've skipped sampling indica-heavy strains lately, so I figured going as strong as I could would be a good way to start back up. I also grabbed a gram of the hash, bringing my total tab to $83.

As I exited the building's stately entry, I stepped into another time warp: the foot traffic of the 16th Street Mall. I expected to get hit up for the ganja in my pocket by the huckster playing the saxophone, but nobody paid any attention to me. I was just a guy walking out of a store in an old office building. For all they knew, I'd just bought a brand-new coonskin cap or an overpriced dreamcatcher.

In reality, though, I'd just bought some really good pot. Whoever named this cross of blueberry and bubblegum LifeSaver was spot-on: It smelled like a freshly opened pack of Life Savers, and the taste was eerily similar, too. As a kid, I'd eat entire rolls of tropical Life Savers in one sitting, barely able to keep from drooling the pineapple-citrus tartness down the front of my shirt. (Who am I kidding? I did that two weeks ago, too.) But those Life Savers didn't impart the surprisingly cerebral buzz that this LifeSaver did. It left me quiet and relaxed, but functional. I could see using this for pain relief in the morning without needing a pot nap before lunch.

Jordan had told me the hash came from an entire AK-47 plant, not just the trim and bottom buds. This gram was a bit crumbly and dry, so it was a little harsh on the uptake. But it had a buttery shortcake taste to it, and throwing a tenth of a gram on top of some White Fire from my caregiver was a great way to unwind after all the commotion about my CNN interview.

The Wildflower Seed and William Breathes are the pot pen names of our two alternating medical marijuana dispensary reviewers. Read their bios here.

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes