Recreational Marijuana Dispensary Review: Terrapin Care Station in Aurora

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The first time we visited Terrapin Care Station years ago, I remember that my bartender was barefoot and posters of Widespread Panic and the Grateful Dead adorned the walls of the otherwise ramshackle little place they had in South Boulder. It didn't deter us, though, because at the time, the shop was selling some very good organic ground cannabis at extremely low prices.

Times change, and Terrapin's newest location in Aurora shows that the hippies have grown up and moved on to being big-time pot dealers.

Terrapin Care Station - Recreational 11091 E. Mississippi Ave., Unit B Aurora, CO 80012 303-954-8402, ext. 3 TerrapinCareStation.com

Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Raw marijuana price range: $35/eighth-ounce, $187.50/ounce. Other types of medicine: Butter, wax, shatter, edibles, drinks, infused lotions, massage oil, lip balm Online menu? Yes. Handicap-accessible? Yes. Recreational sales? Yes, recreational only.

I had to go recreational shopping this week for my meds; I haven't received my medical card yet from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. But it gave me a chance to see what it would be like for someone who wants to try medical cannabis but doesn't want to go through all of the rigmarole of going through a doctor. The only thing that I would have to do differently is pay the hefty tax the state and City of Aurora have levied on recreational pot.

Terrapin's location is in the back corner of a nondescript building on Mississippi, and from the outside, it doesn't look like much. On the inside, though, they've done a lot to jazz up the place. Beautiful new wood floors, brand-new cabinetry, fresh paint everywhere, and a noticeably surprising lack of Grateful Dead memorabilia.

I was in a few days before Christmas, and I certainly wasn't the only one buying green to get through the holiday. Two girls from Florida checked in ahead of me, and most of the seven or eight budtender stations of the store were full when I was buzzed through to the back. One thing that's nice about recreational compared to medical is that with recreational sales you don't have to go through the massive sign-in process. Some guy simply checked my ID like a bartender or a bouncer at a concert would do, then waved me on back. None of my information went into the system at all, and there was no waiting and no signing over temporary caregivership or whatever legal mumbo-jumbo the medical shops still have to go through.

The bud room is a large, open space with counters set up in a U-shape along three of the walls. Herb is kept in pre-packed jars in different stations around the room. At some point, some moron in the Aurora city government decided that dispensaries shouldn't be able to display marijuana whatsoever in a store. Never mind the fact that you've already been carded before you walk in and you know what you're about to buy: The brilliant minds in Aurora government don't want any pot on display. * (See update below.)

And that's actually one of the biggest glitches with the whole system. When I wanted to see a strain, my bartender had to run to the other side of the room to pick up a jar and bring it back for me to look at. We did this five or six times, and the whole process started to drag. The fact that it can't be displayed isn't the shop's fault, but the shop should do something about it and have samples of every strain at each budtender station so I don't have to wait on some guy running around the room and finding the strain I just want to look at.

But operations aside, my visit was a really nice one. My budtender really knew this stuff, and was making very good suggestions to me as to what strains I should look at and check out based on what I told him about my medical needs. The shop gives each customer a paper menu, and you can look down the strain list to see what interests you.

My budtender, a shorter guy with long curly hair, was actually more helpful than a lot of medical budtenders have been in recent months. He asked me what I was looking for and why I was using it. I told him I mostly stuck with hybrids and indica-leaning hybrids but that I was open to any suggestions he had for helping me increase the hunger I have through the day.

The 303 Kush was a great example. I looked at several different jars, and they all looked like they were filled with the same top-quality, crystal-coated buds. They all had that strong lemony diesel smell to them, and it was a given that I would be bringing home the eighth after the first stanky sniff. The flower itself broke up well and let out more of the same awesome, rubbery, Kush smells that came out of the jar. A few tokes of this target lemony strain was more than enough to set me right for two hours or more. Appetite stimulation was pretty good with the strain, as I've noticed in the past. But where it really shines is with mood elevation and stress management. In other words, a few bowls of this help me deal with the in-laws all week. There's a local discount, so in total I ended up paying about $46 for the eighth as a whole with tax included. It's not great, but it's also not bad, either, as I've paid $45 for medical buds in recent weeks with no complaints.

The Girl Scout Cookies I brought home was a crazy example. Just look at the massive foxtail that comes off of this bud; it looks like it's flippng off the camera. The strain had a really sweet, almost grapey smell when broken up, along with the straight sugar-cookie odors you would expect from the strain. Unfortunately, it also had a little bit of fertilizer stink to it that shouldn't be there. A little bit more time fleshing out the strain would've done it wonders. But as it stands, it was a good pick that really kicked my appetite into gear and allowed me to get through my day without being too spacey like with the 303 Kush.

The shop also carried concentrates, but most of it was peanut-buttery-looking wax, and, frankly, I don't need concentrates right now in my life, medically. I'm doing just fine smoking buds. Edibles were cheap, though, and worth pointing out. You could get 100 mg worth of candies from Canyon Cultivations for under $15. They also had some Julie and Kate products -- a producer that has never let us down -- and the now-ubiquitous Incredibles bars.

I walked out of Terrapin paying equal to or less than I've paid at medical dispensaries. That's a nice surprise, and it's really good to see a recreational shop not completely gouging customers. Again, the only real downside is to be blamed on the City of Aurora itself. Why they would think that customers wouldn't want to see the buds that they are going to purchase is beyond me. I also can't fathom what they were trying to accomplish with that regulation. But then again, there are a lot of things that go on in Aurora that don't make sense.*

Thankfully, visiting Terrapin Care Station for your ganja needs isn't one of them.

*Update on January 6: We received a note from Julie Patterson, senior public information officer for for the City of Aurora, who tells us that there is no ordinance preventing Terrapin Care Station from displaying buds out in jars in the bud room. In fact:

Retail marijuana stores in Aurora may display marijuana any way they would like inside the store within the parameters of state of Colorado regulations. The only regulation that exists regarding display is a both city- and state-limitation on visibility of the product from the exterior of the building (see Rule 409 under the city's Retail Marijuana Establishment Rules and Regulations). Open jars of buds may be on display for customers.

The Aurora Marijuana Enforcement Division is reaching out to Terrapin Care Station to make sure they also understand the rules and regulations regarding how products may be displayed.

So Terrapin Care Station has either made the decision to not display buds based on a misreading of the rule or the owners simply decided not to have display buds and are blaming it on a nonexistent city ordinance. Either way, they should make some changes immediately instead of forcing bud tenders to waste time running around the store looking for jars of pot.

Read more reviews from Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic, William Breathes, in our Marijuana category on the Latest Word.

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