Medical marijuana dispensary review: High Grade Alternatives in Boulder
High Grade Alternatives has been around since October 2009, and I've heard nothing but good things about the place. Owner Adam Mahon said HGA developed a strong following from the start by buying small-batch herb from caregivers. Laws have changed, but Mahon says the shop's been able to keep up the high-grade production and huge selection it's known for.
High Grade Alternatives
Location: 3370 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder
Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Owner/manager: Adam Mahon
Opened: October 2009
Raw marijuana price range: $35-$50/eighth for non-members. Members receive 20 percent discount.
Other types of medicine: Hash oil, hash, kief, edibles, candies
Handicap accessible? Yes
The shop is in a strip center off Arapahoe and 28th, between a bakery and a bike shop. Parking wasn't a hassle, and the entire center is handicap-accessible. Bob Marley's "Keep on Movin'" was playing overhead when I walked in, and a big, bearded mountain man-looking guy in his thirties in line in front of me was shuffling his feet to the rhythm and singing along quietly when not talking with the receptionist as she copied his paperwork. Judging by the conversation, he was a regular, and I didn't mind giving them a minute to finish their chat before she buzzed him back to the bud bar.
As a first-timer, I had about four pages of paperwork to fill out. I took a seat on one of the plush couches along the west side of the space. The waiting room has a simple, clean feel with a few pieces of artwork hung on the earth-toned wall, including vivid nature prints from local artists Phil Lewis and Bryce Widom. Lewis, who also displays work at the Farm in Boulder, is best known for his psychedelic, Day-Glo nature paintings. Denver folks may also recognize his colorful chalk paintings that change seasonally behind the bar at Vine Street Pub. High Grade definitely has a college-town feel, but despite its mellow vibe, it's classed up with wood floors, nice furniture and an overall clean appearance.
I handed over my paperwork and sat for a minute while the receptionist put me in the system before sending me back to my budtender, Mark. The bud bar features three matching glass display cases, each with herb kept in square glass jars on top -- indica at the front and sativa at the back. Along the back wall was a second mural by Widom, this one of a fox romping through a field overlooking a mountain scene done in vivid orange, red and green chalk. Too bad it's a temporary piece -- although judging by his work at Vine Street, the next painting will be equally intriguing.
Also in the cases were a few different concentrates, pipes and portable vaporizers -- but for the most part, the product was kept out for patients to browse through. "What's good?" I asked, staring at the full countertop. "Marijuana," he replied. Nice answer.
I've had a bad back for two weeks now. And while I wish I could say it was from something rad like rock climbing barefoot to escape a bear, it's really from mowing my lawn with an ancient push mower. Getting old sucks. The only good side to the stabbing pain near my spine that runs down my leg with a searing burn is that it's given me a reason to go for the stronger indicas instead of the sativa and sativa-dominant strains I normally use to fight off nausea. I'm sure someone at the state level would frown on this, but if you haven't already done so, I suggest experimenting with various cannabis strains for a wide range of ailments aside from just what your doctor recommends.
Mark quickly gave me the "nickel tour" of the place, rattling off products and price breakdowns like a ganja auctioneer. HGA had an entire wall devoted to edibles, several different pipes and vaporizers and loads of strain-specific ice water and butane hash. The majority of the forty or so strains in the shop were considered "top shelf." While I questioned why some of the herb was labeled like it was (Headband as an indica, for example), the quality in the dozen or so jars I popped open seemed to justify being designated cream of the crop. There were very solid, strain-distinct smells from strains like Planewreck and Bubblegum. The shop also had a range of purple strains that Mark was pushing, including a concord-grape sweet grape skunk called Grunk. Some of the bottom shelf, $35-an-eighth cuts looked okay, including Jah Kush with its wild, untamed buds. Others weren't as worthwhile, such as AK and Kacey Jones cuts that I passed over on looks alone.
Prices include tax, with $35 an eighth on the low end and $50 on the high end. Signing up the shop as your caregiver (or whatever the hell that's called now) gets you 20 percent off purchases -- dropping a top-shelf eighth price to a reasonable $40 with tax included. What was considered normal pricing a year ago seems high now, and $50 sounds pricey when talking about an eighth of herb. On the phone later, the owner admitted it was a high price, but he said most customers have signed HGA up as their caregiver. He said the center would drop non-member pricing eventually as the market in Boulder demands it. But HGA doesn't appear to be in any big rush to change.
Mark split an eighth three ways for me, and I snagged a quarter-gram of oil on top. First-time patients get the member discount, so I walked out paying around $57 for a few days' worth of medicine.
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