Medical marijuana dispensary review: High Level Health in Denver

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I've been shopping at High Level Health for some time now, though not really as a regular place -- mostly just to rush in and grab an eighth to grind down into joint food when I was running low. I last visited in the fall of 2011, before the shop has changed its name from Discount Medical Marijuana to High Level Health, but I don't think I've been missing much.

High Level Health

970 Lincoln St.
Denver, CO 80203
303-893-9333
www.HLHColorado.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
Online Menu? Yes.
Other types of medicine: Hash, edibles, tinctures, lotions, BHO.
Handicap accessible? Yes.

I stopped by the Lincoln location this time, but both branches (the other is on East Colfax) are almost identical -- mirror images of each other in the way the small storefront space has been laid out. Both shops are done in a no-frills, industrial d├ęcor with corrugated tin covering the half-wall separating the waiting room/receptionist area from the bud bar, exposed HVAC vents and bare, brown-stained concrete floors.

The shop is also notable for founder Jim Rice, who was featured on the reality TV game show Survivor last year. Rice didn't win the game, but he was one of the more talked-about contestants not only for his intense playing style, but also for his unusual career. After every episode, Twitter would be alive with comments both praising him for his choice of professions and condemning him as a drug dealer.

Both stores get a lot of walk-in traffic due to their settings on pedestrian-heavy streets, and most of the time I have stopped by, I have had to wait for a patient ahead of me to finish up. Not a big deal, as HLH has magazines to read and music playing over the stereo. But my last trip in, the lone budtender was overwhelmed by people constantly buzzing the door to get in while he was dealing with customers.

For being so slammed with customers, my budtender was a patient guy and didn't purposefully rush me through my purchase. But with the door buzzer continually going off while I shopped, and with him running back and forth, I didn't feel comfortable taking up too much of his time. Thankfully, I didn't need to get my nose in some of the jars to know they weren't going to pass muster.

In the past, I've had good luck with the pricing and quality on strains like Sour Diesel, Golden Goat and Headband. The buds weren't the best handled, and often looked beat-up and leafy, but the potency, smells and flavors were never off by that much. Like I said: The place was a good stop for me to grab a bag when all I wanted was to roll up a spliff or three and relax. Pricing is still solid, with non-members capped at $35 for top shelf. Problem was, the majority of buds on the shelf for my last visit were anything but top-worhty. The jars were almost all filled with shakey, underdeveloped buds featuring identical, wet-hay smells when the lids came off. The OG hybrids I checked out didn't have the slightest earthy notes, the Jack Herer lacked it's signature sweet haze, and buds like the leafy Sweet Skunk weren't even worth having the budtender pull out to show me. Signs in the shop say that everything is grown in Fox Farm soils

To be fair, at least one strain -- the Trainwreck -- was well-developed and ripe with amber trichome goodness. But the smell wasn't there with it, either. Though I wasn't headed to High Level Health for small batch, connoisseur-quality herb in the first place, I was still let down by what was on available. I know the staff is capable of putting up better product; I just didn't really see it this visit. First timers get member-pricing at $25 an eighth, which helped -- but based on what I saw, there should have been a few different price- and quality-levels to choose from.

The hash selection was decent, with some $35/gram BHO waxes weighed out in grams on the bottom shelf of the display cabinet. Better was well-made, waxy icewater hash from the Trainwreck selling for $25 a gram; it turned out to be the best purchase of my week. The pricing on THC-infused foods was on the lower end compared to other dispensaries. Selection wasn't the greatest, but items from Dr Jays, Mars, Simply Pure and Cheeba Chews were all stocked well. The shop also carries tinctures from Nancy B's and had some cannabis-infused drinks from Canna and Dixie in the fridge.

Bud aside, the trip to High Level Health went off all right. Staff was nice as always, the place is clean and doesn't feel sketchy and the $35 cap is on the money. The MMC just needs to get everything up to the Trainwreck quality and work on drying and curing.

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