Medical marijuana dispensary review: Higher Ground in Denver
The entrance is borderline speakeasy-esque: A gray door is tucked in the space between Washington Park Grille on one side and a breakfast eatery/ice-cream bar on the other. It looks more like kitchen access for either restaurant than a dispensary entrance. Only a few unassuming signs (and smells) give Higher Ground away.
2215 East Mississippi Ave.
Denver, CO 80210
Hours of operations: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Other types of meds: Edibles, hash.
Online Menu: Yes.
Raw marijuana price range: $25/eighth and $150/ounce for members, $35/eighth and $190/ounce for nonmembers. Tax not included in pricing.
I first attempted to check out Higher Ground a few weeks ago, when the shop had a whopping total of two herb strains on the shelves (or shelf, in this case). It was awful timing on the center's part. But instead of bringing me in and trying to sell me on the few remaining buds rattling around in their jars, the budtender told me the situation at check-in.
Since I wasn't shopping for edibles -- the only thing the shop had in good variety at the time -- I didn't get past the small, red-walled lounge area. The budtender apologized and urged me to try back the following week, when the harvest was due -- I decided to give the MMC a second shot because of how honest the guy was. Not many businesses will tell you when it's better to go shop at a competitor.
Second time around, I could sniff the difference a shop full of herb makes before making it halfway up the stairs to the dispensary. It was like in those old cartoons with Pepe Le Pew being led around by smells, only in reverse. A patient was in ahead of me, so I was asked to have a seat while the woman behind the sliding receptionist window took my card and ID to copy.
While the Wash Park Grille below is spendy, trendy and full of cougars on the prowl, Higher Ground is anything but. Well, I can't say for certain about the cougars; Higher Ground may have those, too. But the dispensary was empty the second time I stopped by except for the staff and me.
The bud bar is an extension of the same red-walled, black-trimmed, exposed brick décor out front in the waiting area. Four or five tall, southern-facing windows light up the otherwise the dark colors. Buds are displayed in large, labeled jars behind a black wood and clear glass display case on two shelves -- half of which were empty and collecting dust. Guess they gave up on having a larger inventory of unsellable paraphernalia.
My budtender was a tall, lanky guy probably in his late twenties and sporting a Bill Walton-circa-1977 'Blazers beard. Though I was a first-timer, there wasn't much of a need for a mini-tour of the shop, as everything was right in front of me in two cabinets -- edibles on one side and herb on the other. In fact, the edibles selection was pretty thin, with $20 sweets from Edi-Pure, $10 candy from Blu Kudu and $5 cookies and brownies from the kitchen of Sweet Grass.
Hash was limited to two blended varieties, and though it's called bubble hash, it had a very unique spongy look and feel to it. Small air pockets left behind made it seem almost like someone had whipped it dry and even then squished it like a sponge. At $10 a gram member pricing, it was certainly worth taking home to check out, though.
Without any patients behind me, I ended up making it through all but one or two of the strains on hand. And I didn't even annoy the budtender doing so. I mean, the guy works around weed all day long. It's not like he wouldn't have been checking out the jars anyway.
For the most part, everything I saw on the Higher Ground shelf was good cannabis. A few samples bordered on really good, like the tennis ball-sized buds of spicy Durban Poison, sparkling light green Master Kush and a batch of wonderfully stanky Cheezel. Other strains, like the Pre-98 Bubba, Sour D and Querkle, were worth considering as well, even if the Bubb and the Sour D were both down to the last quarter or so. Also interesting was a wild and scraggly Holland's Hope that looked outdoor-grown but smelled like a Creamsicle factory out of the jar.
An employee I spoke with after my visit told me everything is grown in an organic soil mix. He also mentioned that the shop shared a grow with the now-closed Herbal Wellness Center in the Highlands.
By the end, I had stacked three jars containing my top choices on the counter. Being a broke-ass writer, I opted for single grams of all three as well as a chunk of the fluffy blonde hash made from mixed Querkle and Sour Diesel trim. My budtender also threw in a penny joint (nothing is free, remember).
Pricing at Higher Ground is great. Members and first-time patients are capped at $25 for an eighth of an ounce, all the way up to a half ounce. Non-members are capped at $35 an eighth and $60 a quarter. Best of all: ounces were topped out at $150 for members and first-timers and at $190 for returning non-members. Though it might be worth a call ahead to make sure the shelves are stocked, Higher Ground should be on the radar for price-conscious patients looking for clean, quality buds.
Page down for strain reviews and photos.