I just returned from Colorado, where I explored a (very small) portion of the Denver cannabis scene.
My schedule and budget didn’t permit extensive sampling, so in no way should this serve as a comprehensive picture of what’s available in the Mile High City, but I thought the differences between Colorado’s and Oregon’s cannabis cultures were notable.
On my next trip, I’ll focus more on small-batch craft cannabis, but I now know where I’ll be going to consume it when I do.
First, some numbers: Colorado’s population is 5.77 million, compared to Oregon’s at 4.2 million. In 2018, Colorado’s regulated cannabis sales were $1.55 billion—a 3 percent increase from the previous year—which helped the state’s sales reach $6 billion since legalization started in 2014.
By comparison, Oregon’s pot sales in 2018 were about $540 million. Taxes aren’t too far apart: Oregon collects 17 percent, with some cities collecting up to another 3 percent, while in Colorado, cannabis is taxed at a flat 15 percent.
My hotel in downtown Denver put me within walking distance of numerous dispensaries. I grabbed a copy of the local alt-weekly, Westword—the Denver equivalent of the Mercury—which contained 54 dispensary ads in its 64 pages.
I started scanning the prices: Pre-tax prices started at $20 for half-ounces of shake, full ounces of flower at $79, 500-milligram distillate carts at $10, 100-milligram edibles at $13, and grams of shatter for $14.
Purchasing and possession limits differ somewhat from Oregon, resulting in some dispensaries offering full ounces of concentrate for $300.
Overwhelmed, I texted a Denver-based friend who works in the industry, asking for input on some of the downtown dispensaries.
He replied, “Euflora was once the gold standard of what a shop should look like, while still having garbage product.” It was only six blocks away, so I decided to give it a chance.
Euflora showcased flower selections on several tables, with iPads displaying info on each strain. Flowers were encased in handheld plexiglass boxes that had built-in magnifying lenses and a removable rubber plug for enjoying the aroma.
A visibly stoned budtender with enthusiasm and a broad grin said the two sativa strains I was considering—Wild Thailand ($15.50 per gram) and Triangle Reunion OG ($18 per gram)—were “great choices” and recounted how happy, creative, and energized they both made him feel.
I resisted asking if that had been 10 minutes ago during his break, and lined up to buy a gram of each.
Then it got stupid.
Prices, THC percentages, and type were displayed above the registers and showed the Triangle Reunion OG listed as an indica with a somewhat questionable 33 percent THC, exceptionally high for any strain, but especially a sativa.
I asked the cashier why the difference, and was told that the OG was indeed an indica, and the iPad description of it as a sativa and its effects were incorrect.
“Why not correct them?” I asked. “We don’t actually program the iPads,” he answered, “and we can’t change anything on them, so we aren’t responsible for what’s on them.”
I paid $42.18 for my two grams because sativa, indica, who cares, what’s the difference, right? Cool story, bro.
Later, a search of Euflora’s website had the following listed next to each of the strains I purchased: “No description available. If you have any info on this strain, drop us some knowledge.” At $18 a gram, how about you drop some knowledge on me? It also, unhelpfully, labelled the Triangle Reunion OG as a hybrid.
My next stop was Tetra 9 Private Lounge, one of Denver’s few social consumption spaces.
A $20 entry fee got me inside the spacious lounge, which looked like a former garage with scattered couches, tables, and chairs looking out onto a ramshackle backyard with seating and a sizeable deck. The sweet house “lounge dog” wandered over to check me out, then promptly passed out by my feet.
A selection of vapes and other consumption gear, along with cold beverages, were available at no cost, and great artwork by people of color lined the walls. The staff were friendly, and the lounge hosts a full event schedule most evenings. Highly recommended.
But the bud? The prepackaged grams from Euflora that I brought with me consisted of several very small buds, with disappointing terpenes and effects. Between those and the three other strains I tried while I was in Denver, I can safely say that, for this trip, Oregon’s flower game comes out on top.