I just returned from Colorado, where I explored a very small portion of the Denver cannabis scene. My schedule and reimbursable budget didn't permit sampling dozens of products, so in no way should my experience serve as a comprehensive picture of what's available. The next trip will focus more on small-batch craft cannabis, but I now know where I will be going to consume it when I do.
First, some numbers: Colorado's population is 5.7 million. Oregon's is 4.2 million. In 2018, Colorado's cannabis sales were $1.5 billion, which was up 3% from 2017, and helped total sales since 2014 hit $6 billion. Oregon's pot sales in 2018 were about $540 million. Taxes aren't far apart: Oregon collects 17%, with cities able to collect up to another 3%, for a total of 20%. In Colorado, it's a flat 15%.
My hotel in downtown Denver put me within walking distance of numerous dispensaries, so I grabbed a copy of the Denver equivalent of the Source Weekly to check out the dispensary ads.
The 64 pages of alt-weekly Westword had 54 dispensary ads. Pre-tax prices started at $20 for ½ ounces of shake, $79 for ounces of flower, $10 for 500 mg distillate cartridges, $13 for 100-mg edibles, and $14 per gram of shatter. Purchasing and possession limits differ from Oregon's somewhat, resulting in some dispensaries offering $300 ounces of concentrates.
Overwhelmed, I texted a Denver-based friend who works in the industry, asking for input on downtown dispensaries. He replied: "Euflora was once the gold standard of what a shop should look like, while still having garbage product." I wanted to give it a chance, and it was only six blocks away. They showcased flower selections on several tables, with iPads displaying info on each strain. Flower was encased in handheld plexiglass boxes, with a built-in magnifying lens, and a removable rubber plug which covered several holes for enjoying the aroma.
A visibly stoned budtender with enthusiasm and a broad grin said the two Sativa strains I was considering were "great choices." They included the Wild Thailand ($15.50/gram) and Triangle Reunion OG ($18/gram), and the budtender recounted how happy, creative and energized they had both made him feel. I resisted asking if that had been 10 minutes ago on his break and lined up to buy a gram of each.
Then it got stupid.
Prices, THC percentages and type (Indica, hybrid, Sativa) were displayed above the registers, and showed the OG listed as an Indica at a somewhat questionable 33% THC, exceptionally high for any strain, but especially a Sativa.
I asked the cashier why the difference, and he said 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. The cashier answered, "We don't actually program the iPads, and we can't change anything on them, so we aren't responsible for what's on them." I paid a total of $42.18 for my 2 grams, because Sativa, Indica, who cares, what's the difference? Cool story, bro.
Later, a search of the website menu had the following listed next to each of my purchased strains: "No description available. If you have any info on this strain, drop us some knowledge." (At $18 a gram, how about you drop some strain knowledge on me.)
I then visited Tetra 9 Lounge and Garden, one of Denver's two social consumption spaces. A $20 entry fee got me inside a spacious space, perhaps a former garage, with scattered couches, tables and chairs, opening 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 lined the walls, about and by people of color. The staff were friendly, and they host a full event schedule most evenings. Highly recommended.
But the bud? The prepackaged grams consisted of several very small "B" buds, with disappointing terpenes and effects. I tried three other strains while there, and concluded that for this trip, Oregon's flower game came out on top.