Author: Chad Jasnau

Marijuana Taxes Won’t Save State Budgets

Colorado’s marijuana tax collections are not as high as expected.

In February 2014, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office projected Colorado would take in $118 million in taxes on recreational marijuana in its first full year after legalization. With seven months of revenue data in, his office has cut that projection and believes it will collect just $69 million through the end of the fiscal year in June, a miss of 42 percent.

That figure is consequential in two ways. First, it’s a wide miss. Second, compared with Colorado’s all-funds budget of $27 billion, neither $69 million nor $118 million is a large number.

“It’s a distraction,” Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s director of marijuana coordination, says of the tax issue. And despite the marijuana tax miss, overall state revenues are exceeding projections, which may force the state to rebate some marijuana tax receipts to taxpayers.

In the political debate over marijuana policy, fiscal benefits — bringing marijuana into the legal economy and taxing it — have loomed large. The summary of the marijuana legalization question put before voters in 2012 stipulated the first $40 million raised by one of the three taxes on recreational marijuana would be put toward school construction each year. In practice, Colorado is likely to receive just $20 million from that tax this year.

But it’s not just Colorado. When Scott Pattison, the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal call-in show to discuss state finances in December, callers repeatedly suggested that legal marijuana could fix budget gaps in other states. One asserted, incorrectly, that legal marijuana had increased Colorado’s tax revenues by a billion dollars.

Colorado’s marijuana taxes are part of a broader trend in recent years: States, looking for ways to close budget shortfalls without raising broad-based taxes, have leaned on “sin” revenues: higher taxes on cigarettes, higher fees and fines and higher revenue from gambling. And as they have sought to squeeze more revenue from these sources, they have often been disappointed.

Gambling revenue has stagnated as markets have become saturated. Nearly every state has legal gambling, including 37 states with casinos. Expansions of gambling do more to siphon revenue from existing gambling outlets than to generate new tax and lottery revenue.

High cigarette taxes have led to counterfeiting of tax stamps and cross-border smuggling of cigarettes from low-tax jurisdictions to high-tax ones. Because the taxes have also succeeded in the policy goal of reducing smoking, the other policy goal of raising revenue is less of a success.

In the case of marijuana, Colorado’s revenue has disappointed because legal recreational marijuana sales have been lower than expected. State officials thought many customers of medical marijuana dispensaries would migrate to the recreational market. But this process has been slow, in part because there is a financial disincentive to switch: Medical marijuana is subject only to general sales tax, while a 15 percent tax is imposed on recreational marijuana at wholesale and a further 10 percent at retail, in additional to the general sales tax.

But Mr. Freedman says the biggest drag on revenue is that so much of Colorado’s marijuana market remains unregulated. A 2014 report commissioned by the state’s Department of Revenue estimated 130 metric tons of marijuana was consumed in the state that year, while just 77 metric tons was sold through medical dispensaries and recreational marijuana retailers. The rest was untaxed: a combination of home growing, production by untaxed medical “caregivers” whose lightly regulated status is protected in the state constitution and plain old black-market production and trafficking.

The state is trying to get its marijuana market in order. It has imposed new rules to limit the number of plants that caregivers may possess, aiming to ensure their operations are truly aimed at providing for a small number of patients, not diverting some of the supply into the recreational market. And it is tightening oversight of doctors to ensure medical marijuana recommendations are written only for bona fide debilitating medical conditions. In time, these moves may draw more users into the recreational market where they belong.

On the other hand, falling market prices could cut into future tax revenues. Retail prices in Colorado were generally more than $10 a gram as of last fall. In some cases, that was more than marijuana in the illegal market. But illegal production is costly and inefficient. As legal producers scale up and compete, they are likely to cut prices sharply, according to Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has played a major role in establishing Washington State’s legal marijuana market. According to Samantha Chin, the director of marketing at Colorado Pot Guide, retail prices have fallen between 16 and 30 percent in the Denver area since November.

“If commercial cannabis is $2 per gram at retail, I doubt people will bother getting a medical card,” Mr. Kleiman says. Because the state’s marijuana tax is levied per dollar, not per gram, a sharp drop in prices would mean even less tax revenue.

There are lessons here for other states. Because of low public support for marijuana prohibition, many jurisdictions have intentionally lax enforcement around illegal marijuana markets. This often shows up as a wink-wink culture around medical access. (See, for example, “Medical Kush Doctor” signs that once adorned storefronts in Venice, Calif.) After legalization, that culture of lax enforcement can be a barrier to tax collection.

Another lesson is that marijuana taxes should be “specific excise” taxes per unit of intoxicant. In most states, cigarettes are taxed by the pack and alcohol by the liter. Marijuana could similarly be taxed by the gram (either of plant or of T.H.C.), which would protect states from revenue declines if pretax prices fall.

Taxes on intoxicants are meant to offset the negative social effects of intoxicant use; the size of those effects should not be expected to vary with market price.

But even if Colorado got all this right, improved revenues would not be among the most important effects that marijuana legalization has on the state.

“Tax revenue is nice to have, but in most states is not going to be enough to change the budget picture significantly,” Mr. Kleiman says. “The stakes in reducing criminal activity and incarceration and protecting public health are way higher than the stakes in generating revenue.”

Mr. Kleiman has advocated an alternative legalization model, currently being introduced in Washington, D.C., in which cultivation, possession and use are permitted but sales are not. One goal of this model is to avoid the creation of a commercial marijuana sector that markets its products aggressively. A downside of the model is that there are no legal sales on which to collect taxes — but as Colorado shows, Washington, D.C., may not be giving up that much, fiscally.


Fresh Baked Dispensary

If you look at it a certain way, the converted house occupied by Fresh Baked was just meant to be a pot dispensary one day: Formerly a bead shop and yoga studio, the place has been dishing out chill vibes for years. That’s apparent the second you walk in: There’s a tabletop Pac-Man arcade game in the waiting room and psychedelic rock playing throughout the house. Once you make it to the converted kitchen/bud room, any one of several budtenders on duty will be happy to show you the shop’s twenty-­plus strains, including the award-­winning Jack Flash and Trainwreck. Fresh Baked also sends strain­-specific trim to local hash-­makers for bubble hash, wax and other concentrates. Just be sure to park in the back of the shop and not at the shopping complex next door — unless you want a boot on your car.

A Marijuana Smoker’s Guide To Colorado

Bowled Over In Boulder

We always wondered what would happen if the shackles came off the cannabis plant. Now we know! The business of buds is booming in the Rocky Mountain State, and cannabis entrepreneurs are staking out the future. Check out some of the best and brightest among Colorado’s commercial cannabis enterprises.

Making History Daily

The success of legalization has not only changed Colorado — it’s changed High Times as well. No longer are we confined to covering personal gardens; now we get to see industrial-size mega-grows, like the cultivation facilities of Patients Choice of Colorado — an expansive, blooming testament to the new era of cannabis freedom that all of America will soon enjoy. Brooke Gehring is the managing partner of Patients Choice and oversees its four locations in the Denver area, three of which service both recreational and medical buyers.

A huge cultivation center is essential, Brooke says, because “our locations have seen 30,000 people walk through the doors — 300 to 500 each day. In sales tax alone, we’ve raised $270,000 for the state in just the first two months of the year. We’re making history every day!” But the Patients Choice centers are very much neighborhood shops, places where buyers experience the same sense of community that other local boutiques offer. Plus the high quality of the products here reflects the stringent standards that Patients Choice maintains in its gardens, where 20-plus staffers are onsite 24/7 to keep the flow of outstanding cannabis sure and steady. Check out the extra- user-friendly Patients Choice website for strains and prices at all locations.
Denver: 2251 South Broadway; 4000 Morrison Road; Edgewater: 2517 Sheridan;

An Empire in Pueblo

Michael Stetler, the director and master grower of Marisol Therapeutics in Pueblo, is a native Coloradoan with four generations of medical patients in his family. Marisol started big over five years ago with a gymnasium-sized greenhouse providing for the needs of Pueblo’s medical marijuana population. Now, with the arrival of full-blown legalization, Marisol has become one of the county’s biggest generators of tax revenue. Last year, it grew the largest legal outdoor marijuana garden in the United States, and Stetler currently oversees a huge indoor operation that encompasses more than an acre of warehouse space. Construction is also underway on four new greenhouses, and Michael hopes to harvest 10 acres of outdoor pot this fall.

The sheer breadth of Marisol’s operations has earned it the attention of the international press — and the admiration of High Times for its epic photo ops. Marisol’s dispensary is a spacious, high-ceilinged store in Pueblo West, right off Highway 50. A massive painting of a white buffalo greets customers upon entering: It’s part of the Marisol logo and reflects the company’s belief in new beginnings. There are scores of Marisol strains available here, all stocked in the spacious walk-in humidor, as well as counters for medical patients and recreational users.
922 E. Kimble Drive;

Highly Agreeable

Step into any LivWell location and you’ll experience a uniformity of store design featuring blonde wood cannabis showcases, well-conceived lighting and a sense of calm that infuses the cannabis buying experience. LivWell offers locations throughout the Denver metropolitan area and in Colorado Springs. Presently, only the S. Broadway and Larimer St. stores are open to recreational buyers. Stopping by on a Friday evening, business was brisk, but the airy waiting rooms enabled buyers to relax and ponder their pending purchase in a warm, friendly atmosphere. Everything required is available at LivWell for your cannabis needs: premium flowers, edibles, concentrates and all the necessary accessories.
432 S. Broadway, Denver; 2863 Larimer St.;

The Weedery

Chris Hageseth, the chief operations officer of Green Man Cannabis, currently runs two medical dispensaries in Denver, both of which will offer recreational sales by summer- time. A third recreational and medical shop is set to open soon in Frisco, a ski-country town. With master grower Corey at his side, Chris is determined to take the cannabis scene by storm: Green Man strains have won multiple awards, including the 2012 Denver Medical Cannabis Cup for Best Hybrid, and this year’s prize for top U.S. Sativa. But Green Man’s biggest dreams rest in what Chris calls “the Weedery” (based on the concept of a winery). The ground is being broken this summer on a $25 million facility that will encompass cultivation, education, and entertainment. “As we all know, cannabis and music go together,” Chris explains. “But I want to demystify marijuana.” To that end, the Weedery will house a grow facility open to the public for tours, a museum-like educational space featuring artifacts from America’s cannabis industry, and a 5,000-seat amphitheater for outdoor concerts.

Bowled Over in Boulder

Fresh Baked occupies a nondescript house along one of picturesque Boulder’s thoroughfares. Inside, however, it’s airy and sunlit—a haven of serenity. When you enter the purchasing area, you’ll find three separate counters staffed by friendly and knowledgeable budtenders, all of them exuding that uniquely Colorado vibe earned though fit, healthy lifestyles. Located on the edge of the University of Colorado campus, Fresh Baked has seen brisk business, especially on weekends and during Spring Break festivities. Its menu is extensive, boast- ing edibles, topicals and concentrates in addition to outstanding Colorado-grown strains. Fresh Baked took second place in the hybrids category with Jack Flash at the 2012 High Times Medical Cannabis Cup in Denver.
2539 Pearl Street;

Buds of Breckenridge

Gold miners were the earliest settlers of Breckenridge, and the first ski resort didn’t open here until 1961. But now this mountain town is the ski hub for the eastern slopes of Colorado’s Ten Mile Range, which draws millions of tourists in both winter and summer. The Breckenridge Cannabis Club, owned and operated by locals Caitlin McGuire and Brian Rogers, is situated in a quaint and rustic two-story house right on Main Street. The club opened its doors as a medical dispensary in 2010, and now it welcomes recreational buyers as well, with 100 different cannabis products available and some of the lowest prices in the state.
226 Main Street;

Livin’ Large in Leadville

In its heyday during the Colorado Silver Boom of the 1800s, Leadville was the site of miner camps that housed some 40,000 people. Now it’s a tourist spot steeped in Old West history in the heart of the Rockies, with a population of around 3,000. Just off Harrison Avenue, Leadville’s main drag, you can find Nature’s Spirit, a family-owned business housed in a cozy white bungalow. Nature’s Spirit offers top Colorado strains lovingly grown by the owners, who pride themselves on their 100 percent organic soilless medium and nutrients, reverse-osmosis water filtration and CO2 injections. Delicious edibles and powerful concentrates are also available at this friendly neighborhood pot shop.
113 East Seventh Street;

Extraction Attraction

John, Josh, Matt, and Mike beheld the world of cannabis extractions and saw a golden opportunity. The result is two companies that offer specialized services to the state’s ganja-preneurs. The first, Extract Outfitters, allows its cannabusiness clients to maintain complete control over all aspects of the extraction process in their facilities. Instead of building costly labs, these businesses can rely on portable and cost-effective setups in a variety of configurations that offer savings and efficiency and are compliant with Colorado’s guidelines — and Extract Outfitters handles all of the plans, permits and installation.

The foursome’s second company, TC Labs, operates a massive grow tailored to concentrate production. Its services include not only selling concentrates wholesale, but providing processing operations to businesses that wish to forgo the exacting undertaking of making concentrates themselves.;

Location, Location, Location …

There’s a good reason for MMJ America’s name: With legalization poised to sweep the nation, this ambitious canna-company is actively investigating franchises in other states. But on a more local note, you gotta love MMJ’s LoDo (lower downtown) location, which even boasts its own parking lot. Of course, there’s a whole lot to love about MMJ America besides hassle-free parking. Customers can purchase a wide range of recreational and medical strains here. (The other MMJ America locations in Denver and Boulder are medical-only.) Even better, its pot products are superb, and the personable MMJ America workers behind the counter will guide you to your ideal strain. You can also check out its voluminous “Strain Library” online.
2042 Arapahoe Street;

Just Around the Corner

Have we stepped through some kind of time warp or what? Good Chemistry is located in downtown Denver—just around the corner from the Colorado statehouse! Five years ago, this would have been unthinkable. But as Good Chemistry general manager Steve Spinosa says, “It’s been crickets—no one’s complaining. Our neighbors have spoken out on our behalf, and we’ve actually been able to help cops with crimes because of our camera surveillance.”

But really … next to the Capitol? How times have changed—for the better! Good Chemistry offers both medical and recreational strains with only a $5 difference in price. The shop’s also got a nice neighborhood feel to it, with multiple budtenders taking care of customers with friendliness and efficiency.
330 East Colfax, Denver;

Clinically Speaking

The Clinic has been at the forefront of Colorado’s cannabis scene since medical marijuana first took root here. Its reputation is impeccable, and its pot is even better! With six locations to oversee, general manager Ryan Cook has had his hands full keeping good medicine on the shelves for patients, while also navigating the transition from medical-only to recreational sales. On January 1, the Clinic Colorado on Mexico Avenue was the first to make the changeover — the only location in the Clinic network currently selling recreational pot. But with no other advertising than a Facebook post, 1,000 buyers still lined up to buy cannabis. No big surprise there, however, since the Clinic has won four High Times Cannabis Cup awards, including the 2014 Denver Cannabis Cup for the US concentrates.
Denver: 3888 East Mexico Avenue;

The Wait Is Over

Forrest Charlesworth owns and operates New Age Medical, which has one location in Edgewater and two more in Colorado Springs. (Unfortunately, there’s a moratorium currently in place on recreational pot sales in Colorado Springs.) Back when he was waiting for his Edgewater location to go recreational, Forrest expressed some frustration. “I’m about as patient as I can be,” he said, “what with all the regulations that are constantly Forrest changing.”

As the New Year rang in, Forrest watched nearby recreational shops clean up — but as of April 1, he had fulfilled the requirements of the state’s pot bureaucracy and was able to welcome all adults, ages 21 and over, to sample the buds of New Age Medical. “It’s not like I wasn’t ready,” he says now. “I’ve got a 5,000-square-foot grow in Colorado Springs, and I’m about to start a 3,000-square-foot grow up here. I’m ready to go.” And to prove it, he’s offering great strains at great prices!
2553 Sheridan Boulevard, Edgewater

Slowly but Surely …

In Buena Vista, at an elevation of 8,000 feet, master growers Josh Shipman and Je Cain oversee the three greenhouses devoted to the 40-plus strains of Fremont County Cannabis. Approximately 3,000 feet below, in Canon City, the FCC center provides medicine for some 300 patients every week.

Fremont County Cannabis is awaiting Canon City’s decision to open the door to recreational sales as well, but the process has been slow. The local pols want to see how legalization progresses; because the city’s economy depends on family-fun vacations, they want to make sure marijuana fits in. But with Colorado reaping a whopping windfall in tax revenues, Fremont County Cannabis is confident that it will get the okay to open its new retail center in July — right across the street from the stone walls of the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility! And once recreational sales are the norm, FCC plans to develop its nearby mountain property into a campground tailored to cannabis-themed vacations.

Help Is On The Way

Colorado’s new recreational laws allow adults to grow up to 12 plants on their property. Sounds good, but what if you don’t know how? Pinnacle Consultation to the rescue! Pinnacle is the brainchild of Kristopher Fowlkes, who spent a few years in the Army before jumping into Colorado’s cannabis scene when he saw the chance for an ancillary business. If you’re lost in the growroom, Kris can help you find your way: Pinnacle will design and install one in whatever space you have, then solve your gardening problems as well with a per-harvest service contract ($250 per every 1,000 watts of grow op). “Our goal is to make growing simpler and easier,” Kris says. “Most people develop a green thumb pretty quick.” Pinnacle also operates its own gardens, serving as a medical caregiver.

The Rise of Dixie

In a short span of time, Dixie Elixirs has distinguished itself as a premier producer of THC-infused edibles, topicals, and tinctures. The company started off as the maker of cannabis soda pop, but now it boasts close to 40 products. Dixie Elixirs is currently finishing up its new digs, a 27,000-square-foot industrial space that will house a kitchen, lab, production facilities and the company’s headquarters (complete with an onsite gym). By the end of the year, it expects to employ a staff of 80. Chief marketing officer Joe Hodas says, “We want Dixie Elixirs to be a showcase for the industry. We want everyone to see how success can be achieved when you bring good business practices to your operation.”

Goin’ Green

The Green Solution is an example of what you get when you combine cultivation expertise, customer service and quality control: success! With three of its four locations dedicated to medical and recreational sales, the Green Solution’s wide-ranging selection of strains has been a huge hit. The Green Solution has over 110 strains in its inventory, as well as tinctures, topicals, pre-rolls, and beverages. And they kicked ass at this year’s U.S. Cup!
Denver: 601 West Alameda Avenue; Denver East: 4400 Grape Street; North- glenn: 470 Malley Drive;

Colorado’s 6 Dankest Strains Of The Past Year

Grimace from Next Harvest (2014)

It has recently come to my attention that perhaps leaving Colorado out of our annual Strongest Strains on Earth feature (June 2014, Issue #473) may have hurt some feelings out in the Big D. Most notably, “the nation’s most prestigious weed editor,” Mr. Ricardo Baca, posted to his Facebook account this very question: “Why was there no Colorado pot on High Times Strongest Strains list this year?”

As both the High Times Cannabis Cup Competition Director and the author of the article in question, please allow me to explain. First off, my sincere apologies to the great state of Colorado. It was never my intention to bruise neglect one of – if not my outright – favorite state in the union.

But the truth is, at the Denver Cup in 2014, we had some issues with our lab results – or lack thereof. Without naming names (my goal is to never embarrass anyone, especially who aim to support us!), suffice it to say that our competition committee lacked enough confidence in the results we did get to utilize them in our scoring algorithm last year. This is not the worst thing in the world. Since the inception of lab testing in our Cannabis Cups in 2011, we have had a few hiccups with labs as the workload is an absolute beast and sometimes issues arise. So in the end, we simply went old-school in ’14 and allowed the judges’ scorecards to dictate the winners as we had done in the previous 23 Cannabis Cup we held pre-2011.

Why did I not write this in the sidebar to that article? Partially out of fear that some other outlet would jump down our throats and try to poke holes in our Cannabis Cup competition (there’s always a lot of that), and partially out of respect to those labs who tried dearly to support us, but for whatever reasons it just didn’t work out. The good news is that at our Denver Cannabis Cup this past April, we had great success working with a new lab for the first time! Charas Scientific conducted one of the best rounds of lab testing ever for one of our competitions, and I’d like to thank Mary Meek and the whole team over at CS for their help and support this year. They truly did a wonderful job.

Hopefully this clears the air a bit. And since this has become a bit of a hot topic, I figure honesty is the best policy here, so that is the skinny. And now, because I feel so badly about all of this (thanks everyone for the emails), allow me to supplement our Strongest Strains on Earth feature from our June issue, here and now. Without further ado (and without giving away all the goods for our next “Strongest Strain” feature), here are a few of my own personal selections of the DANKEST nugs in CO from the past year. Enjoy!

Denver’s 6 Dankest of the Year 

Grimace from Next Harvest (2014)

Similar to the rush you get after chugging a can of soda, Grimace puts a tinge in your spine and lift in your head. A sativa-dominant cross between Blackberry Soda, an OG pheno and an unknown Haze, this strain has reportedly hit 23 percent THC and carries the flavor of a fruity pop. Grown indoors in coco, this flower goes eight weeks and leaves a floral after taste. Warning: Occurrences that are only mildly funny may seem hilarious after smoking this one.

Tangerine Diesel from The Health Center (2014)

Don’t let the name fool you – there is no “Tangie” in this Diesel cut (much to the delight of this author). A pure “Gold Coast ‘97” cut, this Sour Diesel pheno not only exemplified that citrus-fuely Diesel flavor, but is also mind-numbing on the potency scale. A clone-only Sour Diesel pheno, this one was grown indoors in Pro-Mix, with lots of hand-watered love and a professional nutrient blend from the fine folks at The Health Center. Flush and burn were second to none, and if I could have a zip of this in my desk at all times I’d need nothing more.

Chem OG from The Green Solution – Denver (2014)

A favorite among Chem connoisseurs, the Chem OG is a back-cross of the OG to her mother – the ever-potent Chem D. The result is a super terpy and flavorful smoke heavy in limonene, terpinolene, and linalool. This particular flower, entered by The Green Solution (Denver), was grown hydroponically and flowered for 67 days. Her stone is psychedelic and not recommended for amateurs.

Colorado Bubba from MMJ America – Boulder (2015)
Indica, 20.45% THC *

MMJ America has been on top of the medical marijuana scene since its inception in Colorado. And for the past two years, they have also been on top of the Cannabis Cup competition scene, taking home several Cups in both Denver and Amsterdam last year. This past April they took 1st Place in CBD Flowers with Tora Bora, 3rd Place in Medical Hybrid Flowers with OG KB Cookies, and 2nd Place in Medical Indica Flowers for their Colorado Bubba. A new twist on an old faithful in CO, this Bubba brought me to the perfect state for a Star Wars movie marathon (yes, all six).

Bio-Star from High Level Health (2015)
Indica, 29.18% THC

This is just one of many extremely potent entries from our good friends over at High Level Health. Their strain entries regularly tip the scales in the mid-20s on THC values and the flush on their buds is second-to-none with the buds burning down to a clean white ash. This particular strain is not only exceptionally potent, but also extremely flavorful as it is essentially a triple-backcross of the legendary Sensi Star x Bio-Diesel, where the BD is a Sensi Star x East Coast Sour Diesel. Both the Sensi Star (originally of Paradise Seeds) and the ECSD also have multiple phenos of Northern Lights encoded in their DNA. This is one epic strain, to say the least. And if you think hitting 29 percent THC is big news, wait until we unleash our annual Strongest Strains on Earth for 2015, as there might just be a few more big surprises coming out of Denver this year!

Cannatonic from Fresh Baked Boulder (2015)
CBD Flower, 12.74% CBD / 7.38% THC

This is a shout-out to the original CBD strain – Cannatonic. You may have heard about Charlotte’s Web, or R4, or any other strain high in cannabidiol, but nearly all of them started right here with the Cannatonic. And while this particular entry isn’t at all the highest CBD value we have seen from a flower (Editor’s Notes: That would be the Cannatonic X phenotype that went over 19 percent CBD at our Michigan Cup in 2012), this flower is noteworthy because it came closest to the 1:1 THC: CBD ratio that we strive for in medical use. High Times also uses the 1:1 ratio as a component in our scoring algorithm for CBD categories in our Cup competitions. Kudos to Fresh Baked Boulder for this excellent medicinal product.

Thanks for reading everyone and remember: Grow… And help the world grow, too!

* Please Note: Labs results provided by Charas Scientific Labs (2015). As always, High Times deeply appreciates the excellent work and results provided by our partner labs at each Cannabis Cup competition. Be sure to always get your grow tested by a certified lab!

Got questions? Email ‘em over to Nico at and be sure to put “Nico’s Nuggets” in the subject line!

Mile Highs and Lows: Fresh Baked Dispensary

Fresh Baked Dispensary

As Colorado’s medical-marijuana industry grows, marijuana dispensaries of all types and sizes are proliferating around the state. Some resemble swanky bars or sterile dentist offices; others feel like a dope dealer’s college dorm room. To help keep them all straight, Westword will be offering a no-holds-barred look at what goes on behind these unusual operations’ locked doors in “Mile Highs and Lows,” a regular online review of dispensaries around the metro area and beyond. (You can also search our directory of dispensaries for one near you.)

This week, The Wildflower Seed reviews Fresh Baked Dispensary :

Fresh Baked Dispensary 2539 Pearl Street, Boulder 303-440-9393

Hours of operation: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Owner: Would like remain anonymous.
Owner’s statement: “Myself, I don’t like to smoke. We emphasize edibles.”
Opened: February 19, 2010. Raw marijuana price range: 1 gram, $12 to $16; eighths average $45 and max out at $50.
Other types of medicine: Tinctures, oils, salves and a large selection of edibles.
Patient services and amenities: ADA-accessible, delivery for qualified patients.

Our take: I grew up Irish Catholic in a neighborhood peppered with Philippine and Korean families, and as kids, our play had a communal, revolving-door policy. Sharing my Cabbage Patch Kids, G.I. Joes and peanut-butter sandwiches, I picked up bits of their cultures along the way. As a result, I still take my shoes off at the front door and consider fish-head soup and rice a breakfast food.

So I felt right at home at Fresh Baked Dispensary, a new, edible-focused shop in Boulder run by four friends who went to high school together in the town. “We’re Asian,” says one, who asks that the owners remain anonymous. “He’s Chinese, I’m Korean; we’re all like brothers.” And they’re all about the sweet, sweet chronic. Not heavy smokers themselves, they figured they would focus on edible ways to deliver marijuana medication. “We’re all about natural herbs, natural medicine, teas, incense,” says the co-owner. “I think patients paying more than $15 to $16 a gram — I think that’s almost outrageous. The patients that we’ve seen with cancer, MS, glaucoma, who actually need pain relief, can’t afford this.”

Instead, he says, Fresh Baked provides great-tasting organic meds at a good price with an emphasis on functionality, “for professional people who have jobs, kids, things to do during the day.”

When I checked out the dispensary, I was immediately reassured that the herb was organic by the earthy scent emanating from every one of the 23 jars on the counter, split nearly equally between indica and sativa strains; Fresh Baked also carries a few nice hybrids. The S.A.G.E. smelled top-notch, but only a few fragrant crumbs were left. A bargain shopper, I went for the herb on special: a $13 gram of organic AK. It was sweet, sticky and well-cured with a resinous scent; I couldn’t resist putting a little in my mouth and chewing. It tasted like lettuce, and nicely numbed the roof of my mouth.

But I was really there for the edibles, so I picked up a red velvet cake, chocolate cake and confetti cake, as well as a fabulous chocolate croissant. As a first-time client, I got BOGO and only had to pay for half the items. Boo-yah! The cakes were more like cupcakes, but I enjoyed the variety — and the croissant was divine.

In an effort to cut out the middleman and control costs, Fresh Baked is hoping to open a commercial kitchen at the dispensary. But the rules for such facilities fall in a vast, regulatory wasteland, where legality becomes subjective and patients can get lost in the semantics of forging new legal ground. Who knew a little ol’ pot brownie could get so complex?
But complex it is. Edibles? “That’s a really challenging one,” says Lane Drager, coordinator for the Food Safety Program at the Boulder County Health Department.

The biggest hurdle: The Food and Drug Administration still considers marijuana illegal. “The FDA regulates approved drugs and food,” Drager continues. “Because marijuana is outlawed federally, it is not, and cannot be, considered approved. It is illicit, and once food becomes crossed with marijuana, the FDA considers it ‘adulterated,’ and it cannot be sold. It is not approved for human consumption.”

The owners of Fresh Baked have their own take. “That’s a biased answer,” one says. “This whole industry is not cleared up. The whole industry is based on criminal law, not civil law.”

But Drager says his agency’s hands are essentially tied, and he’s not about to challenge the feds on this one — especially because, in many ways, he agrees with them. “This is not approved,” he continues. “How do you safely put marijuana in food? The feds say you can’t do it safely. From our standpoint, we agree. There is not a safe way to do it.”

Drager acknowledges that this makes things awkward for both producers of medicated edible products and their patients. “A lot of people want to do it as safely as they can, and we’re kind of stuck,” he says. “Obviously, you want to reduce smoking. We’d love to be able to give them guidance. It’s really challenging.”

Some guidance may soon be coming from the legislature. House Bill 1284, which passed committee on March 22, currently states that “the bill provides an exception to the adulterated food offenses for medical marijuana centers that manufacture or sell food that contains medical marijuana if the food is labeled as containing medical marijuana and the label specifies the amount of medical marijuana.” In plain language, Drager says, if passed, this measure will require medicinal kitchens to follow food-safety regulations, but they will still not be licensed by the state as “commercial kitchens.”

In the meantime, Fresh Baked will celebrate its grand opening from March 28 to April 3, as students roll back from spring break. On hand will be cakes, candy, brownies, ice cream, lemon cups and all sorts of yummy, edible MMJ products, many of which the dispensary bakes itself, most for a very palatable $4 per edible.

Visiting the Gardens of Fresh Baked

The strains that cannabis consumers find at the Fresh Baked dispensary of Boulder, CO are exquisite. Of course, someone has to grow this wonderful weed. Check in with Kevin, the lead grower at Fresh Baked, as he explains how Fresh Baked achieves its greatness. It was another gorgeous blue sky Colorado day, and once again, I found myself in Boulder looking for a quality recreational dispensary. My previous experience in Boulder was kind of “meh” and I felt that there had to be better options in this sky Colorado day, and once again, I found myself in Boulder looking for a quality recreational dispensary. My previous experience in Boulder was kind of “meh” and I felt that there had to be better options in this sky Colorado day, and once again, I found myself in Boulder looking for a quality recreational dispensary. My previous experience in Boulder was kind of “meh” and I felt that there had to be better options in this.

Fresh Baked (Recreational shop review, Boulder)

Review: Fresh Baked Dispensary in Boulder

It was another gorgeous blue sky Colorado day, and once again, I found myself in Boulder looking for a quality recreational dispensary. My previous experience in Boulder was kind of “meh” and I felt that there had to be better options in this, one of Colorado’s most notorious cities for having great cannabis and the customers who are willing to pay a premium for it.

One of the places that I have been hearing is doing well for themselves is Fresh Baked, a shop that I had shopped at medically several years ago, but has since converted to recreational sales. The storefront is located on the part of Pearl Street right before it starts to get impossible to park, and is situated across the street from a large shopping center in a standalone building.

  • Review: Fresh Baked Dispensary in Boulder (recreational purchase)
  • Connect: 2539 Pearl St.; 303-440-9393; 10 a.m. – 6:45 p.m. daily
  • Date of visit: June 17, 2014
  • Rating: 7/10

Though the dispensary has its own parking, I ended up passing the building by mistake, making a U-turn, and just parking in the Mike’s Camera lot across the street instead (shame on me). As parking is a much-hoarded resource even in this area of Boulder, the smallish lot reserved for customers (comprised of maybe 10 spaces) is still a very nice feature for a dispensary to have, despite the penchant for Boulderites to walk or bike practically everywhere. The shop is a converted single-level house with a giant “NOW OPEN” sign out front; it was cheerful and welcoming, and I stepped inside the door to see if the staff was as friendly as the storefront.

Thinking back on my experience days later, I am still a little confused about the layout of Fresh Baked. On my visit, I was quickly asked inside the bud room after presenting my ID to the guy at the front desk, and after making my purchase, came out another door into a type of lounge area, which was complete with awesome old-school Ms. Pac-Man tabletop games and a few people I assumed were customers taking advantage of the amenities. I feel like I need to go back to walk through the shop again to get it straight in my head, as I even got turned around on my way out of the shop and ended up coming out the back door into the parking lot, rather than out to the front where I had parked. That little weirdness aside, Fresh Baked was well-lit and had a definite conversation buzz to it, making it seem to me like a spot that stays rather busy.

The bud room had two small glass counters that faced each other, both of which had identical products on display. My budtender (again, my memory fails me on the name, but I want to say … Danielle?) was the typical college-aged, hemp-necklace-with-chakra-aligning-jewelry-wearing Boulder budtender girl by appearance, but I was quickly impressed with her level of knowledge about their products.

She explained their strain organization system, which had the most sativa-dominant varieties to the left, moving to the indica-dominant varieties on the right, and told me I could smell any and to ask her if I had any questions. Each jar had the strain name and lineage displayed clearly, as well as an approximation of their sativa/indica dominance (i.e. 70/30 sativa, 50/50 hybrid, etc.). The flat pricing structure went from $20 for a gram to $60 per eighth, up to $360 for an ounce. While this pricing is definitely higher than many, the quality of flowers on display seemed higher than many as well. Ultimately, it’s just a question of whether one is willing to pay for quality or if the price rubs you the wrong way.

Asking my budtender questions didn’t end up being all that necessary, as each time I picked up a jar to smell it, she would start in with a more thorough description of the strain’s effects, all of which jived with my previous knowledge of the genetics. Fresh Baked had maybe 20 strains on display when I was there, but looking at their online menu over the past few days shows that I may have caught them on a low inventory day, as they are currently boasting over 30 choices.

I smelled literally every jar, from the sweet and crisp Jack Flash, to the funky, fruity UK Cheese, to the dank and musky Master Kush — all of them had a pungent, distinct and strain-appropriate aroma, which is rare for recreational dispensaries in my experience thus far. At most shops, there seems to always be a couple of duds on the shelf, but Fresh Baked was batting a very high percentage so far, impressing me to varying degrees with each jar that I opened. The only knock on the inventory was that some of the jars were a little pebbly, but that was the exception rather than the rule, as most of them were loaded with medium-sized, well-cured nugs.

I asked my budtender for a recommendation for a strain that would help with my nagging back pain yet keep me lucid and not come with any grogginess; she quickly recommended the Phnom Penh, which is a very sativa variety supposedly derived from landrace Cambodian genetics. Normally such a heavily sativa-dominant variety wouldn’t be recommended for back pain. The Phnom Penh has been tested and contains a higher than usual amount of cannabidiol (CBD), which is known for anti-inflammatory properties combined with low psychoactivity. This seemed a perfect recommendation in my mind. Though definitely tempted by the very proper-smelling Corleone Kush, I opted for a gram of the more clear-headed Phnom Penh, as I generally have a lot of work to do during the day and don’t have time for unexpected indica naps.

Fresh Baked had a few edibles, one of which (Stixx, a sugar-based edible produced by the At Home Baked brand) my budtender suggested as a good choice for me personally, as it was fast-acting for pain but easily dosed at 25 milligrams per container and come in “A.M.” and “P.M.” varieties as well as “CBD.” This type of product knowledge and smart recommendations (some might call it “upselling,” which frankly I can also respect) really put the Fresh Baked staff above most others that I’ve encountered.

“Danielle” (so sorry I didn’t remember your name, you really were a great budtender, I promise) did a great job of not making me feel rushed in the least and keeping conversation going the entire time while providing answers to any question or comment that I had.

After making my selection, she jarred it up into one of the obligatory child-resistant plastic prescription jars and I withdrew the required cash to pay my $20 total. Worth noting is that Fresh Baked is another cash-only dispensary, but they had an ATM in the lobby right outside of the bud room (unfortunately, it was not free and carried a $2 surcharge). Leaving out a different door than I came in, I spilled out into the aforementioned lounge area. I never thought of dispensaries as a hangout spot, but it seems that Fresh Baked has struck a chord with at least a few people, as there was lively conversation and plenty of pixelated dot-eating all around as I walked to the back door.

A single-gram sample of Phnom Penh from Fresh Baked in Boulder. (The Cannabist)

A few days later I actually got into my Phnom Penh. I wasn’t wowed visually by the flowers that I saw at the store, as several of the other varieties had better trichome coverage. When I got into the sample I purchased, it was the same deal; it was mostly plant matter with a smattering of trichomes visible underneath the pillowy, peach-colored stigmas that curled throughout the light green leaves and bracts. The gram I bought was made up of one approximately half-gram nug and a couple smaller ones, all of which looked similarly unimpressive. I think the appearance was more a result of the strain than anything, as certain varieties (especially CBD-rich ones) simply are not that attractive and flashy, hiding most of their trichomes on the inner surfaces.

In the plastic container, the sample smelled faintly sweet and similar to what you’d see in a Dutch Skunk/Haze type of hybrid — the aroma of the jar at the store was much stronger than that of my container, but that’s more likely due to the small amount it held than any actual lack of scent. Still, I could barely pick up a scent other than a faint, funky sweetness (like Cheese) in the hand, but as soon as I broke it apart, it released a very strong and much different aroma.

Sniffing my grinder, my nose was filled with a very interesting blend of fresh pine cleaner, menthol, and a little bit of sweetness. It got extremely pungent and seemed to change almost completely when ground up; it perfumed the room and I basically couldn’t stop smelling it as I was prepping to roll the joint.  It smelled like several other strains that I’ve encountered, but I couldn’t place my finger on it — something between a Haze and the piney-fresh Maui cut that floats around Colorado, but far more pungent than the latter.

I took a dry hit off the joint and was pleased to find that it was almost exactly like the post-grind smell, which had me super excited a few minutes earlier. Once I lit it up, however, the flavor definitely didn’t match — it was muted by the presence of residual nutrients that left a metallic, “hot” feeling in my mouth almost from the start (think licking a penny). Flushing is such a key part of the harvest process, and though the sample seemed otherwise well-grown and had all the hallmarks of a solid strain, the flavor completely let me down.

The joint was tough to light initially (always a bad sign) yet didn’t have a problem staying lit once it was going; but the black exterior of the ash told me all I needed to know: There was definitely a flushing problem with this sample. The flavor was never all that distinct to begin with, but also turned south rather quickly. I could barely finish it because it was unpleasant after the halfway point.

The metal flavor still stinging in my mouth, I noticed the effects starting rather quickly (about five minutes after my first hit on the joint). There was a fairly immediate warmth throughout my body, but my extremities felt a little tingly and somehow energized. For what is supposedly an equatorial sativa variety, it wasn’t rushy at all and gave a smooth and easily directed energy that made it perfect for what I was looking for at the time. It didn’t actually exterminate my back pain, but it did make my body feel pleasant in general, and I imagine that if my issue weren’t so dire (collapsed discs in several areas), I would’ve felt much looser and relatively pain-free.

The body effect was the most apparent part of my Phnom Penh experience by far, though. Even at 30 minutes in, it felt just like it did five minutes in, which is good lasting initial potency. From there, the effect slowly dwindled away over the next hour and a half or so (putting the total at around two hours), always sitting in the background of tasks rather than influencing them. The strain definitely did its job, but the negative marks on flavor really damaged the overall picture.

The lowdown

I had high hopes for the flowers at Fresh Baked after my stellar in-store experience and the bevvy of strong-smelling choices they had on offer, but I felt a bit let down by the final quality. Perhaps I chose poorly and ended up with one of the only badly-flushed samples — but as the old saying goes, “one weak link can break the chain.” I’m definitely willing to go back to Fresh Baked to give them another shot, but for now, I was left wanting, especially considering the higher-than-average prices. A top-notch experience at the store only does so much for me; ultimately, it always comes down to the quality of the product on whether or not I recommend a store. For now, consider Fresh Baked a “close, but no cigar” type of shop; it is above the curve, but there are definitely areas to improve upon.

The must-try: I am kicking myself a bit for not going with one of the Kush varieties that I saw at Fresh Baked. The Corleone Kush in particular smelled outstanding and much better than other examples of that strain that I’ve encountered. All strains were priced at $20 per gram, $60 per eighth, and $360 per ounce.

The lasting impression: I need to give Fresh Baked another shot, because I feel like deep down, they are better than this rating.