Welcome to Denver—ground zero of the green rush. At the end of the first year of recreational cannabis sales in 2014, there were 147 licensed retail stores in Colorado. Cut to five years later and it’s hard to imagine that cannabis was once illegal here, with 529 licensed retail stores in the state (as of May 2018). The majority of our picks are the OGs of Denver’s medical dispensary scene, first opening their doors in 2009, and since expanding their cannabis offerings for patients and recreational consumers alike.

For visiting cannabis enthusiasts, a dispensary is always on the itinerary, but with an overwhelming number of options, it’s hard to know where to even start. And for all canna-curious newbies, finding a shop that employs a staff with expert-level knowledge is essential in navigating ever-growing menus of flower, edibles, topicals, concentrates, and accessories. Here are 10 Denver recreational dispensaries to make your time in the Mile High City even higher.

Denver’s 10 Best Dispensaries

Photos by Katie Shapiro

Cannabis Station
LoDo
“Fill up on Diesel” at this funky former gas station turned downtown dispensary.

Located in the heart of downtown Denver in a former gas station adorned with graffiti art, it’s the perfect pitstop before catching a Rockies game at Coors Field or a night out on the town. Owned under the Rocky Mountain High umbrella with eight locations across the state, its flower is award-winning. In fact, they just took home a 2nd place trophy for “Best Colorado Sativa Flower” at the High Times U.S. Cannabis Cup in Denver.

Colorado Harvest Company
Multiple Locations
With a pair of industry bigwigs behind it all, the power of its flower speaks for itself.

Cannabiz pioneers, Tim Cullen and Ralph Morgan, founded Colorado Harvest Company (formerly Evergreen Apothecary) in 2009, now holding 36 state and local licenses in Colorado. They also happen to be the brains behind the best-selling vaporizer brand, O.penVAPE and the nation’s largest organic hash oil production company, OrganaLabs. Inside any one of their three Denver area retail stores, you’ll find a minimum of 20 freshly harvested strains on shelf that are organically cultivated in three innovative facilities totaling 55,000 square-feet. Customers praise the always-friendly staff and the expert-level of knowledge they drop from behind the corrugated metal bud bar. The Yale location is worth the trip from downtown, where you can step inside their own branded Volkswagen “magic bus” for a selfie.

Denver’s 10 Best Dispensaries

Diego Pellicer
Valverde
A sleek, high-style space is matched with high-quality flower.

Diego Pellicer leans on luxury for the consumer experience with affordable pricing for premium products. Its concierge-style level of service from its staff of “marijuana sommeliers” stands out and earned employee Gladys Solis the honor of “2017 Budtender of the Year” at the 7th Annual Cannabis Business Awards. The boutique, which has an equally as beautiful second location in Seattle, also took home trophies for Executive of the Year, Manager of the Year, and Retail Store of the Year.

Good Chemistry
Multiple locations
Responsibly cultivated cannabis that’s broken down for shoppers into “effect categories” (Amplify, Relax, Relieve or Sleep)

Its 3,600-square-foot flagship store opened on Colfax Avenue as one of Denver’s first higher-designed, state-of-the-art dispensaries. Since then, two more locations (Aurora and South Broadway) have opened and the company’s signature color-coded “effect categories” of recommended uses (Amplify, Relax, Relieve or Sleep) guide customers toward an experiential-focused product selection process steered by a knowledgeable staff. More than 60 strains of flower, extracts and concentrates are cultivated under the Good Chemistry Nurseries umbrella, whose products are also available in select Nevada retailers. Founded in the spirit of “making life better” for those in need, Good Chemistry is also committed to giving back, officially supporting ONE Colorado, Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods, Denver Police Brotherhood, Comitis Crisis Center of Aurora, the Harm Reduction Action Center, the Aurora Police Association and more.

Green Dragon
Multiple Locations
Homegrown in the High Rockies since 2009 with 12 Colorado-proud locations.

With a state-of-the-art grow facility at its Glenwood Springs-based headquarters (and a second in Denver), Green Dragon produces premium flower for its 12 Colorado locations the state. A selection of Green Dragon exclusive strains, which come in precise, plastic sealed to-go packs (making transactions faster than most dispensaries) line the wall behind the counter cases where you can also find a deep collection of Colorado’s leading edible, concentrate, and topical brands. Locals and tourists alike keep coming back for competitive prices and freebies from its loyalty VIP program. Beyond the Denver metro area locations, you can also follow the Green Dragon to ski country and stock up at outposts in Aspen, Breckenridge and Telluride before shredding the gnar.

The Green Solution
Multiple Locations
This ever-expanding chain sets the customer service standard with concierge-level attention to shop through an extensive product selection.

Although it’s family owned-and-operated by Colorado natives, The Green Solution (TSG) has grown into one of Colorado’s largest dispensary chains with 16 locations in the state. Their award-winning (the current tally is at 70 and counting), premium flower is available in six tiers: Private Stock (competition-grade), Feature (particularly phenomenal harvests), Top Shelf (the perfect balance of quality and price), Store Special (high quality flower for limited time discounted price), Value (smaller buds) and Ground (residuals from trimming that are ready to roll). At its 20,000 square-foot facility in Denver, TSG also produces a signature line of concentrates, Nectar Bee. Traveling west on I-70 when in town? Be sure to exit at Silver Plume for a stop in TSG’s official outlet store where everything, yes everything, is deeply discounted.

Denver’s 10 Best Dispensaries

GroundSwell
City Park
Committed to improving the Colfax Avenue community through cannabis.

With a vision to create a neighborhood resource focused on responsible cannabis use and its medicinal benefits, the GroundSwell team has deep roots in the community—both living in the area and producing large-scale events for the Bluebird District for the past ten years. Dedicated to providing clean cannabis products from its own offsite organic cultivation facility, its boutique space offers a tranquil respite from “the longest, wickedest street in America.”

Denver’s 10 Best Dispensaries

The Herbal Cure
Washington Park
When T.H.C. are the initials, it has to be on point.

This log cabin-esque depot has a “Cannaboose” on the property—in the form of a 1927 train car the owners inherited when they purchased it in 2010. The cool factor continues to the back of the building, which rotates with commissioned, custom graffiti murals by local artists. Inside, you’ll find exotic strains—only $20 an eighth all day, every day—developed in their Ganja Inc. “brand lab” comprised of three cultivation facilities. “The Cure Crew” is a tight-knit team, and they shine when it comes to their customers.

Denver’s 10 Best Dispensaries

Kind Love
Glendale
A medically focused staff shares knowledge for all cannabis consumers.

Led by a team of longtime industry experts, Kind Love has a large selection of the highest profile product portfolios on the market across all categories. For a try at growing your own, grab a seedling from the Clone Bar—a rare offering in Denver’s dispensaries. Customers love the “Kind Club Loyalty Program” where members earn points for rewards good for everything in the store. Bonus: they’re open later than most other dispensaries, until 11:45 p.m. (seven days a week) to accommodate busy schedules or wild weekends.

Denver’s 10 Best Dispensaries

L’Eagle Services
Santa Fe
The first and only adult use indoor grow in Colorado to achieve Clean Green Certification—an initiative modeled after the USDA National Organic Program.

With a long list of awards and accolades, L’Eagle Services has set the standard in organic cultivation practices since its opening in 2010 in an industrial park near downtown. Its stellar budtender staff runs the recreational retail space on-site making its flower and in-house cured concentrates among the freshest you’ll find in town (or anywhere). Co-owner Amy Anderle is a founding member of the Cannabis Certification Council, a Denver-based non-profit that independently certifies cannabis products as “Organically Grown and Fairly Produced.” You can find hard-to-find-clones here, too.

 

LivWell Enlightened Health

Multiple Locations

Run by a team of scientists, farmers and experts, this chain is committed to quality and powered by an unwavering passion for the plant.

Education, responsibility, and enlightenment are the ethos of LivWell, a family owned chain of clean, bright boutiques. Founded in 2009 “with one little clone and one very big dream,” LivWell has grown to seven stores in the Denver metro area with a total of 14 statewide (including one more in Springfield, OR). In addition to stocking their own lines of award-winning flower and specialty label concentrates, edibles and topicals, LivWell is also choice among celebrity-backed brands like Leafs by Snoop and Willie’s Reserve. Their dedication to elevating the industry goes beyond the dispensary, too, through philanthropic arm, LivWell Cares, which works with a host of organizations where it operates to raise funds and cultivate community.

Denver’s 10 Best Dispensaries

Native Roots
Multiple Locations
A celeb musician favorite, it’s usually the first stop on a Denver tour stop.

What began as a medical dispensary on the 16th Street Mall in 2013, Native Roots’ signature black and white pop-art graphics mark the spot at each and every one of its 20 shops across the state (and counting). Now considered one of the largest chains of marijuana shops in the US, its crew of homegrown owners have blazed a trail for the entire industry. Modern, bright displays showcase signature strains, concentrates, and the pioneers in the product space from Mary’s Medicinals and Apothecanna, to Sweet Grass Kitchen, to marQaha. And picking up a pack of Native Roots Shorties (five mini joints) for party favors is a must.

Denver’s 10 Best Dispensaries

Natural Remedies
LoDo
A.K.A. “Natty Rems”—a four-time High Times Cannabis Cup winner.

Family-owned-and-operated, Natural Remedies opened in 2009 as one of Denver’s first 20 medicinal cannabis dispensaries, its loyal customers continue to hit “Natty Rems” for its award-winning flower and in-house concentrates line of CRx, cultivated by hand in two offsite warehouses totaling over 30,000 square feet. In the downtown shop, you’ll find a smart staff behind the curated counters filled with edibles, topicals, accessories, and CBD products along with more than 20 strain varieties on rotation. Pro tip for picks: Gorilla Glue (hybrid), Bob Saget (sativa), and Natty Rems OG (indica).

Denver’s 10 Best Dispensaries

Sacred Seed
University (DU)
This mom-and-pop shop is beloved for its hand-cultivated landrace strains.

A collection of some of the most exclusive cannabis in the country, Sacred Seed more than merits its name offering true landrace strains, all of which are procured from seed—not unreliable clone stock. With a focus on elevating wellness, the self-proclaimed “mom and pop shop” cultivates its grow operation by hand and infuses its own line of waxes, shatter, crumble, and oils under the label of Sacred Seed Pharms. The college coeds in the neighborhood head here for its spirited staff, competitively priced menu, and monthly discount specials.

Denver’s 10 Best Dispensaries

Simply Pure
LoHi
Pot, politics, and food is what they do at this forward-thinking cannabis company.

Opening the first black-owned dispensary in Denver, entrepreneurs Wanda James and Scott Durrah are also military Veterans, so extensive education and advocacy is at the forefront of Simply Pure. As one of High Times 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis last year, James, in partnership with her husband Durrah, are paving the way in a movement that extends way beyond their elevated retail experience. Among their multiple business endeavors in the industry over the years, they got an early industry start in 2009 as hosts of “Creative Cooking with Cannabis“ to sold-out audiences in the Denver area (long before canna-chefs were a thing) and are rolling out a new schedule come summer.

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1. What is CBD? What is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring constituent of industrial hemp/cannabis. Its formula is C21H30O2 and it has a molecular mass of 314.4636. It is the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, and is being scientifically investigated for various reasons.

CBD oil is a cannabis oil (whether derived from marijuana or industrial hemp, as the word cannabis is the latin genus name for both) that has significant amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) contained within it. Our CBD products and extracts are derived from industrial hemp, so they could be considered CBD-rich hemp oil, hemp derived CBD oil, CBD-rich cannabis oil, or plainly “hemp extracts” since they typically contain much more than just CBD. Again, cannabis doesn’t mean marijuana, but is the genus name, and general umbrella term which all forms of marijuana and hemp fall under. The form of cannabis we use for our CBD and hemp extracts is industrial hemp; we do not sell marijuana.

2. If a hemp extract is 40% cannabinoids, what’s the other 60%? What’s in your hemp extracts besides the naturally occurring cannabinoids?

Our Kentucky hemp extracts contain over 80 different phyto-cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), CBC, CBG, CBN, etc.. In addition to the cannabinoids naturally present in our agricultural hemp extracts, there are also many other types of natural molecules and phyto-chemical compounds such as amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins (including B1, B2, B6, D), fatty acids (including omega 3 & 6), trace minerals (including iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium), beta-carotene, chlorophyll, flavanoids, ketones, nitrogenous compounds, alkanes, glycosides, pigments, water, and terpenes. The most common terpenes in our hemp extracts are Myrcene, Beta-caryophyllene, Terpinolene, Linalool, alpha-Pinene, beta-Pinene, Nerolidol og Phytol, trans-alpha-Bergamotene, Limonene/ beta-Phellandrene (Co-elution), and alpha-Humulene.

3. What’s the difference between Hemp and Marijuana?

Scientifically, industrial Hemp and Marijuana are the same plant, with a genus and species name of Cannabis Sativa. They have a drastically different genetic profile though. Industrial Hemp is always a strain of Cannabis sativa, while marijuana can be Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, or Cannabis ruderalis. The major difference is how industrial hemp has been bred compared to a marijuana form of Cannabis sativa. organic hemp seedsTypically speaking, industrial hemp is very fibrous, with long strong stalks, and barely has any flowering buds, while a marijuana strain of Cannabis sativa will be smaller, bushier, and full of flowering buds. However, newer industrial hemp varieties in the USA are being bred to have more flowers and higher yields of cannabinoids and terpenes, such as our Kentucky hemp we’re now using!

99% of the time marijuana has a high amount of THC and only a very low amount of CBD. Hemp, on the other hand, naturally has a very high amount of CBD in most instances, and only a trace amount of THC. Fortunately, the cannabinoid profile of hemp is ideal for people looking for benefits from cannabis without the ‘high.’ Hemp is used for making herbal supplements, food, fiber, rope, paper, bricks, oil, natural plastic, and so much more, whereas marijuana is usually used just recreationally, spiritually, and medicinally. The term cannabis oil can refer to either a marijuana or hemp derived oil, since marijuana and hemp are two different forms of cannabis.

In the USA the legal definition of “industrial hemp,” per Section 7606 of the Agricultural Appropriations Act of 2014, is “INDUSTRIAL HEMP — The term ‘‘industrial hemp’’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

4. Are hemp derived cannabinoids such as CBD as good as CBD from marijuana?

The short answer is yes. CBD is CBD, whether from marijuana or hemp. Most marijuana has a very low non-psychoactive cannabinoid profile (like CBD, CBC, CBG), so most of the time hemp would be much more preferable for anything besides THC. Marijuana is usually very high in THC (gives people the high) but usually very low in other non-psychoactive cannabinoids.

Nowadays in the USA, many farmers are growing industrial hemp flowers that are just as beautiful, odor-producing, and terpene rich as the best marijuana strains, such as our partnered farmers in Kentucky.

5. Why don’t you source your Hemp and CBD from within Colorado?

colorado growing operationWe feel that the hemp program in Kentucky is more well suited for our company in regards to growing hemp, and that because it’s 100% compliant with Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill (and the 2016 Agricultural Appropriations Act), procuring it from there is perfectly legal at the federal level. Kentucky’s ecology is perfect for hemp just as it is for tobacco. The growing season is longer than in Colorado, and the soil is richer, so the quality of the hemp and the yields are better.

6. What’s the percentage of cannabinoids and CBD in your product?

Our raw extracts have varying percentages of cannabinoid and cannabidiol (CBD) content, the range being 10%-99%. Each product has a unique formulation and uses varying ratios of our extract types. Our CBD Isolate is over 99% pure CBD.

7. What is the best method of use?

For our dietary supplements we can only recommend them for internal consumption. Our CBD isolate is for research purposes only. If you don’t like the flavor of the oil supplements, you can mix with something sweet like apple sauce or honey to cut through the flavor.

8. What’s the ideal serving size for me, and how often should I take it?

There is no easy answer to this. Our starting recommended serving size is 15 drops but we generally recommend experimenting to see what feels best to you. Some prefer 5 drops, some prefer over 50 drops per day.

9. What is the safety of your hemp extracts? Are there negative side effects?

Hemp is considered by many to be generally safe. We’ve never seen or heard of any significant or negative CBD Oil Extractside effects in our years in the industry. That said, we can’t rule them out. Please consult with your physician before using any dietary supplement including Hemp extract supplements.

10. Which of your CBD and hemp products should I get?

As a company who sells various dietary and food supplements, we can’t suggest any of our products for the prevention, treatment or cure of any disease or ailment.

When considering our different dietary hemp products, know that they all come in two strengths. Our Original Hemp blends (Classic Hemp Blend, Hemp Complete, Brainpower oil, & Signature Blend) all have 250+mg of cannabinoids per fluid ounce, and our concentrated blends have 1,500+mg per fluid ounce, six times the potency of our traditional oils. We’ve found that sometimes less is more, but nevertheless, some people like to take very large serving sizes of our hemp extracts.

The main difference between the four Original Blends is the additional herbal ingredients besides hemp. We suggest you research the separate components of each blend to determine which product may be most appealing to add to your dietary regimen. If you know it’s solely the hemp extract that you are looking for, with no additional ingredients, then Classic Hemp Blend or Classic Hemp 6x is what you’re looking for.

For dabbing and vaporizing or for research you can try our CBD Isolate.

THOSE WHO SUSPECT THEY MAY HAVE A DISEASE OR ARE SEEKING HELP FOR A DISEASE SHOULD CONSULT A QUALIFIED MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL.

11. Why do people use Hemp Extracts and CBD? What are the benefits and uses of CBD?

In accordance with federal regulations we cannot make health claims regarding our dietary supplement products. We can only recommend our products for general wellness.

12. Is a standard hemp seed oil the same as a high-CBD hemp extract?

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Absolutely not. Standard hemp oil, which can be found very cheaply at a grocery store, is a much different product than our CO2 hemp extracts (not from seed). Standard hemp oil is produced by cold pressing the seeds, whereas our hemp extract is a supercritical CO2 extraction of the hemp plant itself, not the seeds. Hemp seed oil is considered to be a great nutritive food, but it doesn’t have the naturally occurring terpenes, cannabinoids and other components that our extracts do have.

13. Do I need to move to Colorado to get your Hemp Extracts and CBD? Where do you ship?

No. We actually source our hemp from Kentucky, as it’s legal to ship across state lines. Many people are under the impression that the only way to acquire hemp extracts and CBD for themselves or a loved one is to move to Colorado or another cannabis-friendly state. Many major news outlets are misinformed and are unfortunately spreading the idea that you can only get CBD oil in the states where medical marijuana has been legalized. This is simply not the case though. Because our extracts comes from hemp instead of marijuana, we can and do ship to all fifty states, and no medical marijuana card is needed. There are some exceptions, like with Indiana, Missouri and South Dakota we can’t sell our concentrated products due to state legislation.

We also ship to Japan, Australia, the EU, Switzerland, and Brazil. For all EU orders contact our exclusive distributor thereCannawell.

14. Is your Hemp Extract Oil similar to Rick Simpson Hemp Oil?

Not quite. Ours are from hemp and RSHO is usually using marijuana, a different form of cannabis than industrial hemp. Our industrial hemp extracts are more standardized and will usually have a much higher content of non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBD than one produced through the Rick Simpson method. And oils produced through his method will usually have a much higher THC content, as it’s typically marijuana that is used for RSHO.†

Generally speaking, most marijuana producers and sellers (especially on the black market) don’t test for contaminants (metals, pesticides, bacteria, etc.). Rick Simpson Hemp Oil is actually more a method of extraction than it is a specific product. People use the Rick Simpson method with hundreds of different strains of marijuana, so the THC, CBD and other cannabinoid content of the final oil is always varying greatly, depending on the cannabis the consumers are acquiring. Usually what’s used for Rick Simpson oil is a strain with an inferior CBD content (and high THC), because that’s what the vast amount of marijuana is nowadays.

15. Where do you source your hemp and CBD from?

We have partners in Kentucky who grew a dedicated plot for us this year (2016) which is being used in our products now. mjna message boardWe also currently source from Europe but we’ll be changing that soon.

16. What kind of testing/analysis is performed on your products?

We have an industry leading quality control system, and we have third party laboratories analyze all of our hemp extracts and our final products for cannabinoid potency, heavy metals, bacterial and microbial life, mycotoxins (fungus), and pesticides.

17. What is CO2 extraction? What’s the difference between subcritical and supercritical CO2 extractions?

CO2 extraction is an extraction process that uses pressurized carbon dioxide to extract phyto-chemicals (such as CBD, CBG, or terpenes, flavonoids, etc.) from a plant. CO2 at certain temperatures and pressures acts like a solvent, without the dangers of actually being one. It is the most expensive extraction method, and is widely considered the most effective and safest plant extraction method in the world.

Many hemp and CBD companies boast about their supercritical CO2 extractions, but that’s actually only one (and perhaps an inferior) method of using a CO2 extraction machine. There are also subcritical CO2 extractions, and ‘mid-critical’, a general range between subcritical and supercritical. Subcritical (low temp, low pressure) CO2 extractions take more time and produce smaller yields than super-critical, but they retain the essential oils, terpenes, and other sensitive chemicals within the plant. Supercritical, on the other hand, is a high pressure and high temperature process that damages most terpenes and heat sensitive chemicals, but can extract much larger molecules such as lipids (omega 3 and 6), chlorophyll, and waxes. A truly full-spectrum CO2 extract includes first performing a subcritical extraction, separating the extracted oil, and then extracting the same plant material using supercritical pressure, and then homogenizing both oil extracts into one. In the essential oil industry, an extract made using this specific process is referred to as a CO2 Total.

18. What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?

“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors located in the mammalian brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems, consisting of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors.” Wikipedia

There are two main types of receptors in the ECS, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the central nervous system and brains of mammals, and CB2 are generally found in the peripheral nervous system. There are two main cannabinoids mammals produce- 2AG and Anandamide (named after the Sanskrit term “ananda” which translates to “peace”).

For hundreds of millions of years every vertebrate on Earth has been equipped with this ECS, a crucial system in the body, and it has been known about in the scientific and medical communities since the 1980’s. However, it’s still not taught about in most medical schools.

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