After a series of out-of-the-way, mostly industrial locations, the bustling urban center surrounding High Level Health on Lincoln Street was a welcome change. In an area composed primarily of restaurants and high-end apartment buildings, High Level Health’s single-level red brick storefront blends in with everything else on the block, aside from the “Now Serving 21+” banner hanging in the front window. This particular HLH location has converted entirely to recreational sales, while their East Colfax location has remained medical. The parking situation in this part of town during peak hours is rough to say the least, but sometimes you’ll luck out and find a parking meter within a block of where you need to go. Somehow, late on a Friday afternoon, I was able to get a decent spot on 9th Avenue and headed in to see what they had to offer.
The reception area is clean and classy, with a large TV displaying rotating photos of their plants in the garden and plenty of comfortable seating on a couple of leather couches. As I had entered the shop, another man was right in front of me; he and a younger guy who was already inside were the only customers waiting in this area. A young woman popped out of the other room and asked for our IDs. The younger guy said we could go ahead of him in line and indicated that he worked for HLH as a garden staff member, giving a couple of recommendations and complaining that one of the strains is “a real pain to trim.” For me it was nice to see the garden staff shopping at the store – putting aside the likely employee discount, it at least says to me they are proud enough of their handiwork to spend money on it. Sometimes in this industry (like the restaurant industry), it becomes a “how the sausage is made” type of situation, where those who have seen the inner sanctum of operations consciously stay away after knowing what goes on behind the scenes.
I chatted for a few minutes more as two customers filed out, and the female staff member said I could go back to the budroom. Like the reception area, this was a well-appointed, clean, organized room with two bud counters and several staff members milling about. My budtender’s name was Justin, and he pretty much got right to business. “What would you like?”
Of course I had absolutely no idea, given that I had walked into the room less than 10 seconds prior. I surveyed the glass display cases, seeing only a handful of jars and a few edibles stacked up under the other bud counter. “I dunno, I guess I’d like to just start smelling some jars,” I said. Justin began bringing them out, starting with the Summit County Headband (which smelled very unique, somewhat like a peach Hi-Chew candy), the Cheese (which smelled, well, cheesy and fruity), and the uber-frosty Cataract Kush, which had a very pungent spicy musk, looking and smelling the best out of all of the choices.
Though all of the jars smelled great, I was disappointed there were only seven strains available. I planned to get a gram of the Cataract Kush, but HLH is one of the shops that has opted to make customers purchase an eighth ounce of flowers at the minimum, eschewing gram sales altogether. While I certainly understand why shops do this (higher base purchase price, less packaging), it always rubs me the wrong way, especially when it’s $50 per eighth (not including tax), a price I haven’t paid for cannabis since I was buying it from a friend’s apartment six-plus years ago. My main problem with this sales strategy is that it pretty much forces the customer to purchase a large amount of something they aren’t actually sure if they like or not. The Cataract Kush looked great and I assume I would have enjoyed it … but what if I didn’t? Ultimately, I would be left holding a $60 bag of nothing.
This becomes a larger issue with the recreational market than it is for medical, simply because the majority of customers are trying a dispensary for the first time and don’t have experience with their products. The value and appeal of being able to try several choices is even higher in the recreational environment, where grams and half-eighths become a more attractive option to many customers despite the slight upcharge for the smaller quantity simply because they want to “taste the rainbow” of Colorado flavors. High Level Health (and many other recreational spots I’ve been to) eliminates that choice, which is unfortunate. As a recreational customer, along with the high prices, it makes me feel even more taken advantage of to have buying choices reduced as well. I hope this “eighths only” trend goes the way of the dodo by this time next year.
Considering all of this, I again opted to just go for a pre-rolled joint to be able to try their flowers without risking the entirety of my $50. Unlike some of the other stores I’ve reviewed recently, HLH only had indica and sativa blend joints available for $12 apiece rather than strain-specific offerings. Normally I would have just walked out with nothing, because house mix joints are traditionally the figurative (or sometimes literal) floor sweepings of the cannabis industry … but since they appeared to have high-quality flowers, I rolled the dice and went with a sativa blend cone joint.