I don’t usually spend a lot of time in Boulder proper, but I found myself in the area recently and opted to see how the city’s recreational cannabis scene was progressing.
As many know, Boulder (despite its reputation as a bastion of tolerance) has been one of the more difficult municipalities to work with in terms of opening recreational (or even medical) cannabis dispensaries. While recreational shops were popping up like crazy in Denver, Boulder applicants were sitting dormant, waiting for local licensing approval. Of those applicants, only five were approved initially, and Terrapin Care Station was the first to open within Boulder city limits, almost a full two months after recreational sales were allowed statewide. For my first recreational purchase in Boulder, I figured there was no better place to check out than the one that’s had the most time to get its act together.
Terrapin Care Station’s recreational storefront is located in the heart of CU Boulder’s campus district, near the corner of Folsom Street and Canyon Boulevard. It’s a great location with easy access from U.S. 36, and perhaps most important in Boulder, has its own parking. Though the lot is shared with a couple other businesses in the complex, Terrapin had several spots available when I arrived. The second I walked in the front door, a security guard checked my I.D. and told me to grab a number when I got to the waiting area.
The waiting area was quite large and comfortable (if perhaps a little crowded), with several lush couches to sit on, an ATM (no service fee) and printed product menus on the tables. I grabbed a ticket from the deli-style roll and took a seat on the couch next to a couple other customers. Though there were six or seven people ahead of me, I noticed that the line was moving quite quickly — “729, 730, 731,” the staff shouted, as customers quickly filed out in a stream, carrying their containers or exit bags. I waited maybe three minutes before getting the call, which was impressive considering how busy the shop was; I had anticipated waiting 10-15 minutes. Compared to some of the recent recreational shops I’ve been into in the Denver area, this one was much more bustling and had a definite buzz when you entered. Considering that it was this busy on a Monday afternoon before shops normally get hit with the after-work rush, I think it’s safe to assume that Terrapin’s proximity to student housing and Boulder’s business district keeps steady customer volume rolling through. The good news is that they really move through the lines, so even if the shop is full of customers, there probably won’t be long to wait.
I barely had time to browse the strain menu before being called back, where a staff member pointed me to the vacant sales position (there were four total stations) and I met my budtender, Christian. He welcomed me and asked if I had been in before (I hadn’t), then he got right to work and asked me what I’d like to see. One consistent theme with my experience at Terrapin was the overall efficiency of the communications and shopping process; the owners/managers have clearly put some thought into the customer turnover and an emphasis on keeping the lines moving. While Christian was perfectly friendly and succinctly answered any questions that I had, he moved very quickly and I got the impression that lingering at the counter, asking details about every strain and smelling all the jars (as I often do) would disrupt the store’s flow.
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As usual, I was on the hunt for flowers, but I saw that Terrapin had a decent edibles selection on-hand, with products from Incredibles, Dixie and Canyon Cultivation. However, they were sold out of concentrates entirely, which seems to be a theme throughout the recreational cannabis industry at the moment.
Christian confirmed what I already knew: namely, the majority of infused-product manufacturers are still in the process of getting their recreational licensing approvals and cannot produce concentrates for rec dispensaries. Licensing aside, I also know of several operations that are struggling to meet the new concentrate production guidelines released by the MED (the most restrictive parts of which are effective July 1), with most of them scrambling to get compliant facilities built so that they can continue production once the deadline hits. All of this has combined to create a major concentrate shortage in recreational shops, which is especially unfortunate for those without red cards who require the higher potency that concentrates deliver.
Back to the flowers: the shop’s menu had approximately 12 strains on it, but as I began picking jars to look at, Christian informed me that several of my choices were actually sold out. I internally questioned the purpose of the printed menus when their information was almost 50 percent inaccurate, but as someone who has managed dispensaries, I know that it can be tough to keep up on little things like that when you’re seeing over a hundred customers on a daily basis, which I’m sure Terrapin easily eclipses. With that minor annoyance put aside, Christian used a Sharpie to black out the missing strains so the next round of customers wouldn’t have to ask about them,and I got down to business sniffing some jars.
I had asked about the budget Flo, which was sold out, and Christian offered up their only other discount shelf selection, which was locally-bred Red Headed Stranger (Williams Wonder x Tom Hill’s Haze). This sample looked pretty terrible and smelled weak and grassy, which is a long shot from the sparkling, Haze-scented Cup-winner that I know the strain to be. “Okay,” I thought to myself, “that was just their budget shelf, so I can’t judge them by the weakest selection alone…” But the RHS turned out to be somewhat prophetic; it was definitely the worst-looking sample that I saw, but the two higher grades were not exactly spectacular either. I looked at the mid-shelf Coal Creek Skunk, which smelled vegetal and bland; the Hash Haze (also mid-shelf), which smelled the best out of all the choices despite looking a little beat-up (Christian said this was one of his favorites); and the top-shelf White Goat, which definitely looked the frostiest out of the choices but smelled underwhelming to my nose.