Upscale in Oro Valley

Unless you happen to live in the area, Catalina Hills Care isn't on your way to anywhere, but they provide an excellent dispensary experience

Until a few years ago, I played about 60 rounds of golf a year.

Most of those rounds were at utilitarian, workaday courses like Fred Enke or Silverbell. Often enough, it was a more upscale experience at del Lago or the Pines or Tubac. But a few times a year, it was a full-on, first-class ride of courtesy, service and impeccable grounds-keeping at the Ritz or Ventana or Stone Canyon, the last being Southern Arizona's epitome of golf detail orientation.

Catalina Hills Care, a dispensary that opened six months ago in Oro Valley, just down the street from the region's ultimate golf experience, seems to be the Stone Canyon of local dispensaries, IMO, even though it's in a strip mall anchored by a Safeway.

Because it's in a huge strip mall, parking will never be a problem. If you want to be discrete, park by Safeway. If you want to be paranoid, buy some gum and take your Safeway bag to Catalina Hills to smuggle your meds out, in case your grandkids see you on the way to your car. ;)

The waiting room here is a sort of quality faux-Victorian, like an expensive hotel, which kinda gives it a swanky doctor's office feel. There is a private consultation room with a tasteful desk and two chairs off the waiting room, presumably for patient evaluations, which they offer periodically in-house. Everything is in its place in the waiting room, and it was very clean. The magazines were perfectly aligned, and there is a giant electronic menu board to keep you occupied.

The board listed 18 strains the day I went, in four price tiers: $15/$45/$90, $17/$50/$95, $18/$55/$105 and $20/$65/$120 per gram/eighth/quarter. That's more strains than the average dispensary, but it's hard to compare prices. I can get top-shelf meds from $55 to $70 an eighth all over town, but what am I getting? Catalina Hills has a slight problem with bag appeal and a bigger problem with potency. The couple of strains I looked at weren't trimmed as well as they could have been. Not a fatal issue, but an issue.

But they only had one strain that tested at 20 percent THC or better, so they were selling strains in the 17-plus-percent range as top shelf. That doesn't mean they suck. I tried a strain called Bisbee Blue, which tested at 14 percent, and it was very smooth and left me on a nice, even keel. High THC isn't everything. It's also about the cannabinoid brew each strain offers. Nonetheless, if you're looking for high THC, you might call ahead. They didn't have much the day I went. They did have a wide selection of edibles from Bisbee.

This dispensary is inconvenient to most of Tucson, which will probably hurt them. I regularly drive past other dispensaries when I'm shuttling back and forth across town, but never this one. You kind of have to mean to go there, unless you're local. The location seems like a plus for their clientele, though. A lot of older folks like the safety and security cushion their monied lifestyle affords in the land of Golf and Plenty.

The staff at Catalina Hills seemed knowledgeable about the strains they had. They were very smiley, and they don't wear uniforms. The two women in the shop the day I went were dressed better than I was, so props on that. They were very professional. ;)

All in all, I'd say Catalina Hills striped it down the middle. I've been to every dispensary in town, save one, and this one is the top of the upscale heap, although I'd advise a little more attention to details on the meds. For quality experience and surroundings, they're hard to beat. But I think they could push their top shelf a little higher. Not a deal-breaker for me, though.

Mr. Smith approves.

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