William Breathes looks back on three years as the country's first pot critic

William Breathes looks back on three years as the country's first pot critic

This month I'll mark my third anniversary of reviewing medical marijuana dispensaries for Westword as the country's first MMJ critic. In that time, I've written about more than 150 dispensaries, smoked at least 546 grams of cannabis and tested out nearly two ounces of assorted hash, kief and oil. Not bad for a job that I originally thought was going to be a short-lived stunt.

That's not to say I didn't take the job seriously — I did — but back in the fall of 2009, the mainstream media wasn't taking the MMJ industry seriously, much less giving it the attention that 60 Minutes just did in its October 21 report. And while that was shortsighted, it was also easy to understand. Growers were opening up ragtag shops and selling anything they could move to patients pumped just to be able to buy legal marijuana. So many dispensaries popped up on South Broadway that the stretch became known as "Broadsterdam."

Three years later, everyone takes Colorado's MMJ industry seriously. Despite federal closures of nearly sixty dispensaries around the state, there are still hundreds of centers open for business. Yes, there are still some crappy, low-rent shops out there — but I've also seen an increasing number of shops doing things right. The most obvious change has been the constantly improving quality of cannabis available. While a lot of people like to make the blanket assertion that all dispensary meds are warehouse-quality and don't compare to the small grows of dedicated personal caregivers, that doesn't always hold true. While some centers have just mid-grade buds, an inexperienced caregiver may do no better. And there are definitely shops that turn out top caregiver-level cannabis, including Green Dream Health Services, the Health Center, Colorado Alternative Medicine and the Golden Goat.

A lot of the improvement is due to the increasingly complex genetics originating in Colorado gardens. The Golden Goat's Tierra Rojo has been mixing up the genetic pool of available kush and haze varieties by breeding them with the heirloom-vegetable equivalent: seeds originally sourced from Afghanistan. And while Colorado's original seed company, Centennial Seeds, has shut down because the law now prohibits cultivation by any entity other than a caregiver or dispensary, other seed companies have aligned with dispensaries and are flourishing. Reserva Privada, for example, has come out with a line of seeds that combines a number of strains from the Clinic with RP's fierce LA Confidential.

Prices have also become consistently better from a consumer's standpoint. When I first started reviewing MMJ, paying $50 or more for 3.5 grams of mid-grade buds was the norm at most shops. Higher-end buds would regularly sell for $60, and some places like Boulder's Greenest Green would go as high as $70 for an eighth of an ounce. Now patients looking for cut-rate buds will find many places selling herb below $200 an ounce. While a good amount of that is not worth buying if you're truly concerned about medical-quality buds, there are also quality grows with warehouses pumping out top-rate buds for members at $200 or below. Even Greenest Green has lowered the prices on its consistently chronic-quality herb to a more reasonable sub-$50/eighth level.

Another major development has been the increased availability and quality of concentrates like hash and hash oil. No doubt this is partly because of all the excess cannabis grown in the larger warehouses. But some dispensaries have begun looking at concentrates as almost an art form, hiring dedicated hash-makers to produce extremely potent, high-quality, delicious-tasting and skunk-stinking icewater extractions. A huge market has also emerged for all things solvent-extracted. Butane hash oil was known to only a few message-board weed geeks just three years ago, and now every dispensary carries grams of butter, shatter, earwax or whatever nickname they care to attach to it; the overall quality has improved from a general viscous, used-motor-oil consistency to see-through amber glass made of chemically extracted cannabinoids.

And it's gratifying to see that advancements aren't coming from professional or college labs with major funding, but from a few dedicated pot nerds who have come together through Internet forums and Saturday-night hash gatherings rather than peer-reviewed papers and university conferences.

As much as some things have changed, others remain the same. Despite my series of blood tests in April 2011 that demonstrated how THC DUI laws might harm sober medical marijuana patients, state senator Steve King plans to bring another proposal to the legislature in the next session. (Amendment 64 clearly states that driving under the influence of marijuana "shall remain illegal.") And on a personal level, I'm still plagued by the same painful stomach condition that gives me almost daily nausea and cramping.

But not everything that stays the same is as unwelcome: I still get excited checking out new dispensaries every week, and medical cannabis is still the best medicine to help curb those symptoms. And whether or not Amendment 64 passes next month, I'll still be able to get my meds in Colorado.

 
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58 comments
timothy_carrier
timothy_carrier

How can you say you're the countries first pot critic when you know that's not true? KindReviews and StrainMan were here before you and KindReviews was published in MostHi before you were a part of westword

RealMedicalNeed
RealMedicalNeed

My bad, I see it 'says' medical marijuana provisions are unaffected.  So I hope it passes - I'll have to SO proudly call friends in other states.  I use it as medicine and it's a powerful drug.  Don't let anybody tell you it's inconsequential, especially if your brain is under 30.  You can't smoke that skunk haze every day without going nuts. 

RealMedicalNeed
RealMedicalNeed

I voted last week.  I reversed the question - should people over 21 be arrested for possession of an ounce or less if they're not behind the wheel?  Voted Yes on the amendment.  I still don't I regret it.  But, as a medical patient I can grow enough plants, have learned under this amendment, I can't.  My condition requires specific strains not always available in stores, so if it passes and becomes 'legal', I'll be illegal again.  The med industry was making sense.  The way I read it, all dispensaries will want to become retail operations.  Too bad, a max of 3 flowering plants isn't enough for me, I grow mine in winter, when the lights can heat the place.  I can't be running a garden year-round, I'm sick.  So I voted for it, but it's okay with me if it fails. 

timothy_carrier
timothy_carrier

William was not the first pot critic.. There were at least three others before him

IcePick
IcePick

Yes on A64, Even Kathleen Chippi cannot come up with a valid argument why you should not.

 

There is simply no reason to vote against this.  If you are a human and you have a brain and you intend to vote against this new amendment I beg you to provide me a reason for your position.

 

There is no benefit in voting AGAINST, therefore logic dictates you must vote FOR A64!

 

 

GetALife
GetALife

"I'm still plagued by the same painful stomach condition that gives me almost daily nausea and cramping."

"medical cannabis is still the best medicine to help curb those symptoms" Oh really, then why are you still plagued with the nausea and cramping?

 

Just another example of the fallacy of why cannabis should be legalized.

WillBreathes
WillBreathes

 @timothy_carrier 

 

Strain man is great, but he writes his own blog with no oversight. Kind Reviews was started in July 2009, but they only review strains. I love both of those guy's sites and think they are valuable resources (KindReviews is awesome)

 

I review dispensaries as well as the meds for a longstanding actual newspaper (albeit an Alt-weekly) that isn't a specific marijuana trade publication. And yes, I was the first one to be doing anything like that in this country.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @RealMedicalNeed 

 

A64 does NOT legalize marijuana -- even the authors of it admit that fact.

 

A64 only allows 1 pathetic ounce, where 2 ounces are already decriminalized in Colorado for everyone, without age discrimination.

 

A64 declares that Marijuana is a Public Safety and Health Hazard, so much so that NO ADULT < 21 years old should be allowed any legal access to it -- not a single gram.

 

A64 declares that Marijuana is so Harmful and Dangerous that it must be Government Regulated and Controlled, LIKE DEADLY Alcohol that maims and kills 10s of thousands of people every year.

 

A64 = a step backwards, written for fools and tools too stupid to read, much less comprehend what it proposes.

 

 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @timothy_carrier 

In Billy's adolescent world, if it's new to him he assumes -- like some Cannabis Columbus -- that he was the first to discover it ... such as his laughable claim about BHO.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @IcePick 

 

You and "logic" have never shared the same bong, you stammering stooge.

WillBreathes
WillBreathes

 @GetALife 

 

I have never claimed  that marijuana cured my specific stomach condition, I said it helped curb the symptoms.

 

Thanks for the comment.

BillStewart2012
BillStewart2012

 @GetALife As the comment you quoted says, "cannabis ... curb[s] symptoms".  That doesn't mean that the underlying disease or injury isn't there.  It means that today, when you take some cannabis, it doesn't hurt until the cannabis wears off, just like your grandma's arthritis doesn't hurt as much when she takes aspirin. 

 

The reason cannabis shouldn't be legalized is that you believe your right-wing political correctness is more important than a patient's pain, and that your recreational beer drinking is just fine but other people's recreational pot smoking is evil.  Because of people like you, my father didn't get to use marijuana during the last few months of his cancer.  It might have helped. 

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

 @GetALife Advil doesn't cure you of headaches, should that be illegal to by your reasoning?

IcePick
IcePick

 @GetALife How dare you, troll.  Are you a medical doctor?  Then STFU

dailydose
dailydose

The medical cannabis is not a "cure" it helps us get through the day without feeling sick. Those who want to judge don't have to suffer like some of have to. My Dr's just shake their head when I tell them what my body does. They took my gall bladder out and I still get sick, go figure. Lost 50 lbs in a year because I can't eat much. Medical cannabis does help the daily nasea though. Without it I probably couldn't work much. Maybe you should be more educated on the qualities of medical cannabis before doubting what's been proven. 

timothy_carrier
timothy_carrier

 @WillBreathes I'm familiar with when KindReviews started June 2009 since I started it. But to your point you are correct you reviewed dispensaries and not just the herb So my apologies for my comments. When I started KindReviews there no one knew what strains worked best for what ailments nor did they actually know if the Ghost's OG they said they were being given was truly Ghost's. Now my Bro and Ry run it and are doing a fine job with it I would say. Again my apologies

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @WillBreathes  Do be shy, Billy -- you were the WORLD's First Dispensary Reviewer ... who writes for an alt-weekly ... published in Colorado.

 

When is Westword going to launch the Liquor Store Review column, and the much anticipated Pharmacy Reviews ?

 

 

 

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @RealMedicalNeed A64 does legalize marijuana for those 21 and up. Donkey is a known Prohibitionist and rageaholic that believes all police officers are pigs, people in medical marijuana are all "black market drug dealers," and that soldiers are murderers. Go ahead and look up A64 for yourself and give it a read, it's very clearly stated that it is legal.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @WillBreathes   ... and it gets you High!

 

No need to completely abandon your Puerile Pot Clown suit ... now that pot might be "legal" after A64 ... and tens of thousands of recreational stoners can drop the pretense of "medical" necessity from their routine, you guys can go back to finding Denver's "Dankest Corners" and other discoveries of social import.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @BillStewart2012  

 

HipTip -- morphine and/or fentanyl provide waaaay better pain relief than marijuana.

 

hth.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @dailydose "The medical cannabis is not a "cure" "

 

So you renounce and condemn those clueless stoners who claim that Marijuana CURES Cancer, eh ?

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay Nope. Your kids future bud tender :)

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay It's legalization silly un-American Donkey :) Can't wait to open a retail shop and sell weed to your kids when they get old enough!

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @mattleising  "No."

 

So then A64 is NOT legalization, and it would be inaccurate to call it that.

 

Thanks for playing, better luck next time, chump.

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay No, but you sure are and you're the type of person that says,"soldiers are murderers." How much do you hate this country? What's you real deal?

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay it's very accurate to call it legalization. It's used in the first paragraph silly Donkey.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @mattleising  

 

*************************************************************************

"LEGALIZATION is NOT what this is.  ....  it would be INACCURATE to call it LEGALIZATION."

-- Steve Fox, Author of A64, during the legislative hearings on the initiative.

*************************************************************************

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay Ypu forgot the other side. These things are illegal because the rest is legal for those 21 and up. Also, you forgot the whole business license sales and what not. Maybe all the Phelps family protests that you go to and support has you jaded into the blissful rage you've always wanted and you can't see what's staring at you in the face

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @mattleising  

 

A64 says that DUI marijuana shall remain ILLEGAL

 

A64 says that possession of > 1 pathetic ounce shall remain ILLEGAL.

 

A64 says that possession of ANY amount by ANY ADULT < 21 yrs old shall remain ILLEGAL

 

A64 says that public use or display by ANYONE shall remain ILLEGAL.

 

A64 says that cultivation of 4 or more flowering plants shall remain ILLEGAL

 

A64 says that cultivation of ANY plants by ANY ADULT < 21 yrs old shall remain ILLEGAL.

 

A64 says that ANY SALES by private consenting adults shall remain ILLEGAL -- a FELONY even for a single gram.

 

 

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay Again, what does Amendment 64 say? Ya know, the one we're all voting on or are you too busy hanging out with the Phelps family praising "god" for dead soldiers

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @mattleising   So were the Authors of A64 LYING during the legislative hearings when they clearly stated -- under oath -- that A64 does NOT legalize marijuana ?

 

 

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay What does the Amendment itself say hater of America?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @mattleising    

 

"LEGALIZATION is NOT WHAT THIS IS.  ....  It's a significant legal difference and it would be INACCURATE to call it LEGALIZATION." -- Steve Fox, Author of A64 

 

Are you saying the AUTHORS of A64 are Liars ?

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @RealMedicalNeed what does the amendment actually say you crazy un-American Prohibitionist?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @mattleising  @DonkeyHotay  @RealMedicalNeed 

 

 "I mean she made our point better than we have, which is LEGALIZATION is NOT WHAT THIS IS.  ....  It's a significant legal difference and IT WOULD BE INACCURATE to call it LEGALIZATION." -- Steve Fox, Author of A64 

 

"I agree that [Amendment 64 ] should not be called a 'legalization initiative'".

-- Robert Chase

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay Blah blah blah Donkey. See the cool thing is about when you say this nonsense about me, it's only put of your head and everyone knows it. When I quote you though, not only is it true, but its appalling. I hope you meet up with some of the guys you call "murderers" at some point and they teach you otherwise.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @mattleising  = self-confessed black market criminal drug dealer and shill for greedy big $$ dispensaries who want to marginalize and eliminate the independent patient-growers / caregivers operating under the Colorado Constitutional Amendment 20.

 

 

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay = will say anything hateful to try to discredit someone but never comes off right and just looks dumb. The kind of person that hates our troops and our nation

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @mattleising  = a black market drug dealer and big $$ dispensary shill.

 

 

 

 

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

Person* typing from this phone is rough! Lol

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay Says the guy that thinks all police officers are pigs, people that work in MMJ or do research are "black market drug dealers," and think that all soldiers are murderers. Stammering? Nope, just using what you've said over the past couple weeks. You are probably one of the most un-American people I've ever talked to in my life. I pity you more and more with every post. I hope you wake up one day and shake all the hate in your heart

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay Why do you Donkey? You believe they shouldn't smoke or drink and call them murderers if they serve in our military and find them laughable. I pity you

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @mattleising  

 

If marijuana has zero side effects, they why do scumbags like you vote to DENY ALL ADULTS < 21 yrs old any legal access to it, as A64 proposes?

 

 

mattleising
mattleising topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @BillStewart2012 not even close Donkey. Marijuana has zero side effects where as morphine and fentanyl have a ton of side effects including death.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @BillStewart2012  LOL!

 

When that study first came out decades ago, I went to Kinkos, made a few dozen copies, and mailed them to the State Patrol and Police departments around the state ...

with a note asking them -- Is it worth it ??

 
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