Call it a byproduct from years of being made to feel like a felon, but I'm not the biggest fan of police. I've met a few cool cops. Still, most of them view my life as a crime in progress -- which is why I've subconsciously been avoiding shops near the downtown police station, including Advanced Medical Alternatives.
Owner: Did not reach owner. Opened: Did not reach owner. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Online menu: No. Other types of medicine: In-house bubble hash, BHO, vendor edibles. Handicap accessible? No visible ramps.
No shame in these guys' game. They took a pretty nondescript old brick building literally a stone's throw from the police station (and as they later found, right behind the Department of Homeland Security) and painted a massive green graffiti-art rendition of their dispensary name on the side of it.
I rang the buzzer on the front door and had almost turned around and walked off when I heard the lock click and owner John (at least that's what I think he said his name was) opened the door and greeted me. He was a soft-spoken, laid-back-looking middle-aged guy with a goatee and a ponytail, and although I was pretty sure I was at the right place, his initial demeanor made me wonder if I had accidentally pushed the wrong doorbell.
The unit, an incognito triplex, has been opened up to create one big space. But for its size, the spot felt almost cozy. Almost, that is, because the day I was in, the former living-room-turned-waiting room was ice-cold. I sat down on one of the chilly leather couches facing the flat-screen while John stepped through a Dutch door to what was formerly the living room of the neighboring unit to copy my card and paperwork.
The shop had a well-worn feel to it. No decoration, really -- just a few couches laid out in a way that was probably similar to when the space was still a living room.The flat-screen was tuned to a news station, which was a shame, since a vintage Atari machine was below it, begging to be played. Instead, I flipped through some of the weed magazines on the coffee table and tried to stay warm. Eventually I was called back, making my way through the half-door to the much-warmer bud bar.
Some dispensaries try to keep their bud-bar area slick, only putting out a few products at a time and sticking with simple decor in order to keep your focus on the products at hand. AMA, in contrast, takes the ADD approach, with pot-product posters hanging on the walls, practically an entire corner devoted to edibles, and a bookcase full of vintage bobblehead dolls. The shop wasn't dirty or dingy, just thrown together with the flair of a blue-collar, single straight dude. Not unlike my first house after college, actually.
John started out by asking about what I used medical cannabis for and what strains had worked for me in the past. I played a bit dumb and let him steer the exchange, pulling out his first few suggestions of AMA's Chemdawg, Bubba and Golden Goat. The first two jars didn't have the stank to them that gets the nose going nuts, but the Golden Goat did have a more strain-specific smell and classic orange-fuzz look. We chatted a bit more about my nausea problems, and he switched gears and moved to more hybrid and indica-dominant strains like Centennial Seeds' Django (Jack Flash x Blueberry) and a purple Pixie-Stix-smelling Grape Krush. When I was done looking those over, he pulled out damn near every one of more than two dozen strains in stock, including some decent outdoor Super Silver Haze and a batch of herb with popped seeds selling for $20 an eighth.
The seeds must have been an issue for AMA, because I also saw some healthy-looking beans in some of their non-discounted, $35 "top-shelf" eighths as well. I failed to reach anyone for a followup call, so I didn't get the scoop on what was going on in the grow room. As for the buds on the shelf, the big issue was how dry everything was -- which really hurt the initial bag appeal. Even John admitted during my visit that the stock had been sitting for a few weeks and some of the buds didn't smell like they should after being opened and closed so much.
AMA also carries a wide range of concentrates to match its herb selection, including two kinds of kief (dry sieve and dry ice), strain-specific bubble hash for $25 a gram, and BHO for $35 a gram. The oil was clear and had a pretty amber tone, but it was about as viscous as olive oil due to what I assume was too much solvent. I know a few oil-heads who swear it should be that way, but I -- and just about everyone else -- prefer things in a much more solid state. As usual, I didn't check out the edibles for very long, but the shop seemed to carry stock from the regular Cheeba Chews/Dixie Elixer/Mile High Ice Cream-type third-party vendors -- but the selection was massive.
All said and done, I walked out with a split eighth of herb and a half-gram of hash for just under $50. While there wasn't really anything super-special about the shop, I've added it to my list of places to revisit over the next few months, just to see if things have changed.
Aloha '98 John the budtender said this batch wasn't near as "severe" as past crops, but that it still had a nice head-ringing buzz to it. I brought home one huge, dense nugget that felt like a dried-out kitchen-sink sponge on the pinch test. The same test also revealed light soil sweetness to the otherwise blandly fruity herb. It had round, fat calyxes that looked like small ball bearings and ranged from earthy green to nearly white in color. Though not super-coated, the bud did have a dusting of stringy white trichome crystals. Mostly clean from what I could see on the hand scope, yet there were a few questionable, bug-looking spots when I broke up it up. I spent a good fifteen minutes going over it closer, but didn't find anything other than what must have been dirt particles of some kind. Harsh on the first hit, with some snap, crackle and pop coming from the bowl -- and I don't mean that it gave me cereal-box-killing munchies, either. Nothing special about the taste, and certainly nothing fruity like the smell had indicated. Overall, it had a more mild buzz than expected, slowing me down a half-step or so for an hour and a half or so, but giving my stomach a much-needed break from the usual cramps I wake up with.
Sweet Tooth One of the better-looking strains in the house the day I was in -- that is, if you don't mind some serious stringy foxtailing going on. The long, slender stems looked like they were coated in miniature limes, all with a peach-colored pistil curling around it. From the jar, it was easy to see the cane-sugar-colored crystals that later covered my desk when I broke up the herb for a lunchtime spliff. Grinding up about a half-gram was enough to bring a Lemon Pledge-with-a-hint-of-haze smell out of the herb that wasn't appetizing in a major way, but struck me as much better than I expected. Interestingly fruity yet musky haze taste up front on the first hit that put a nice smell in the air for the rest of the morning. Second and third hits had lingering flavors, but nothing much past that. Whatever source this came from was on the sativa side in the sense of how the flower grew out and how it sent my frontal lobe into a low orbit for a few minutes. Then it settled into a nice appetizer, good for use before breakfast, lunch, dinner or any other part of the day I felt like getting hungry.
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Master Kush Icewater extraction hash The slabs of the hash in the shop had a raw, untouched look to them that sometimes equates to super-melty bubble. Not this hash. Though it had some moisture in it and a milk-chocolate look with a dark-chocolate crumble, it merely sizzled and morphed shape with the heat of a flame. It burned with a thick, generically hashy smoke that tasted exactly like it smelled. Very stoney (as Master Kush tends to be), and just a few crumbles burned in a bowl with a titanium screen or dabbed at with a red-hot quartz rod did the trick with one or two milky hits. Like the Aloha '98 and pretty much everything else I saw at AMA, it wasn't going to bring home any awards. But as far as low-cost dispensaries go, this is about average for what you'll see made in-house.
William Breathes is the pot pen name for our roving medical marijuana critic, who celebrates two years with Westword next week. Look for a special anniversary review to mark the occasion. In the meantime, check out past reviews over at Mile Highs and Lows and keep up with all your pot news at The Latest Word.