The first time I walked into Alternative Medicine on Capitol Hill was a mistake. I was looking for The Clone Store, but I was stoned and walked in the wrong shop. I'm pretty easy going, so I said fuck it and waited in the lobby. But nobody came to receptionist area, so I slipped out and found the tiny Clone Store sign.
1401 Ogden St Denver, CO 80218 (720) 961-0560 www.amchdenver.com
Owner/manager: Did not reach an owner. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Online menu: Yes. Other types of medicine: Hash, BHO, edibles, tincture. Handicap accessible? Yes.
This time around, I was greeted by a smiling woman named Julie. I handed over my paperwork and was buzzed through to the patient waiting area to fill out two pages of waivers while sitting on one of the chocolate leather couches. There was a flat screen hung up on one wall and a few weed-related posters on the walls, but I spent most of my time there looking down at what I was signing and talking about the holidays with my budtender, Dave. The shop also had free chips, soda and waters for cottonmouthed patients forced to wait behind people like me who take way too much time at the bud bar.
The bud area is separated from the waiting area, and patients are let in one at a time. The room hums with the sound of the display coolers for refrigerated goods; there was a huge selection of edibles from Cheeba Chews, Mountain High, Mile High Ice Cream, Simply Pure, Julie & Kates, Northshore and a lot of others. If you prefer eating your ganja instead of smoking or vaping, this place is like the King Sooper of edibles. Otherwise, the shop is pretty simple, with a utilitarian gray carpet and simple glass countertops. A huge whiteboard featured price breakdowns for all of the strains, waxes, hash, edibles and tinctures. It was easy to figure out.
Budtender Dave was an energetic, friendly guy, somewhere between a camp counselor and college tour guide. I told him my preferences for herb and he began pulling out his suggestions. We started with a Barney-purple Purple Dragon that he said would be a mellow indica-leaning hybrid. Popping the lid let out a warm pocket of moist air that took a minute to clear from the jar. Not saying it was wet or weighed wet, because I would tell you if it was. It's just that there was more moisture than I prefer in my herb, even though it mostly went away after a few days in the not-so-airtight jars. The herb itself had a hydroponic sweetness that reminded me of some similarly moist, under-trimmed, but consistently good Bubblegum I used to get for a few years here in Denver.
Most of the rest of their stock had similar characteristics. There's a $38 dollar non-member cap, everything is hand-trimmed, and the buds all look big and healthy in the jars -- although some, like the OGER, Chemdawg and Sour D, were slightly off in their strain-distinct smells and lacked the overpoweringly earthy but tart rubbery soil smells. On the other hand, the Flo, Fruit of the Gods and Headband were all nearly spot-on. All of the herb is tested for potency through Herbal Synergy, and Dave was quick to point out total cannabinoid levels for everything from the 13 percent strains to the 28 percent Sour Kush.
The shop also has cheaper strains sold in bulk starting at the half-ounce. Apparently it comes from a secondary grower who specializes in pushing about six or seven different strains to their maximum yields by pure organics. That means less attention to the buds individually, so don't expect super-heady connoisseur shit or anything like that. But the LA Con I took a look at was the type of well-grown, outdoor-quality herb that I would love to have been able to find for $190 an ounce when I was a broke and up to my glassy red eyeballs in medical bill debt.
Hash is done by the strain to some degree, but for the most part, Alternative Medicine had blended-strain hash divided out according to filtration level. Dave said the center is trying to move toward more strain-specific hash in the new year, as more and more patients have been asking for it. For how dense it looked, the $30 Sour Kush hash I brought home later broke up into moist brown sugar that melted and bubbled on the bowl. The hash itself had a Pine-Sol scent after sitting in the pill jar for a few days and I got some of that in the first hit on top of a titanium screen in a clean glass bowl. Still, it was nothing that stuck with me long enough to write about here. I did get fairly rocked from said hash bowl, though, going into a zombie-like stupor where I felt no pain and tried to devour everything in sight. Side note: I also realized that I need to stop smoking herb in my kitchen.
First time patients get member pricing, so I walked out $35 lighter on the wallet but an eighth of an ounce heavier in herb. Not everything I saw in the shop was impressive, but for the price, convenience and service, it's not a bad place to check out if you live in the area (or just get stoned and lost on Capitol Hill from time to time).
Page down for the strain reviews and photos.
Purple Dragon: $35/eighth It's been a while since I've brought home a purple strain, and though this sample had some of the moisture issues of the other stock, it still let off a sweet grape aroma with the intensity of an old scratch-and-sniff sticker. The stems snapped when bent, but the herb pulled apart as opposed to breaking apart. Smoked, the bud had a sweet, grapey finish to the first few hits, but by the end of the bowl, it had burned to a charcoal and hashy finish. Dried out and rolled up, it was a nice after-work bowl that relaxed the head and body but didn't put me down on the couch like a useless sack of potatoes. I've never had much luck with purple strains, and this Purple Dragon wasn't much different.
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Headband: $35/eighth Unlike a lot of the other buds from the Chem family in the shop, this one had a very strong, strain-specific smell to it and was much better dried and cured. First smell out of the jar was a piney, rubbery finish, like walking through a high country forest in the springtime. Very pretty bud development, with full calyxes, rust-colored pistils and a beautiful amber-green hue colors throughout. It smoked well and had a similarly sweet, piney taste. It wasn't the most flavorful Headband sample I've had after the first green hit was gone, and it did burn harshly toward the end of the bowl. But overall, it packed a solid Headband punch, as expected. It's nice when things live up to expectations like that. Other than possibly a few more days flushing, the bud was well done, and it's hard to complain about herb like this at $35 an eighth.
William Breathes is the pot pen name for Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic. Read more of his reviews in our pot blog, Mile Highs and Lows, and keep up with all your marijuana news over at The Latest Word.