For years, Colorado Alternative Medicine has been known as the place to pick up some of the state's best-grown meds. By December 2010, when I first visited the tiny South Broadway duplex, even growers were known to shop there between harvests. And based on my latest visit, little has changed.
2394 South Broadway Denver, C0 720-379-7295 www.camdispensary.com
Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, Saturday noon to 5 p.m., closed Sundays. Raw marijuana price range: $45/eighth, $320/ounce, tax included, for non-members; $40/eighth, $300/ounce, tax included, for members. Daily specials as low as $25 an eighth all the way up to an ounce. Online menu? Yes. Other types of medicine: Hash, BHO, small selection of edibles, ointments. Handicap accessible? Yes.
A few things are different, though. Like the stretch of Broadway out front, for example. Technically, it is in the process of changing right nowwith a headache-inducing repaving job that has locked South Broadway businesses in a vortex of never-ending construction. There's a parking lot out behind CAM, though, so approaching the place from the rear might be a better alternative for saving your sanity.
Inside the shop, it's the same place we visited nearly two years ago. The waiting room looks exactly the same, if a little bit more lived in. Artwork hasn't changed at all, and the place still has a wide-open feel despite its tiny size. In short: Things don't have to change here to be relevant. The shop is still chill on the inside while maintaining a professional, clean vibe. No stoner's bedroom here -- but not a slick, fake pharmacy environment, either. Instead, CAM is something right down the middle -- which is a perfect balance for this industry.
The bud bar is still the same, as well: two glass and wood countertops pushed together at the corners to make an "L" shape, with herb kept in labeled jars beneath the glass along with a handful of edibles. There's also a rotating glass display on top of one counter featuring topical lotions and oils. The bud bars look like they haven't been cleaned since I was last in, based on the caked-on layer of keif and resin filling the cracks and crannies of the wood and smudging up the glass. Not complaining, though. When your herb is as caked with trichomes as CAM's, it's hard not to spill crystals when breaking up buds.
Hip-hop blasted from the stereo, and you could tell my budtender was having a good time catching up with a staffer between pulling strains for me to check out. I don't really mind, as I'm sure a dispensary is a pretty fun place to work. But after a while, she was a little too into her conversation with the employee and another patient who had come in behind me, and I felt like I was interrupting her from time to time just to ask to see things or place my order.
But all that can be overlooked when you consider how good the cannabis in this shop is -- the same quality level I've seen the few times I've stopped by CAM's booths at High Times events.
The genetics and strain examples were outstanding, starting with a huge, chunky batch of Golden Goat that looked more like pieces of shiny orange, deep-sea coral than cannabis. I've seen the best of the strain from its creator, and this freakishly crystallized batch definitely compares, but with an added boost in size and sugary, tangy smells. And for OGs, the shop had a stinky, diverse collection ranging from the golden Deadhead OG to a jar of soil-smelling Cataract Kush.
Also impressive was the Kizzle, which looked like tiny, green, spear-shaped rocket ships out of the jar and had a crazy, almost mint finish to the smell. The Tangerine Haze was nearly the same size and smell of actual tangerines, and the Sour D x Chemdawg was ridiculously stinky and dusted with amber trichomes. I could go on and on, because everything in the selection was all worth talking about. But I did have to choose eventually, and I went with the Super Silver Sour Diesel Haze and the Deadhead OG.
An employee I spoke with after my visit told me that CAM is running in a soilless medium and keeping things "as close to organic" as possible. She also mentioned that the growers flush for a minimum of two weeks. And clearly, curing is a strong suit for the shop, as all of the buds had potent smells and great density and dryness.
I didn't get much of a rundown on the hash selection, though CAM seems to offer a decent variety. My budtender basically put the tray of small jars up on the counter and told me which ones were icewater hash and which ones were BHO. Labels were on the side, thankfully, and I ended up going with a half-gram of (I think) San Fernando Valley OG butane-extracted hash. Grams of BHO sell for $40, and grams of icewater sell for $20.
The one thing that has almost stayed the same at CAM is the pricing. Call it a function of being spoiled by low prices, or call it me being cheap, but $45 for non-members is too spendy to make this place a regular stop without designating it as your primary center. And even then, being locked in at $40 an eighth and around $300 an ounce still seems high. The shop does have specials for both members and non-members that bring at least one strain a day down to $25-$35 an eighth, however, and with CAM's quality, that's a solid buy.
But, hey, the shop seems to still do fine with business. There were two people ahead of me in line, and a third person who was up at the bud bar when I was checking things out. People shop at Whole Foods and pay way more for better organic versions of the same stuff that Safeway has. CAM seems to be filling that same niche among medical cannabis users, who know you'll get what you pay for.
Page down for strain reviews and photos. Deadhead OG This sample from CAM was seriously potent, with trichomes covering nearly every square inch of plant real estate. In places, they were stacked on top of each other in piles like tiny, amber-hued snowdrifts. Also impressive was the hand trim that left an abundance of the fall-orange pistils still climbing out of the calyxes. Smoking just a bowl of this left me stupid-hippie stoned, appropriate enough for the name. This blend of spacey Chemdawg 91 and a stoney San Fernando Valley OG has a predictably stoney and spacey buzz to it, laying me out for a good two hours. Great for pain relief and even better for sleep issues. I couldn't smoke more than a bowl without going down for a nap within two hours, no matter how hard I tried; I was even starting to worry about smoking this sample during the daytime when I had shit to do, and I don't say that often. Despite all this praise, though, it will have to be a special occasion for me to go back and pay $45 an eighth when other shops are managing to keep this strain at $40 or below for top shelf these days. Super Silver Sour Diesel Haze Now, here's one I haven't seen at many -- if any -- other dispensaries. And while you'd hope it to have this nose-hair-pulling funky haze to the smell and taste, all the blending seemed to do was bring out more of the sour in the Sour Diesel. Sniffing the jar was tart, like putting your nose in a container of powdered lemonade. The hybrid also gets a bit more of its conical shape from the SSH, but underneath the green sugar leaves, amber hairs and purple calyxes are all Sour Diesel. This example was just exploding with trichomes, and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone, dispensary or caregiver, doing this much better. Like the Deadhead, the potency was off the charts, but in the opposite way. Instead of putting me down on my ass like baby for a nap, a small bowl pack was a shot of ginseng to my body and head. Very creative and energetic. The taste was a bit lighter than I expected it to be considering how full the smell was, but it still had a distinctly rubbery finish, especially out of a fresh, clean bubbler. Like the Deadhead, the only thing to find fault with on this is the pricing. Otherwise, I'm sure I'll remember this strain when it comes time for my top-ten list in a few months. San Fernando Valley OG BHO It's not PTSD -- I'm not trying to insult anyone who really has been through some tough experiences -- but I think I seriously have some issues with BHO ever since last April when that chunk of shit blew up on my titanium nail and nearly took my face off. I realized this standing in CAM, looking at the crystal-laden, gooey butane hash and thinking to myself: "This is the first stuff I've really wanted to try in a long time." At $40 a gram, it's as spendy as everything else at CAM, but the fullness of the Kush flavor from the wax was outstanding and it burned down clean on the skillet with no leftover scary black gunk. The wax was oily, but that seemed more about the terpines from the buds themselves than with anything related to the solvents. Dabs of this were predictably strong, especially after a hiatus, but they worked outstandingly well to end painful morning cramps in my upper GI within a minute of using just a small amount.
Read more dispensary reviews from William Breathes in our everything-ganja blog, Mile Highs and Lows, check out marijuana-related product reviews with Stoner MacGyver, and keep up with all your Colorado cannabis news at The Latest Word.