Mile Highs and Lows: The Healing House Pharmacy

This dispensary has closed.

As Colorado's medical-marijuana industry grows, marijuana dispensaries of all types and sizes are proliferating around the state. Some resemble swanky bars or sterile dentist offices; others feel like a dope dealer's college dorm room. To help keep them all straight, Westword will be offering a no-holds-barred look at what goes on behind these unusual operations' locked doors in "Mile Highs and Lows," a regular online review of dispensaries around the metro area and beyond. (You can also search Westword's directory of dispensaries for one near you).

This week's review: The Healing House Pharmacy. See our review after the jump.

The Healing House Pharmacy 123 West Alameda Avenue Denver, Colorado 80223 [email protected] 720-389-6490

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m, Monday through Sunday. No appointment necessary. Size: 2,000 square feet, including upstairs café Date opened: Spring 2009 Clients: 700 to 800 as of early October 2009 Patient services: Handicap accessible; delivery available during business hours Doctor evaluations on site: No, but offer doctor referrals Must customers make the dispensary their designated caregiver: No Raw marijuana price range: $80 to $120 per quarter ounce Other types of medicine: Edibles, cooking oils, tinctures, topical creams, no hash Amenities: Community coffee shop, massage therapy, ride assistance program if "too medicated to drive home."

Our take: It was bound to happen sooner or later: Denver now has its first Amsterdam-style coffeehouse. If you don't know what that means, you should probably stop reading this review.

Chalk the development up to the entrepreneurial ambition of the Healing House Pharmacy -- which, on first glance, doesn't come off as anything special. The operation is holed up in a colorful brick house devoid of signage on West Alameda, one of the last, incongruous Victorian holdouts along this stretch of strip malls and big boxes. It's clear somebody's done some work inside: The first floor has been stripped down to trendy-looking brick and wooden beams. With cushy leather couches and modern art on the walls, the place feels a bit like a frat house, especially when one employee strolls in with a pizza and the sound of a bubbling bong trickles out from another room.

The staffer manning the Healing House's well-stocked pharmacy may look like he'd fit in at said frat house, but he's friendly and knowledgeable of his wares. He doesn't mind taking a few minutes going through his selection of edibles, like medicated olive oils and maple butters, as well as types of raw pot, from his strongest stuff, the one-hit-and-you're-out "Hash Plant," to milder varieties that, according to a patient hanging out nearby, will allow you to "still feel some pain, but not enough to stop you from rolling another joint."

Things get more interesting upstairs, however, at the Healing House's brand-new café. Here, patients can smoke, vaporize and imbibe any of the meds they bought downstairs, or purchase specially medicated drinks. Regular tea and coffee cost $2, but for three bucks more, you'll get a drop of cannabis-infused honey tincture added to the mix, guaranteed to give you more than just a caffeine buzz. Filled with mismatched furniture and half-completed wall murals, the café is far from polished -- though, then again, neither is your favorite scruffy coffee shop.

Thanks to the relaxing atmosphere and special house blend, patients might be inclined to stay awhile -- especially since, when they do attempt to leave, they'll find the front door hopelessly locked until an employee completes an arcane sequence of door taps and knob twirls. Let's just hope none of the medication starts a fire.

Michael Williamson, Healing House's founder, believes he's found a model that works. He has plans to open similar enterprises in Evergreen, the Western Slope and eventually Portland, Maine. How much time until Starbucks gets in on the action?