Biocare Collective keeps cancer patients in mind

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 is 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 our directory of dispensaries for one near you.)

This week, the Wildflower Seed reviews Biocare Collective.

Biocare Collective 2899 Speer Boulevard, Denver 303-455-3187

Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday Owner: Carrie Jensen Owner's statement: "My father-in-law was battling cancer. We saw how it helped him, and kind of got involved from there." Opened: October 2009 Raw marijuana price range: Grams $18 (non-members)/$14 (members), eighths $50/$40, ounces $375/$300. Other types of medicine: Tinctures $30 per ounce; edibles $6 to $8; hash $25 to $30. Patient services and amenities: Doctor referrals, ADA-accessible, massage therapy and chiropractic by appointment. Our take: Sometimes life turns in a certain way, and suddenly the whole world is different forever. For about one out of three of us, the turn will come when we hear a doctor utter these three words: "You have cancer."

Cancer has touched my life in many ways. One of my best and oldest friends has spent most of her adult years fighting off cancer, three times in and out of remission now. My godfather battles it, and many of my loved ones have fought for or lost their lives to this killer. While advances in medicine give doctors cutting-edge weapons to fight the disease, more and more patients are turning to an ancient medicine to get them through the treatments, which often result in symptoms as insufferable as the pain of cancer itself.

"The most encouraging clinical data on the effects of cannabinoids on chronic pain are from three studies of cancer pain. It is severe, persistent, and often resistant to treatment with opioids," according to Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, published by the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. "One study found that oral doses of THC in the range of 5-20 mg produced analgesia in patients with cancer pain. The 15- and 20-mg doses of-THC produced significant analgesia. There were no reports of nausea or vomiting. In fact, at least half the patients reported increased appetite."

Given this, it's good to know that there are dispensaries in Denver working hard for the community of patients they serve. The Biocare Collective is a stylish little shop with great herb, fair prices and a nice environment; the fact that it reaches out to cancer patients with sponsorships and basic human kindness makes it even better. "My father-in-law was battling cancer," explains Carrie Jensen, owner of Biocare. "We saw how it helped him, and kind of got involved from there."

Sadly, Jensen's father-in-law lost his battle with cancer a few weeks ago. But his experience inspired her to help others use marijuana in their own fights. Of the approximately 250 patients registered as Biocare members, thirty to forty are cancer patients, Jensen says. Of those, sixteen are sponsored by the dispensary and receive all of their medication for free. Jensen reaches out to these critical patients in other ways, offering a home-delivery service for those who are too ill to drive, as well as stocking other natural remedies that may help to alleviate symptoms. She says the shop strives to provide all-organic medication to ensure purity of product for the patients.

As far as I was able to tell from eyeballing the offerings, the herbs seemed entirely organic. The scents were true to the strains (cherry lime haze smelled like cherry lime haze, etc.), but the pungency of hydroponics was replaced by an earthy tone, like turned soil or even new-grown grass (the kind you mow). The two strains I chose were dark and richly colored, like the green just inside the skin of an avocado.

Biocare isn't just compassionate, it's comfortable in a stylish way. The waiting area with its black leather wraparound couch and a large flat-screen playing my new favorite movie made me rue city and, now, state regulations that prohibit on-site consumption: I just wanted to sit down, smoke up and watch Avatar while wearing some dumb 3-D glasses. That would have been awesome -- but instead I took my discreet black paper satchel full of medicine home, where my bong and DVD player waited.

There, the sativa-dominant Sugar Kush blew me away with its icy frosting all over the nuggs. The high provided instant energy and clarity of mind; I snapped awake, and suddenly my stomach was growling audibly. For patients with nausea, loss of appetite or any other reason to actively seek the munchies, this would be your med. But I have none of those symptoms, so I had to remind my stomach: You already ate lunch, buddy. Now cut it out.

For a heavy indica, my bud-tender, Brent, had recommended Mr. Nice (G13 x Hashplant), a complete, 180-degree shift from the sativa. I generally don't get knocked off my seat by marijuana anymore (alas, that ship has sailed for this ol' hippie gal...); for me, it's more like creeping warmth than anything close to a hallucination. But this stuff was a one-hit wonder: I took a hit and forgot what I was doing for a minute. It was relaxing enough that I reserved the rest for late night and pain flare-ups.

I could never compare my pain and suffering to what those with cancer must go through. But I'm happy to live in a community that is spearheading the push for cancer patients to have access to powerful natural remedies, including marijuana.

The Wildflower Seed and William Breathes are the pot pen names of our two alternating medical marijuana dispensary reviewers. Read their bios here.

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The Wildflower Seed