Medical marijuana dispensary review: Alive Herbal Medicine in Denver

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Alive Herbal Medicine seems out of place. Not because it's situated in the small Sunnyside neighborhood next to a residential area, or because the corrugated tin barn of a building looks like it belongs on a farm and not off a busy interstate in the middle of Denver. What feels out of place is where it's located in town. Specifically, the shop seems like it belongs on South Broadway or Federal along with the dozens of other warehouse-grade medical-pot clearinghouses -- although its publicity photos definitely make it stand out.

Alive Herbal Medicine

Hours: Monday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed Sundays. Raw marijuana price range: $30/eighth-ounce, $179/ounce. Other types of medicine: BHO, CO2 oil, kief, hash, edibles, tinctures, lotions, drinks. Online menu? Yes. Handicap-accessible? Yes.

I walked in, stood at the window for a second and heard a few voices in the back, so I rang the small bell on the counter and pulled some cash out of the ATM in the lobby. Nobody had come to the window in my absence. Small shop, I figured: Someone was probably just taking a long time at the bud bar and the only employee was swamped.

Turns out I was wrong. After standing around for long enough to seriously consider walking out, a stoned-looking older guy crept around the corner and gave me a surprised look, like he wasn't expecting anyone in the waiting room. After being buzzed through, I realized that what I thought was another patient wasn't a person at all. It was just the massive flat-screen TV hung above the bud bar, which was tuned to CNN and cranked up to eleven.

Inside, the place is done up like a funhouse, with loud reds, blues and greens painted randomly on the surprising number of walls, trim pieces and doors in the otherwise tiny bud room. Money-green leather sofas (which are nowhere near as cool as Biggie made them out to be) make up the waiting area/location for a lingerie photo shoot. The bud bar is set up in the corner, with herb kept in glass jars behind a glass display case in the middle section of a C-shaped display setup. Edibles crammed the countertop on one side, and glass pipes filled up the display case to the right of the buds themselves. My budtender took a seat behind the counter like a pawnbroker and got straight down to business: "What do you want today?"

Most of the strains sell for $30 an eighth, though there was a large jar on top of the cabinet with some very wispy and premature Sage on sale for $25 an eighth. It's the type of bud you settled for back in high school before you made any real connections in life.

In the cabinet, things got a little better, but there wasn't much to choose from. The Big Band jar was full of fruity, chunky buds, and what was left of the Mother's Finest reminded me of old-fashioned, no-name backyard herb my friend's mom used to cultivate during summers. Others weren't so hot, including an AK-47 that looked spotty with what looked (and smelled) like powdery mildew buildup. Even if my eyes and nose were wrong, the overall bud quality still should have been on the discount shelf. My budtender had about as much enthusiasm for the buds as I did, offering up the jars with no explanation or commentary whatsoever.

Continue for the rest of the review and photos. I brought home about two grams of the Nightmare OG, which suffered from the same wispy, underdeveloped symptoms as some of the other strains -- yet it did manage to keep some of the earthy, rubbery tartness of the OG to the smell. The buds burned with a few pops and crackles, but I did get some good flavors from the first few green hits out of a dry pipe before it charcoaled out to black chunks. Medically, the Nightmare OG wasn't a nightmare, though. After a large bowl, I was smoothly medicated enough to forget about back and knee pain I've been dealing with lately thanks to an icy, dog-caused slip-and-fall. Not bad, but there are plenty of other shops selling the same quality for $25 an eighth, and that makes it pointless to drive across town just for Alive's costlier harvest.

Boss Hogg from Alive Herbal Medicine.
The Boss Hogg also caught my nose in the shop; it had a strawberry creaminess to the lightly skunky buds, along with a nose-tickling hint of Romulan-like freshness. But the buds I brought home had more stems than buds, it seemed, and I had to really get into breaking them up to keep my bowls from smoking harshly. The light haziness to the smell came out in the taste to some degree, but otherwise the buds burned with a generic blandness that got only slightly better out of a water-filtered pipe or vaporizer. Like the Nightmare OG, the buds were fine enough for what they were, but you can get $25 eighths of equal-quality (or better) herb from places we've reviewed over the past few months, like Kindman or Good Chemistry.

For hash selection, Alive had wax selling for $35 a gram and shatter selling for $40 a gram. Neither had labels revealing the processor, so I'm not sure who to blame for the completely artificial-looking, rock candy-orange shatter -- but it didn't look like anything I wanted to drop on my nail. I've become really picky about my concentrates lately, and what the shop had to offer just didn't do it for me. With little else to tempt me, I walked out with just a split-eighth of herb for $30 even.

I'm sure that Alive Herbal Medicine gets by okay on neighborhood traffic and people who made it their regular stop because it's the first medical dispensary they came upon. But in the end, you'd be better rolling the dice on Broadway.

Read more reviews from Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic, William Breathes, in our Mile Highs and Lows blog, and keep up with all your Colorado marijuana news over at The Latest Word.

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