Medical marijuana dispensary review and video: 420 Wellness on Alameda

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This dispensary has closed.

I tried with 420 Wellness. I really did. I had heard good things about some of the shop's strains -- and one of them took second place at the High Times Medical Cannabis Cup last weekend. But in the end, my experience with the shop went up in flames along with the un-purged butane hash I bought there.

420 Wellness -- Alameda

2748 West Alameda Avenue Denver, CO 80219 303-781-9355

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
 Online menu: No. Other types of medicine: Edibles, hash, BHO. Handicap-accessible?: Yes.

Online, there's not much info available on 420 Wellness, and what's on view isn't very flattering. But I told myself I could look past the Craigslist ads and YouTube videos of rappers smoking blunts in the shop and leather-clad nurses telling me how good strains are for sleeping and headaches. After all, maybe Too $hort and members of Three-6 Mafia now reside in Colorado and they all have chronic medical conditions. And maybe it was just hot that day on the set for those nurses.

The dispensary is in an old-school-style Taco Bell building that has been painted a painful shade of neon green along with white borders, some of which are tagged up. The day I visited, a man in a cowboy hat was out front, wilting in the sun and waiving a sign advertising discounted eighths of herb as cars whizzed past on Alameda. Parking was ample, as you would expect with a former fast-food property.

While there is a lot that has changed since the storefront's days as a Taco Bell -- including what is being sold over the counter -- a few things remained the same. Like, for instance, the double-door entrance on the side, which conjures up visions of taco deals plastered on windows, or the red-tiled floor with holes where pre-fab booths and tables were once bolted.

Gone is the counter, though. Instead, a large wooden desk took up the former dining area, where a man was waiting to greet me as I walked in. The guy was friendly and chatty. He took my card and ID, photocopying both behind him while introducing himself and the shop at the same time. No paperwork to sign, and before I could really get a look around the lobby, I was being sent back to the bud bar, located in the former kitchen, where rubbery tacos and burritos were once pieced together.

Not anymore. The shop has taken the large space and cut it in half with a birch-wood-and-glass counter and display case that runs down the middle of the room. Patients on one side, employees on the other. Renovations removed any remnants of kitchenware, and the shop has neutral beige paint on the walls, as well as a few posters and forgettable pieces of artwork.

Herb is broken down by price, with the $40 top-shelf to $30 mid-shelf herb to the left of the cash register station and cheaper strains on the right, all the way down to $20/eighths of leafy buds on the lowest shelf. 420 Wellness also has a limited selection of candy edibles, a few drinks from Dixie and stacks of medicated brownies and crispy-rice treats.

My budtender was a short woman probably in her mid-twenties; she helped get me started by pulling out sample selections, including some slightly underdeveloped LA Confidential that she said had been entered in the High Times cup. The shop didn't have any Kurple Fantasty, the strain that took second place, but I've heard from people who tried it that it was well grown, dried and cured.

Which wasn't exactly the case with everything else on 420's shelves. Most of the buds were well grown, but the jars were all crammed tight with everything from buds to shake. In total, there were around twenty different strains, and I managed to make my way through about half of them. On the lower shelf, the Rascal OG for $25 an eighth was decent, although without a strong smell. Moving up, the Jack Herer was underdeveloped and lacking the distinct hazy high notes. Better were the jars of LA Kush, Chemdawg, Candy Kush and Silver Bubble buds, even if they all had bits of scraggle mixed in as well.

The staff was friendly and didn't mind my turtle pace going through the stock, and we ended up talking about our favorite ways of smoking herb as my orders were weighed out. Another budtender pointed me to the concentrate shelf, which had half-gram jars of peanut butter wax, kief, bubble hash and clear amber shatter oil -- or what I assumed was clear amber shatter oil. The second budtender told me the shatter was made in-house, and assured me that while it "tastes a bit off," it was really good. I took his advice and grabbed a $10 half-gram, a move that later blew up in my face -- literally, as you'll see in the video on the next page.

The shop does take credit cards, but rather than scanning it, employees call it in to some faceless service. In light of that, there's an ATM machine in the bud bar to keep things cash-friendly. Tax is included in purchases, so what you see on the shelf price-wise is what you are going to pay at checkout.

Page down for photos and reviews of the strains and concentrates William took home -- plus an explosive video. LA Kush: $40/eighth Pretty, light-green calyxes almost hidden by the sandy-colored trichomes that were dusted all over the buds. Long, burnt-orange pistils crept up and curled around the bud, giving it a glowing orange effect. Broken up, it had a tart, rubbery Kushiness that lingered in my nose for a few seconds before drifting away. The herb looked clean broken down under a scope and pulled apart nicely, finding that well-cured space between moist and too dry. It burned well, too. Smooth, with a flavor that lasted through the first three or four hits before the bowl ashed out to a fine white powder. LA Kush tends to hit me right between the eyes about five minutes after smoking a bowl, and this sample proved no different. Very relaxing, tension-relieving body buzz with a mellow sense of contentment on the side for good measure. Decently priced at $40 an eighth, this sample was honestly better than I expected walking out of the shop. Sour Diesel: $40/eighth I snagged this mostly because of the consistency of the buds themselves, which, as you can see, are pretty well developed but altogether shakey. Big, fat, BB-round calyxes stack on top of each other with this sample, however, and I can see how they were easily knocked off. Great lime green color with yellow accents from the crystals and nearly-pink hairs here and there between the sugar leaves. It had a solid mix of new sneakers and tennis balls to the smell that came through on the first hit or two before charcoaling out and becoming harsher to puff. Burned to a clean ash, though, and overall it was enjoyable for a week as daytime medication that lifted me up off my ass, got me moving and, after a few hours, made me hungry as a hostage. Due to the condition of the buds, it would have been better priced about $5 less than the $40 shelf. But for the most part, it was worthwhile cannabis whose quality made my final menu item all the more disappointing.... "Shatter BHO:" $20/gram I don't even know what this shit is or what it has to do with cannabis, but it sure as hell isn't a consumable product by any stretch of the imagination. This so-called shatter wax BURST INTO FUCKING FLAMES and spewed a thick, noxious black cloud of smoke and melted plastic-like ash all over my office when I threw it down on a hot Ti nail. Thankfully I was just doing a test dab, or I would have inhaled whatever that was as well as lit my damn face on fire from the eight-inch flame that shot off the nail. It was so effed that I repeated the test on video for you all to see:

My budtender mentioned on my way out that it might "smell funny" when smoked. That was the understatement of the year. It smelled more akin to crack than cannabis. Like a burning plastic bag. This is pure garbage and gives real medical concentrates an awful, awful name. We haven't heard back from the dispensary on what exactly was in the solvent; we'll update this post with clarification if staffers respond. In the meantime, if any of you have some of this stuff in your possession, THROW IT OUT.

Unfortunately, something like this is enough for me to not want to go back into 420 Wellness again. If the people at the shop don't care enough that they put obvious crap like this on their shelves, there's no telling what is going on in their grows -- regardless of how good their flowers may appear.

William Breathes is the pot pen name for Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic. Read back on two-plus years of his reviews in our Mile Highs and Lows blog and keep up with all your marijuana news over at The Latest Word.

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