Medical marijuana dispensary review: Belly up at La Conte's Clone Bar and Dispensary

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If Denver really is the wild west of medical marijuana, then La Conte's Clone Bar and dispensary makes a pretty good town saloon.

La Conte's Clone Bar and Dispensary

Location: 5194 Washington St. in Denver Phone: 303-292-2252 Website: www.lacontes.info Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Owner/manager: Steve Chase Mission statement: "We offer great meds at great price." Opened: November 2010 Raw marijuana price range: $25-$45 per eighth. Other types of medicine: hash oil, hash, kief, edibles, candies Handicap accessible?: yes.

The building stood as La Conte's Bar for nearly a century -- until, one day, the owners left it with bottles still on the old wooden bar shelves and decks of cards in bar drawers. Outside, the faded neon signs make it nearly indistinguishable from dive bars all over town -- only the signs have green crosses on them instead of Bud Light logos.

The basement, the owners say, is full of secret stairways and rooms implying that the place might have once been a speakeasy. But a few weeks of work refinishing the nicotine-stained floors and wooden back bar revealed the warm knotty pine underneath, and removing the dingy dropped ceiling revealed antique-tin work behind it. Little ganja leaves have been painted along the top trim, but otherwise the cash register sits where the former one likely did, and it still looks like a functioning bar minus the booze.

I checked in at the front door and was let in out of the cold while a woman copied my paperwork. The former bar smelled like fresh wood and ganja -- something the original owners likely never thought would happen. Owner Steve Chase was working the bud bar, and he gave me a five-minute run-through of the place, since I was a first-timer. The goal, he says, is to continue serving working-class people much like the old bar did. Herb is capped at $45 per eighth, but the shop only had three "top shelf" strains in stock the day I was in. Instead, the bulk of the stock is capped at $40. Most of the dozen or so strains in the antique wooden glass case looked like good warehouse-grown I've seen elsewhere selling for more. Other strains were worth taking a longer look at, including a peppery Purple Diesel and a truly tangy Tangerine. That inconsistency in quality was the one issue I saw, so take your time and check out every jar.

The most impressive things about the shop, though, were $25 daily-special eighths. Chase pulled out the Blueberry and the Flo first and I had to ask twice to make sure I heard the price correctly. Sure, the Flo looked like it was the last few nuggets of the crop, but it still had an impressive, well-cured smell and look to it. Same thing with the Blueberry, which I had to take home despite the fact that I don't usually like the strain. Chase said they try not to think of their lowest price range as the bottom-shelf -- and while other people at other shops may say that, he seemed to mean it. LaConte's also had a small selection of reasonably priced glass hand pipes and rolling papers below a shelf of hash, earwax hash and hash oil.

Opposite from the former bar is the clone bar part of La Conte's Clone Bar and Dispensary. The bar is actually just a refrigerated florist's glass display case full of little green girls ranging from a few inches to over a foot tall. I counted eight or nine different strains the day I was in, including some Pineapple, ISS, Flo and Kali Mist, but I'm not a clone buyer and I didn't check out any of the plants up close. Chase said that while he is somewhat new to the world of growing medical marijuana, his partners keep an eye out for pests and diseases. He said with current regulations on how many plants people can grow, it makes sense for dispensaries to start selling more clones, so that people can begin to grow for themselves. Regardless, always closely check any clones you get for bugs or mildew before putting them in your garden.

The shop broke down my bags to the half-eighth for me, weighing everything just under two grams and putting it in nicely labeled sealed baggies (something the folks I reviewed a few weeks ago should learn). Overall, there's few places I've seen that are better for patients more concerned about value and stretching their dollar instead of having $50 bags of elite strains.

Page down for cannabis reviews and pictures.

Blueberry ($25/eighth) I'm not the biggest fan of this strain, but for the price, there was no reason to pass it up. It had the classic blueberry smell out of the jar and due to it being a bit dry, I got a lot more than I expected in my bag. A mix between body odor and blueberry came out when I broke up the bud at home, and it burned clean in the bubbler with a sweet, rich smoke. This indica-dominant hybrid delivered a good mellow smoke in the morning, helping me to deal with lingering back issues. I found it to be a mildly lucid buzz that was easy to function on. The real highlight of this cut, though, was the price. Herb like this doesn't sell for less than $10 a gram in most every other shop, so to be able to walk out with an eighth for $25 was a real treat. Flo ($25/eighth) The jar at the shop mostly contained wispy popcorn buds, which likely explained why it was being sold at clearance prices. Still, the smell was as good as any of their top shelf stains and the sea-green and rust-colored buds were coated in long, slender trichomes. This sativa-dominant strain had a fresh, earthy smell mixed with a faint piney finish -- not as potent as other Flo I've seen, but definitely in the ballpark. Considering the consistency and the cheap price, it rolled up nicely in big fat joints. I burned one the other night to whet my appetite with both the flavor of the herb and the medicinal effects of the cannabanoids. For $25 and eighth, my only regret regarding this strain was not buying the last half-ounce or so just to keep around for my head. Sour Diesel ($45/eighth) Typical lime-green nuggets with a good smearing of amber trichomes. The herb glowed under the LED magnifying glass in the shop and the smell was strong enough to block out the freshly-finished wood smell in the dispensary. While the Blue Dream and Maui weren't bad, the Sour D stood out among the three $45 top-shelf strains. The herb was clean and burned well with the typical Sour Diesel rubber tartness both inhaling and exhaling and left me buzzing for a good hour and a half with a bowl pack. Mixed BHO ($30/gram) Darker amber color with small bubbles in it that some would argue are big pockets of butane. I whipped the oil around in the plastic dish as it sat in a bath of hot water to try and purge anything large and ended up putting more bubbles into the mix. While it burned without any harsh taste, it did leave a dark tar residue on both my paddle and a clean quartz nail. In all, the oil could have been done with a bit more care even for the $30 price tag. For an extra $25, the more purged-looking earwax hash the shop had would have been the better buy.

William Breathes is the pot pen name for our medical marijuana dispensary critic. You can read his other reviews here at the Mile Highs and Lows archive.

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