Medical marijuana dispensary review: Hawaiian Herbal Health offers the islands at a mile high

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In "Mile Highs and Lows," Westword offers a no-holds-barred look at what goes on behind the locked doors of marijuana dispensaries, whether they resemble swanky bars or a dope dealer's college dorm room. See our updated dispensary list here, and keep reading for William Breathes's review of Hawaiian Herbal Health:

Hawaiian Herbal Health 1337 Delaware Street, Suite 2 303-893-1200 http://www.hawaiianherbalhealth.com/

Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday. Owner: Margaret Kimokeo Owner's statement: "Living life naturally." Opened: March 2009 Raw marijuana price range: $30 to $50 per eighth Other types of medicine: Assorted hash ($25-$35/g), topical lotion, tinctures. Patient services and amenities: Glass/smoking accessories, massage and therapy referrals. Handicap-accessible: Yes

Our take: In Hawaii, the word "aloha" is not just a way to both greet someone and say goodbye. It's also a way to describe your approach to day-to-day struggles, how you care for your body, soul and mind through good food, good friends -- and, perhaps, good herb. Though Denver is landlocked and a mile high, the owners of Hawaiian Herbal Health are living aloha, spreading the island vibe, Colorado style. Junior, a manager I spoke with over the phone after my visit, said his family is originally from Hawaii, but that they all call Colorado home now. "We just wanted to have the whole living-aloha thing here," he explains.

The clinic is at the end of bail-bond row, in a simple beige building. From the outside, the place looks like just another bland Denver storefront. But inside and upstairs, the clinic has been decked out in an attempt to re-create the breezy feel of the islands. The walls are lined with bamboo shoots, and a faux grass-hut roof juts out over the receptionist's window. The relaxed air carries over to the paperwork: Rather than giving me any to fill out, they simply copied what I already had. And after I waited a few minutes on the couch, watching surfers shred the tops off of waves on the flat-screen TV hanging in the corner, the door to the dispensary opened.

A huge, Samoan-looking dude walked me back to a long, narrow bud room, which had the same island vibe/Tiki-hut decor. Natural light beaming through the windows made it feel airy and open; surfboards and a wooden marijuana-leaf plaque proclaiming "God made it, Hawaiians perfected it" hung from the otherwise uncluttered space; the thumping reggae bass of a Peter Tosh album played on the stereo overhead.

I was told to feel at home and browse the jars of pakalolo -- Hawaiian for marijuana -- for as long as I wanted. The prices were posted on a whiteboard behind the register, and the budtender helpfully pointed out that strains priced at $40 and strains priced at $50 were kept at separate counters. There were roughly ten strains in the $50 range and four or five in the lower price bracket. Some of the $50 strains were indistinguishable in quality from the cheaper strains, while others were definitely worth a double take. The shop also had three kinds of hash, including some amber shatter hash they called "glass hash."

Half of the bud room is unused right now; Junior explained that they plan to use the space to showcase some new-to-the-scene strains in upcoming months. The shop is currently growing strains that are known as classics in Hawaii but are relatively rare on the mainland. Such strains as Tuna Butter, Galactica, Hona Gold and Maui Crip should all be ready in the next few months. "These are the real deal, yeah?" said Junior, his Hawaiian accent showing through. "That taste. The fruity mango taste that you get from real Hawaiian."

Unfortunately, none of them were available on my visit. Though the shop was welcoming (I spent the rest of my day in an island state of mind, sitting in the sun listening to old reggae and ska albums), I felt like I might have missed the best of what Hawaiian Herbal Health really has to offer. Even though what I walked out with was relatively above average, I was expecting more. As Junior noted, what really sets Hawaiian Herbal Health apart is the island vibe -- and walking out without any true island strains was disappointing. Still, I'll swing by again in a few months when the snow is starting to pile up outside to see if Hawaiian Herbal Health has some true island style by then.

Page down for the medicine reviews.

Island Sweet Skunk x Master Kush -- $50/eighth The strain genetics alone on this one were intriguing. But despite the unique fruit punch smell out of the jar, the herb had a lackluster appearance, with some yellowing leaves in the plant and underdeveloped trichomes. Still, the herb was dried and cured decently, and the fruit punch came through in the taste when I burned it in a joint. It balanced the heaviness of the master kush well with the uplifting sativa of the ISS. All in all, this strain was good for stress relief without wrecking my day; it was slow in the head, but my body didn't feel tired at all. (Matinuska Thunderfuck x Blueberry) x (Master Kush x Frona) -- $50/eighth Very good bag appeal to this strain, which looked as intricate as the name suggests. It had a strange, stringy look, but was nonetheless very compact. Dark, almost orange crystals were all over the place, making the herb look more like sugar-frosted breakfast cereal. There was a rich concord-grape smell to the cannabis, though beneath it was a tinge of leftover nutrients. The herb burned somewhat harshly as a result, but I enjoyed the body-numbing buzz nonetheless. I'd like to see the next round they pull off with this strain. Glass Hash -- $25/gram Made from either butane-extracted hash oil or isopropyl-extracted hash oil, this glass hash was something I hadn't seen in any other dispensary. I bought a half-gram of what looked like a shattered piece of amber for $12.50. On top of a bowl, the little rocks softened, then melted quickly into the herb: It was like watching a time lapse of ice cubes melting. The hash burned clean, with a very light hash taste that didn't overpower the flavor of the herb. It was very potent medicine, and a tenth of a gram was more than enough to put me down.

William Breathes is the pot pen name of our medical marijuana dispensary reviewer. You can read his bio here.

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