Medical marijuana dispensary review: Heartland Pharmacy

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This dispensary has closed.

For such a big shop, Heartland Pharmacy's exterior has a low-key vibe. Because it's partially obscured by large trees out front, I drove past it twice before its green-cross sign caught my eye -- and I wasn't even medicated.

Heartland Pharmacy

3950 North Holly St. Denver, CO 303-468-6100 www.heartlandpharmacy.net

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Online menu: Yes. Other types of medicine: Hash, BHO, edibles. Handicap accessible? Yes.

The shop is in a blue-collar neighborhood just a few blocks east of the Park Hill Golf Club, on a commercial stretch of Holly Street. Though the lot was packed with cars, parking wasn't an issue, and I found a spot right away near the front door. Above the entrance, the owners have posted a quote from one of the most well-known doctors in marijuana, Dr. Dre: "Smoke weed every day." I walked in, handed my card through the security window to the receptionist and was buzzed back into the shop. The woman was friendly and took a second to give me a brief tour of the place before telling me to make myself at home.

I walked in behind two other patients, so there was some time to sit and chill out in Heartland's extremely comfortable and welcoming waiting room. The place feels like the golf-lounge room of a pot-themed country club. Nice, clean purple-suede and green-leather chairs are set up around a pair of matching coffee tables, creating two small waiting areas that both face a huge flat-screen TV. Marijuana movie posters are framed around the wall, including two of my all-time favorites, Up in Smoke and Half Baked, and along the back, exposed-brick wall is a retro tabletop video-game system loaded with arcade classics of yesteryear, including, of course, Pac-Man.

Unique to Heartland (as far as I know), the shop also has a fully functioning Coke fountain, with stacks of cups for patients to use for free. If that's not your ideal way of getting a caffeine fix, try the hotel-style coffee/tea/hot chocolate dispenser. And for stoners like myself with constant munchies, Heartland also provides bowls of Halloween-sized candy and an old-time popcorn machine. I know that lots of nice patient amenities doesn't equate to good herb, which is the most important thing. But it certainly makes the visit more enjoyable -- especially in a place like Heartland, where waiting seems to be part of the drill, as customers are constantly coming and going.

Heartland's dispensary is connected to its own grow, and the owners have even put a small window into one of the rooms with vegetating plants and clones along the back wall of the waiting room. A few other dispensaries offer something like this, and I think it's a great way for patients to see where their meds are coming from. For some people, it's probably the first time they've ever seen cannabis in any form other than dried flowers.

After about a ten-minute wait, a woman popped her head out of the door leading to the bud bar and called me back for my herb consultation. The bud bar is done up similarly to the waiting room, with heavy wood cabinets, exposed brick walls and dramatic, bright lighting on the bud counters and stock jars on the shelves. A huge glass display case/bar separates the budtenders from the patients, with strains separated into one of three cabinets by price, ranging from $30 on the low end to $45 on the high end. Signing up the shop as your primary center gets you about $5 off every eighth you purchase.

In each cabinet were pre-weighed eighths in small glass jars with the Heartland Pharmacy logo on them, as well as loose buds on display for easy viewing. Larger amounts of herb are kept in tall, cylindrical jars on shelves along the back wall. My budtender, an outgoing woman around my age, gladly pulled down the jars I wanted to see. She seemed to know her stock well, and gave me her take on each strain I asked about, with the exception of a few newer cuts that she admitted to not having tried yet. A manager I spoke with later told me everything is grown in either soil or a soilless medium, and each plant is in its own five-gallon bucket that gets watered by hand. The manager seemed stoked about the upcoming harvest, noting that the center has built up a strong grow team over the last year.

The top-shelf kush strains were all on point in the looks department, with the shop's chunky, trichome-coated Bubba taking the most visually appealing prize. Smell-wise, the Bubba and Ghost were the tops, with a nose-turning funk to both. Also worth mentioning were some beautiful Sour Grape buds with a name-matching smell and the high-CBD Cannatonic, which my budtender admitted she was scared to try because of how couch-locking it has been for everyone else in the shop. The Cannatonic looked intriguing, with long, teardrop-shaped calyxes that oddly reminded me of some amazing outdoor herb I found in Jamaica last year. Middle-shelf herb was also well done from the samples I saw, including the 303 Kush and the Hong Kong Kush. Overall, the buds were worthwhile. Granted, a wispy jar of Lemon Haze was neither lemony nor hazy, but most of the dozen or so jars I went through all had their pluses.

The shop also carries a Sam's Club amount of edibles from third-party vendors like Dr.J's, Gaias Garden, CheebaChews, Dixie and Bakked. Prices seemed decent, from what I have seen of edibles in other shops. In addition, Heartland featured concentrates selling from about $15 a gram for bubble hash to a reasonable $40 for some crumbly, amber-colored BHO.

First-time patients receive an eighth from the middle shelf for $10, which really helped keep the costs down this week. In total, I walked out with a member-priced eighth of top-shelf herb and my discount eighth for right around $45.

Page down for strain reviews and photos. Hong Kong Kush: $30/eighth non-member While this sample resembled most Hong Kong I've seen thanks to its golden hue, the smell was extremely unique, with a spicy haze that overpowered the very light, rubbery-kush smell. (A grower not related to Heartland Wellness told me that, as odd as it may be, he's had OG phenos express qualities like this before.) It had a sage-like spice to the smoke and burned with flavor through the first three hits or so of a clean bowl before going somewhat charcoal-ish. Nice and easy body relaxation, and it worked well for my stomach cramping after dinner without sending me to bed early. Considering $25-$30 is about the cheapest herb goes for in this state, it would have been a good buy regardless. But $10 an eighth for a first-time visit made it a steal of a deal. Skywalker OG: $40/eighth non-member At the budtender's suggestion, I went with the Skywalker, which she assured me would be excellent for back pain I've been having since shoveling snow a few weeks back. Pretty, Bubba-esque plant development and chunkiness, with beautiful deep greens, light hints of purple and a dusting of amber. The buds had a sweet, rubbery-kush smell at first sniff that got more and more lemony the more I broke them up. Smoked, it had a full, earthiness up front that I could sense in my nose before I was done with my first draw on the pipe. The Skywalker was maybe a little harsh on the exhale after the second or third hit from a dry pipe, but it was smooth and easy through the bubbler and vape. As promised, this gave a numbing, pain-relieving but clear-headed buzz that lasted for a good two hours before tapering off cleanly. Nothing boutique-quality, so to speak, but considering the size of the Heartland grow, this was a well-grown take-home in the $35-$40 range.

William Breathes is the pot pen name for Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic. Read more of his reviews in our pot blog, Mile Highs and Lows, and catch up with all your cannabis news over at The Latest Word.

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