Medical Marijuana Dispensary Review: Helping Hands Herbals in Boulder

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I'll admit it: Although some shops do a better job than others (hence, what I do), the majority offer the same two- or three-dozen strains as everyone else. It is not necessarily a bad thing (and I know I sound spoiled even mentioning it), but after a while, I can get slightly bored by the same Kush crosses and classic Dutch flowers. It's rare to find a dispensary with unique in-house strains and crosses -- and that's exactly what makes Boulder's Helping Hands Herbals such a refreshing place.

See also: Marijuana: See Campaign Clips in Colorado, Rhode Island That Court Votes With Pot

Helping Hands Herbals

1021 Pearl Street Boulder, CO 80302 303-444-1564 (medical) 720-476-6186 (recreational) HelpingHandsDispensary.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6:50 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6:50 p.m. Sunday. Raw marijuana price range: $10-$13/gram $25-$45/eighth-ounce, $175-$445/ounce. Tax is included with pricing for members. Other types of medicine: Edibles, CBD lotions, hash, wax, shatter, CO2 oil. Online menu? Yes. Handicap-accessible? Yes. Recreational sales? Yes.

The entrance is on the Pearl Street Mall just west of Broadway, but the place feels speakeasy-like, with a skinny doorway slightly tucked between a busy restaurant on one side and a coffee shop on the other. Slipping out of a crowd walking down Pearl Street and through the door feels like you're in-the-know, even though the reality is that everyone who saw you veer off knows exactly what you're doing: buying cannabis.

Helping Hands Herbals has two shops in the same location. Recreational herb is sold upstairs, while the medical marijuana center is downstairs in the same spot it's been since 2009, according to the hip, buzz-cutted young Boulderite woman acting as my receptionist and budtender. I didn't make it upstairs, but pricing on recreational cannabis was in the $40-$50 eighth range before tax. The waiting room for the medical shop is small and I felt like I could touch all four walls without moving my feet. Still, it's comfortable thanks to a tiny leather couch, blue-green and tan painted walls and huge, hand-painted, ambiguously-spiritual mandala circles on wood displayed here and there. After all, it wouldn't be Boulder without a mandala hanging somewhere.

I filled out some minor paperwork and was buzzed to the back, where another woman -- this one in a long, flowy hippie dress and with a long, flowy hippie drawl -- was helping out the patient ahead of me with his order. She knew her stuff and was rattling off lineages and medical properties to the guy, though she kind of lost me when she said if you like the smell of a strain, that's your body's way of telling you it's the one you need because you sense the terpenes you are missing. I don't know about all of that, but I do agree that your nose is one of the best tools you have when seeking out good cannabis. Otherwise, both women were helpful and patient with me and the two baby-faced college kids who came in with more questions than even I ask -- and I'm purposefully naïve when shopping.

Silverback was easily the most frosty, trichome-laden bud in the shop. The nugs were so coated, they looked as brittle as an old chandelier. The smell wasn't all there, though. More of a general musky hay, fresh-cut grass thing than anything else. I skipped over the Bubblegum, not because the fat, conifer-green buds weren't good, but because the strain just doesn't do much for my appetite or nausea. Besides, I can find Bubblegum at ten other dispensaries right now -- at least.

Continue for the rest of the review and photos. The real reason to visit Helping Hands Herbals is the in-house, organic (technically vegan) soil-grown strains crossed mostly with freakishly good Hawaiian genetics you aren't going to find elsewhere. Neither budtender mentioned it, but it's probably the shop's biggest selling point. The Hawaiian Urkle was interesting, with large, lightly purple calxyes and a sugary-sweet punch smell. The Blue Trane (Blue Dream x Trainwreck) was also worth a go due to a heavier lavender smell than the shop's Blue Dream but with tighter, tanner buds. The shop was out of "Gupta Kush," a strain "made" in honor of CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta after he came out in favor of medical cannabis last August. But HHH did have a relative of the Hawaiian x mystery OG Kush cross that brought the Gupta: Double Down.

The Double Down is a second Gupta phenotype crossed with Rugburn OG, itself a Rare Dankness cross of Ghost OG and Rare Dankness #1. The varied green to yellow to red color of the buds, healthy shape and silver trichomes were enough to make it stand out, though initially the smell out of the sample jar on the display counter didn't do much for me. But a few seconds after my first whiff, I got the diesel-like Kush notes mixed with a truly skunky, fruity Hawaiian.

The few buds I brought home went quickly, and I found that the more the bud was broken down, the stinkier the organic grass/rubbery tartness became. In a fresh, clean pipe, the flavor was a mix of general hashiness up front with a smooth, sweet-lemony exhale. Medically, this was a pain reliever. I've had some rough stomach pains lately while I go through some diet changes and it was the remedy needed to stop the cramping and help me get on with my day. A much lighter buzz than I expected, the high left me energetic for a good two hours.

Another Rugburn OG cross, Sunburn, had a more OG-like smell and appearance -- but the Hawaiian cross left it with a more skunky body than a rubbery, soil-rich OG aroma. Broken up, it smelled like Pine Sol and fresh-turned mountain earth, and just a couple of hits of the sugary, crystallized buds lit a fuse under my cerebellum and sent me skyrocketing for a good twenty minutes before settling me down somewhere in the high atmosphere. It wasn't a couch-locking bud, but it neither did it make me want to go out and start doing fall yard-work either. For me, it worked best for nausea. I could puff a bowl when I felt ill and calmly relax ten minutes until the feeling passed. It was also the perfect companion bud for a mind-blowingly beautiful autumn hike among the gold/purple/red Aspens outside Frisco this past weekend.

My final sampler was of the Tangerine Haze x Hawaiian, Tangerine Sunrise. The name says it all. Taking hits of this herb was like sipping fresh-squeezed tangerine juice on the patio of an oceanfront getaway far, far away from the landlocked confines of Colorado. The buds were long and spear-like, with a dark, almost red appearance from the rusty pistils over the tan trichomes. Broken up, the light Haze muskiness came through, even if it wasn't very present in the flavor when smoked -- just pure orange peel. Like most anything this orange-scented that I've tried, this was another super sativa bomb. A house-cleaning, task accomplishing, hunger-inducing medicine packed into one convenient (and tasty) nugget. At $35 an eighth, the buds were my favorite this week and one I'll make the trek back to Boulder for again in the near future.

Concentrates are made using Helping Hands trim, with icewater hash made by Rasta Bubble Bubble and Essential Extracts and solvent waxes and shatters by Colorado Concentrates. The shop also had $25 grams of CO2 hash in syringes. Grams of the high-end shatter and "flake" went for $40 a gram, as did the grams of blended bubblehash. No clones, but HHH does sell seed packs of five from the Helping Hands garden featuring a wide range of in-house crosses. People ask me often where to find new genetics, and Helping Hands quickly has risen into the top portion of that list along with the Reserva Privada line at the Clinic and Rare Dankness seeds at Medicine Man.

Pricing was fair enough and it's the same for members and nonmembers; the only difference is the shop includes your tax in the price if you're a member and adds it on top if you're not. It's a unique but fair way of incentivizing membership without jacking up prices on people who like to sip around. Keep an eye on the center's daily deals to get better pricing. Mondays, take 20 percent off edibles. Tuesdays are pre-filled vaporizer days, with up to 20 percent off cartridges from Aspen (still the worst name for a vape pen, ever). Take $5 off hash on Wednesdays; all Hawaiian-based strains are just $35 an eighth on Thursdays. Indica deals on Fridays, Sativa deals on Saturdays and everything sells for $10 a gram/$35 an eighth/$175 an ounce on Sundays. My only real (and admittedly selfish) complaint is that Helping Hands isn't down here in Denver. As a result, anyone who wants to try out the goods is going to have to make the trek up to planet Boulder. But if you're in the mood for something unusual or need something new for your garden, put Helping Hands Herbals on your to-do list.

Read more reviews from Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic, William Breathes, in our Mile Highs and Lows blog.

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