Medical marijuana dispensary review: The Medicine Man in Denver

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Every few months for the last four or five years, I throw my back out doing something dumb -- like hanging artwork, falling on a catwalk while turned around talking to someone on a snowboard, or mowing my lawn. The most recent cause of injury? Dancing at a wedding. What can I say? I can't help getting down to Rick James.

The Medicine Man

4750 Nome Street, Unit B Denver, CO 80239 Phone: 303-373-0752 www.medicinemandenver.com

Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Online menu? Yes. Other types of medicine: Hash, tincture, BHO, C02 oil, edibles. Handicap accessible? Yes.

While all of these things are comically stupid, I've learned that severe back pain isn't a joke. Roughly 8 percent of the U.S. population suffers from chronic back pain, and it is the sixth most expensive ailment in this country -- costing as much as $16 billion in health-care-related costs. It's no surprise, then, that 94 percent of people registered for medical marijuana cards in this state do so for severe pain. So while I'm normally on the hunt for something to ease the pain and nausea in my stomach, this week I was interested in addressing the other side of my sternum.

I hobbled my way into Medicine Man after suffering for a few days and finding little relief in ice packs and the stockpiles of sativa-dominant strains I keep around the house for stomach issues. Not going to lie: The $10 first-time patient eighth was a major draw, as I'm currently broke thanks to some unexpected car repairs. But the shop also seemed to have some pretty decent talents in the garden, at least according to the High Times Medical Cannabis Cup judges, who awarded the MMC's cut of Jack Herer third place in the 2012 contest last month.

The shop is located north of I-70 in a warehouse district of Montbello -- about as far northeast as you can go in town and still find a medical marijuana dispensary. The center is nice, though, with large old trees on the lawns of nearby industrial buildings. Aside from the green "Medicine Man" sign out front, and the neon green cross in the barred front windows, it's not a very obvious dispensary site.

A small doorbell alerts the woman behind a safety glass window on the other side to let you in. I handed over my red card and ID and was buzzed back through the heavy, seemingly bomb-proof door to the surprisingly cozy interior, where I filled out a page or two of paperwork. A few poofy chairs were set up near the entry as a waiting room, with ganja magazines on a table to read. There was also a small fridge with drinks and cabinets filled with pipes, small bubblers and a few other cannabis tools for patients to kill cottonmouth and pot-nerd out on while they waited. My budtender was a big dude who gave me a quick, two-minute rundown of the shop, the pricing system and what it had to offer. First-timers get their first eighth for $10, as I mentioned, and member pricing clicks in after that: $20 eighths and $150 ounces. The only strain that sells for more is a rotating $35/eighth "Pete's Choice," named for one of Medicine Man's growers. An ounce sells for $180. Edibles range from about $30 for tinctures down to $6 for a single soda from Keef.

My budtender proudly told me about Pete's Choice and handed me a sample jar with one beautiful nug in it to look at and smell. First thoughts were that the buds were huge and much chunkier than Jack Herer I've seen, and the smell was light and sugary on top of a musky haze.

I set the jar aside to think about it and had my budtender pull out his most pain-relieving cuts. He started with the indica-dominant Special Queen, Ogre and Power Kush. All three presented really well, with large, chunky flowers on the Ogre and Power Kush and a really cool, Thai stick-appearance on the orange and light green Special Queen. The jars all had light aromas, though, and I didn't get much of the rubbery undertones of kush out of the Power Kush. Same for the Sour Diesel, which had well-developed calyxes and the dark green sugar leaves coated in amber trichomes but a lack of strong Sour D stank when the jar was popped open. All had distinct smells; their strength just didn't match how appealing the herb looked.

A grower I spoke with later said everything is run in organic soil, hand watered and hand trimmed. He said the staff flushes the plants for two weeks and hangs them to dry, pulling down harvests daily so fresh buds are always on the shelf.

The shop does carry blended bubble hash made in-house, but it was very dark and pressed together into snakes and stick figure shapes. Cheap at $15 a gram, but not anything appealing enough to bring home. C02 oil and BHO are made by a third-party with trim from Medicine Man and were selling for $20 a gram at member pricing and about $10 more for non-members. I opted out on the hash this week in favor of herb, though.

By this time, a pair of customers had come in and were standing around in the waiting area. They were told it would be a minute and to take a seat. I got a look at a few other strains, like the Heavy Duty Fruity, Flo, Special Kush and "Bottom of the Jar" jar that sells for $100 an ounce. The shop also has a shake jar that sells for $50 an ounce. With the decent selection and great pricing, I was planning on bringing home three or four strains to review, but I was told that the shop doesn't normally split sale eighths -- and even if he wanted to make an exception, there were too many people waiting behind me that day. Disappointing, considering I like to try as much as I can when I visit a new shop.

I suddenly felt rushed and made my choice out of the strains I had been able to check out, opting for one of the suggested strains for pain relief and the bronze-finishing Jack Herer. My budtdener weighed both eighths about a half-gram heavy, saying "right on is too close to under" as he threw a few extra chunks on the scale. With the warehouse pricing and overall quality, Medicine Man is worth checking out for those of you who cringe at paying more than $35 an eighth for any meds and are looking for ways to keep your herb budget down. It's not quite connoisseur-grade cannabis, but what I brought home was worth toking on all week.

Page down for strain reviews and photos. Special Queen: $25/eighth The feminized seeds that sprouted these flowers came from Royal Queen Seeds, which touts the bud as being both easy to grow as well as a potent smoke when finished. Very pretty, dense bud structure that hugged the arrow-straight stalks, forming small, green budsicles. Round, fat calyxes coated in trichomes covered the bud and made it look like it was dipped in sugar before being put out for display. Under the scope, the crystals looked like long, slender threads with mostly clear, bulbous tops on them. Broken up, this bud was mildly sweet with a eucalyptus freshness that came through in the first few hits of a bowl and a spliff. Nothing overwhelming in the smell and flavor department, but the bud was dried and cured well nevertheless. As promised, this was a back-saving strain. While I did have the option of taking a Percocet or two over the past week, I avoided drugging myself with pharmies by smoking a bowl or two of this strain. This wasn't the highest CBD strain, but it made me forget about the pain and allowed me to relax on the couch with an ice pack and not become restless. At $25 an eighth, this was well grown and I would seek it out again for my pain relief after my next stupid back injury. Jack Herer 3: $35/eighth At $35 an eighth, this represents the tippy top shelf at Medicine Man, and it's easy to see why it was deserving of an award. The smell on this sample went beyond the enjoyably light haze of Jack Herer. Opening up the big jar in the shop let out a strawberry sweetness on top of the nose-ticking haze from the chunky, ripe buds. I was given a massive chunk coated in amber trichomes from the tip of the nugget to the inside stem. Breaking up the bud left my thumb and forefinger sticky with resins and smelling like I had just picked my way through a berry patch. The flowers burned smooth in a bowl, leaving a buttery-citrus aftertaste and a fog of musky haze hanging over my desk. A solid sativa-dominant strain, this uplifting, energetic sample was a great pick-me-up alternative to a soda in the afternoon without getting me ADD-high. Mild appetite stimulation from this strain overall, which wasn't the best thing medically for me, but overall, it was an enjoyable, well-produced strain to have around this past week.

William Breathes is the pot pen name for Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic. Read more of his reviews in our marijuana blog Mile Highs and Lows and keep track of Colorado cannabis news at our news blog, The Latest Word.

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