Medical marijuana dispensary review: The Wellness Shop in Denver

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This dispensary has been renamed Sacred Seed.

The green and white paint job of The Wellness Center stands out along a drab of East Evans like a bowl of dank in a sea of schwag. But it isn't until you park that the actual size of the building comes into focus. The place is huge, which owners say fits the concept of a completely self-sustaining cannabis business perfectly.

The Wellness Shop

5885 E. Evans Ave. in Denver 303-756-3762 www.thewellnessshop.org

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Owner/manager: Jeremy and Jennifer Opened: May 2010 Raw marijuana prices for members: $12/gram, tax not included. Raw marijuana prices for non-members: $14/gram, tax not included. Other types of medicine: Hash, edibles, tinctures, all made in-house. Handicap accessible? Yes, fully ADA compliant.

Paperwork was a breeze, giving me time to read over some 1950s-era issues of Popular Science on the waiting room's coffee table while another patient ahead of me finished up.

The shop has an Eastern vibe going, with statues of Buddha, tapestries of repeating Om symbols, Japanese-style bamboo mats and world trance music pounding out of a stereo in some back room. It reminded me of the entire city and idea that is Boulder. Finally, the woman ahead of me finished up and my budtender, co-owner Jennifer, came out to greet me and give me a brief tour of the space before taking me back to the bud bar. She pointed out rooms for yoga classes as well as another space where The Wellness Shop plans to build an infused-product kitchen.

Several rooms were either closed off by doors or had curtains hung over the front. But a massive grow was clearly located somewhere in the building, because the smell of organic material and blended cannabis strains wafted through the place. It's amazing what pseudo-legality can do. Just a few years ago, this was the type of smell problem you would want to avoid at all costs. Today, it's just part of doing business. The shop used to offer massage and yoga in some of the pace, but it's since shut the two down due to lack of interest. Co-owner Jeremy says he hopes to turn the space into a community meeting room.

We eventually made it back to the bud bar, which was a cozy, tiny space compared to the rest of the shop. Its style was more multi-ethnic, with another Japanese-style bamboo matt and a brightly colored oil painting of three olive-skinned women holding gifts behind the bar, which stood in the middle of the room. Herb could be found in mismatched jars along two of the back walls, while edibles, tinctures and assorted cannabis smoking utensils were kept in the glass and wooden cabinet that made up the bar space.

Jennifer really knew her shit and was a blast to talk to, rattling off the genetics of each strain I asked her to pull down and giving an anecdote about how she reacted to them. A lot of the strains looked to be grown really well, but when the top came off the jar, they lacked the distinct punch in smell I was expecting. For example, the cut of OG Kush just didn't have the rubbery tang you want, despite a well-developed flower and heaping spoonfuls of trichomes. There were similar issues with cuts of the Bananna Kush, Gucci and P-Phunk -- despite all looking mouth-wateringly good, with proper trimming and glowing crystals under the light.

The shop also had two types of hash in stock, both overpriced at $50 and $40 a gram. Not that the quality was bad, but compared to Essential Extract's "solventless wax" icewater hash that sells for under $40 a gram, it was hard to fork over any money for concentrates this week.

In all, the center had above-average, warehouse-quality meds that could use just a little bit more TLC in their final stages before hitting the shelves. It's not a huge issue by any means, and certainly nothing the shop can't change with a few more days of curing on the next harvest.

What they could change now, though, is the pricing.

I went to check out, thinking that my split eighth for $40 and half-gram of hash for $16 put me at a reasonable $56. But the shop doesn't include taxes in its pricing (due to the new law, my budtender said). So I ended up paying over $60 -- and that's including member pricing that reduced the price by 20 percent. Nonmembers would end up paying well over $50 for just an eighth, which is pretty hard to stomach these days. Jeremy noted that the shop tries hard to keep things in house, and as such, the cost of doing business is a bit higher than at other centers -- but he took note of my suggestion to consider a price drop.

Page down for strain reviews and photos. P-Phunk: $12 per gram for members/$14 for nonmembers In the jar at the shop, this creeper strain carried a fruity punch, but the chunky nugget I brought home settled to a bland, hay-like smell over a few days in an airtight baggie. Well-dried, with perfect sponginess to the herb, it just was not cured enough to bring out the grape-Popsicle sweetness it had when broken up. It was pretty, though. Under the lighted scope, the crysta-colored trichomes glowed and the purple hints on the calyxes were much more visible. I didn't expect much from the taste based on the smell, but I was surprised by sweet hints of citrus in the first few hits before the bowl charcoaled out. Overall, a mild stomach relaxation and appetite from the buzz, though puffing a spliff's worth was enough to make watching Bachelor Pad with my wife tolerable. Hanis: $12 per gram for members/$14 for nonmembers This is one of the strains from Tiera Rojo, a relatively new face to the seed-breeding world, but one that has made a huge impact with his landrace Afghani seed stock, which he breeds with popular Western cuts. The Hanis is a mix of Kunduz Afghani with a pre-98 bubba/Positronics Haze cut. The result is a wild, lanky, turpentine-musk-smelling cut of herb. Lighter in color than cuts I've seen recently at Natural Remedies downtown, but the trichome coverage on the long slender calyxes was among the best the shop had to offer. Like the P-PHunk, the cut lost some of it's unique smell in the baggie I brought home. However, the taste was similarly bland, although it had a hazy, spiciness through the first two hits before mellowing out. Surprisingly uplifting for such an indica-strong cut, this was perfect for pain relief without the weighted, heavy feeling I try and avoid during the daytime. Still, it wasn't so speedy that I couldn't chill out over a bowl after dinner to ease the stomach and get me in the mood for bed. Crown Royal Hash: $40/gram The Crown Royal had a nice sizzle to it, a recognizable taste true to the original strain and even a pretty milk-chocolate color -- but it lacked the explosive taste and butter-soft melt I've been seeing hash reach lately. Namely, hash from Nikka T over at Essential Extracts. I hate bringing up other shops by comparison, but when the best hash I've ever found in my life only sells for $39, it makes spending more for anything else pretty difficult. That aside, the Crown Royal had a hashy-sweet finish, packed a strong, sativa-strong buzz and was clearly better quality than the black mush that some shops still try and pass off.

William Breathes is the pot pen name of our roving marijuana dispensary critic. Read more of his reviews here, and follow all things cannabis on our marijuana blog.

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