Medical Marijuana Dispensary Review: Whole Meds in the Highlands

The purple paint is gone from the exterior, as is the "Kushism" sign that was once on the front porch. But the reminder of the shop that starred in one of my worst reviews ever (and the dirt weed the shop was selling at the time) still makes me shudder. Whenever I drive past 3355 West 38th Avenue, I get a bad case of MDTSD: Marijuana-Dispensary Traumatic Stress Disorder. That is, up until a few months ago when I noticed some other business had moved in. It dawned on me that even if the new shop was half-assed, that would still be enough to outweigh the negative impression left by the former tenant and I could get on with my life in peace.

See also: Marijuana: Have 19,000 Patients Dropped Off MMJ Registry This Year?

Whole Meds

3355 West 38th Avenue Denver, CO 80211 303-433-3151 WholeMeds.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Raw marijuana price range: $8-$11/gram $25-$35/eighth-ounce, $130-$185/ounce. Members receive about 15 percent off purchase plus member deals Other types of medicine: Wax, kief, edibles, vape pen refils Online menu? Yes. Handicap-accessible? Yes. Recreational sales? No.

I'm only half joking. I doubt I'll ever be able to look at the building and not think about the black, compressed-brick schwag selling for $30 an eighth under the name "Night Shade," the sleeping security guard or the headache-inducing color scheme. Kushism long ago abandoned that location, but the memories live on. But this summer, I noticed that the storefront (technically a former duplex home) had been repainted to normal beige and an "Open" sign was in the window. At the very least, the Barney-colored visual cue to my horrid experiences was gone. In its place was Whole Meds.

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The current logo looks suspiciously like a national overpriced grocery store chain also containing the word "whole." I doubt that lasts very long. But gimmicky name and logo aside, the tiny little dispensary has done a complete 180-degree from the Kushism era. The table and chairs out front where I surprised that dozing guard back in the day is still there, but Mr. Sleepy isn't. Just an ashtray, a few cigarette butts and a pot magazine probably left by an employee on break. Instantly a better impression: I get hiring security guards, but they also seem to add an unnecessary level of intimidation and sketchiness -- especially when they're awake.

As I walked in behind an older couple bickering about how to spend what seemed like their last $20 on herb, I welcomed the absence of Kushism's blood-red interior. Instead, the Whole Meds crew has gone plain and simple. It's amazing what some neutral paint, a few American Furniture Warehouse couch pieces and a coffee table can do to de-ghettofy a dispensary.

Meanwhile, the man in front of me tried to get in with a red card that expired in 2013. While he regrouped with his wife (who apparently had a valid card), I stepped up and handed my card and ID over to the guy behind the counter. He gave me a look that said the staff deals with these two a lot and quickly entered me into the system before buzzing me back.

Continue for the rest of the review and photos. There's been a lot of renovation since I was last in the shop nearly four years ago. Notably, the waiting room is now sectioned off from the bud bar with a security door. As for the bud bar, which used to very clearly be in the former living room of the duplex, it's been remodeled as well; a back wall has been added to hide the interior of the space, with an an L-shaped bar wrapping through the much smaller space. Bud is kept in tall, clear plastic jars, with two bud bars on either side of a cash register in the middle, each with the same dozen or so decent to solid strains -- all selling at the same price or less as the dirt weed that was once peddled in the exact same space (alongside condoms, for that matter).

Things were really starting to look up. Bad mental images were being replaced by new ones of a sterile, clean retail space with little character but much better cannabis. My budtender, a lightly toasted dude in his late twenties, knew the shop's product well and was quick to suggest certain strains over others. The Jack Flash, for example, got him up and going that very morning. He was also a fan of the Short Bus, an indica-heavy strain with a sugary smell and coating of amber trichomes on top of dense, cone-like buds. Hash and concentrates were limited to $25 grams of wax and $10 grams of kief, as well as $30 O-pen refills. I went with a gram of the kief, but managed to drop it all over my carpet while fumbling with the lid, so no photos. The small amount I salvaged melted like bubble hash into my bowl, however and would have been a great value considering the price.

All of the cannabis in stock was solid, too. Nothing was mind-blowing or enough to knock my pot leaf-adorned socks off, but there was plenty to consider and be able to enjoy for $25 an eighth. The White Dream, a Cindy '99 and a Blue Dream cross were in that category, for sure. Lots of silvery trichomes dusted around the fat, orange-smelling buds.

The NYC Diesel was more of a Sour Diesel, but nevertheless well-grown, with chunky, neon-green buds made up of BB-esque calyxes that stank like diesel fuel and the rubber-ball bin at a Walmart. Space Queen was another to consider, the plump buds reeking like a surprise hug from a sweaty hippie friend at a Red Rocks concert. If you're a Flo fan, Whole Meds had among the best I've seen in a while. Very stinky buds, probably the most pungent on the shelf, and loads of white/silver crystals all around.

I opted for the Jack Flash at my budtender's suggestion, though my take-home sample wasn't as impressive as what I saw in the jar. There were a few of the dense top buds, but also scrappy, smaller buds clearly from the bottom branches. Also, some of the buds had less of the hazy, spicy Jack Flash smell and more of a powdery mildew funk to them. I didn't find any offensive buds, but the nose knows. Nevertheless, the few hand-picked nuggets I did smoke were great. Full, sweet-hazy flavor and an uplifting, energetic buzz on par with a weak cup of coffee. As always, the strain worked well for getting my appetite going, though I couldn't completely get past the unappealing odor coming from my jar every time I opened it. If these guys can get that issue under control, they'll have some good herb on their hands.

The Bruce Banner wasn't listed with a phenotype number, but it seems more like the #3 thanks to its OG Kush-leaning flavor and bud structure. Out of the jar in the shop, it smelled like new leather and a flower pot of fresh dirt ready for planting. Same at home, and I didn't pick up any of the odd issues I did with the Jack Flash. The Banner was pretty and grown well, with a range of light and dark greens, wiry, rust-colored pistils and sandy, microscopic trichomes all over. Broken up, the smell became more intense and the flavor was nearly identical to the odor. A great stress-relieving strain without putting one down on the couch, the Banner was perfect for after-work/pre-dinner puffing and I'll probably head back for more by the time the weekend is up.

And that's something I never thought I would have said about that location until Whole Meds came along. Yes, the shop's got a few growing pains to get past (it's only been open about three months). But for the most part, it's a change for the better. At least, I don't get the chills when I drive by anymore.

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

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