As Colorado's medical-marijuana industry grows, marijuana dispensaries of all types and sizes are proliferating around the state. Some resemble swanky bars or sterile dentist offices; others feel like a dope dealer's college dorm room. To help keep them all straight, Westword will be offering a no-holds-barred look at what goes on behind these unusual operations' locked doors in "Mile Highs and Lows," a regular online review of dispensaries around the metro area and beyond. (You can also search Westword's directory of dispensaries for one near you).
This week's review: Patients Choice of Colorado. See our review after the jump.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. By appointment only. Size: About 2,000 square feet Date opened: March 2009 Clients: 1,300 Patient services: Handicap accessible; delivery for incapacitated patients. Doctor evaluations on site: No. Raw marijuana price range: $105-$115 per quarter ounce Other types of medicine: Edibles and hash made by owner Jim Bent, who has a culinary degree. Amenities: No smoking on premises. Massage therapy on site and cooking classes in the future.
Our take: The last thing you'd expect a visit to a marijuana dispensary to feel like would be a college tour -- but that's exactly what a trip to Patients Choice of Colorado resembles.
The establishment's surroundings are deceptive. Patients Choice has hung its shingle on an industrial stretch of South Broadway teeming with fast-food joints and auto dealers. Inside, however, it's like a whole different world, with a soothing green paint scheme, natural wood touches and tasteful floral arrangements. Like we suggested, it could pass for an admissions office -- especially since, like universities, prospects need to schedule an in-depth tour of the operation before they're allowed to become a medicated BMOC.
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The tour's worthwhile, however -- a nod to the fact that many people still don't know the ins and outs of the nascent medical marijuana industry. To help fill in the gaps, an über-professional tour guide covers the Patients Choice's considerable rules, such as no smoking (of any substance) on the premises, limiting patients to at most six ounces of pot a month and requiring a state-issued medical marijuana ID to get in the door, not just a doctor's recommendation for the ID, like many dispensaries will accept. (The place sticks by its rules: A manager was overheard reaming out an employee by letting in a customer whose state ID had expired five days earlier.) The dispensary also asks patients to inform them of any food allergies, so that one of the owners, a culinary school graduate, can take these issues into account in his edible marijuana concoctions.
The tour guide encourages newbies to become "members" of the dispensary, which means making Patient Choice their designated caregiver in exchange for price discounts and other perks. The guide notes that doing so doesn't restrict patients' ability to grow six marijuana plants ourselves -- an argument that, as far as we're concerned, is still on shaky legal ground. But at least the operation is up front about why it's pushing such memberships. "It helps defray our costs," explains the tour guide -- since the more "members" it has, the more pot it can grow and sell.
And Patients Choice grows and sells a good amount. There are three dispensary counters, and two more on the way once one of the operation's two grow rooms filled with pot seedlings is converted into additional retail space. A staffer behind one of those counters at first seemed dispassionate, uttering "What can I get you?" with all the engagement of overworked McDonald's employee. But when he heard the customer was a first-timer, he did a 180, going over in detail the nineteen strains of weed, four types of hash and other options like sub-lingual tinctures, muscle rubs and mouth sprays. He even discouraged some of the edibles for sale for certain medical conditions -- a big step towards feeling more like a pharmacy and less like a straight-out pot store.
All in all, Patients Choice offers strict but high-caliber service -- sort of like the Ivy Leagues of dispensaries. Too bad its locale feels a bit like the wrong side of the tracks.