Mile Highs and Lows: Walking Raven Dispensary

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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: William Breathes reviews Walking Raven Dispensary:

Walking Raven Dispensary 2001 South Broadway Denver, CO 80210 720-327-5613

Hours of operation: 10 a.m.- 8 p.m., seven days a week. Owner: Founder Nick Paul, and ten more owner/stakeholders Owner's goal: "To provide medical marijuana products at affordable prices." Opened: September 2009 Clients: Total N/A, but roughly fifty caregiver spots left and 200 year-long memberships available. Patient services: Handicap access, delivery service Doctor evaluations on site? No. Raw marijuana price range: $15-$25 per gram of raw marijuana, $25 for live clones (with several varieties to chose from) Other types of medicine: Edibles ranging from $3 to $8, hash, tincture Amenities: No smoking on site, credit cards accepted, massage therapy to begin soon (they say).

Our take: Compared to the sterile and sparsely furnished waiting rooms of other medical-marijuana dispensaries, Walking Raven feels like that hippie kid's hangout in high school -- complete with a boom box and thrift-store furniture. This dispensary sits on a corner across from not one but two other dispensaries (Little Brown House and Dr. Reefer) in a former used car-lot office, under a sign festooned with a pot leaf. The owners kept some of the used-car décor -- including the wood paneling and the metal desk in the front room -- but otherwise have done a decent job of updating the small building into a THC sanctuary, complete with oil paintings by the founder's brother on the walls.

The first time I stopped in, I handed over my driver's license and my medical card for a quick photocopy, read and initialed a two-page-plus briefing on the rules of the store, and was on my way to buying meds within a few minutes. Although Walking Raven prefers you have a card, it will accept a doctor's referral along with a receipt for the $90 state registration. It would also prefer that you designate the dispensary as your primary caregiver, and has about fifty more spots for patients -- but it also has about 200 one-year memberships open for patients who choose not to make Walking Raven their primary caregiver but still want to buy medical marijuana.

My second visit was even more efficient, with only one piece of paper to initial before I was allowed into the dispensary room, just on the other side of the small waiting room.

Two employees were behind the lone counter, weighing out different strains of marijuana into large jars. Behind them sat a variety of clones in small pots, two acoustic guitars and a gun safe. Walking Raven sells herb grown by outside vendors as well as their own plants, including Jack Flash and LA Kush strains that both won awards at the Colorado Cannabis Caregiver's Cup in September.

As they piddled around behind the counter, the employees didn't seem particularly interested in sharing this information or even helping me. Still, when I asked what might be good for my digestive issues and chronic nausea, they were knowledgeable enough to point me towards a few particular strains of pot, including Island Sweet Skunk, a sativa-dominant strain that is good for people with my health problems because it gives you the munchies, and the indica-based Early Girl, which not only helps get rid of nausea and increases the appetite, but also helps with pain issues.

The prices and selection were pretty standard for a shop of this size, with a good balance between lower-priced herb and high-dollar top cuts; customers are welcome to open up the jars and examine the contents under a lighted magnifying glass. And at least the guys were honest: "It's not the best we've seen," they admitted when I asked about the quality of the hash they had on hand.

While there are baskets of edibles on the counter, the dispensary doesn't offer any services other than medical-marijuana sales, although one employee said that Walking Raven will soon offer massage therapy. (The owner is a licensed massage therapist.)

Within a few minutes, I'd settled on a gram of hash and two grams of herb, which I threw on my credit card -- I've never bought pot on plastic before. The dispensary doesn't allow smoking of the meds on site and suggest that patients go home to light up, which I did. The Early Girl was done well -- flushed of fertilizer, dried and cured properly -- and had a light, fresh taste. By the time the joint had turned brown, I was over any lingering pain and nausea and was ready to destroy a turkey sandwich.

Overall, Walking Raven is a convenient place to get quality herb and meds quickly, but not much more. The casual approach is great if you're a no-frills patient, but those who are new to the medical pot scene might appreciate a more involved staff -- and a space that looks less like Kevin Pickford's bedroom in Dazed and Confused. --William Breathes

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