Chitral Hays -- not his real name -- is Jackalope Ranch's resident expert on medical marijuana in Arizona. In Perfectly Blunt, Hays delivers news, reviews, and must-know info. From time to time, he'll review a local dispensary.
I think I'm beginning to see a pattern here. All the dispensaries I've been to in Phoenix (so far) are jammed into incredibly shitty areas of town due to zoning laws. Herbal Wellness Center, located just east of 43rd Avenue on Indian School, is no different. What was once a former pawn shop, HWC shares the street with dusty tire shops and a number of strip clubs, but not the kind of exotic dancing you indulge in for a bachelor party -- more the type that reminds you somewhere there's a father crying into his beer.
If it weren't for the security guard pacing the parking lot, I almost wouldn't feel safe leaving my car here. I feel sympathy for the more fragile patients who trek to eyebrow-raising areas of town just because Phoenix wants these businesses out of sight. But anything for wellness, right? Sometimes that's worth the trip. In the case of HWC, I'm not too sure.
Herbal Wellness Center 4126 W. Indian School Rd. Phoenix 602-277-0479 http://herbalwellnesscenter.com/
Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Medication price range: $20 per gram, $33 per eighth, $220 per ounce Other types of medicine: Pre-rolls, 60-120mg brownies, candy bars, gummy bears, pastries, juices. Online menu? Yes. Handicap accessible? Yes.
Herbal Wellness Center has quite a nice lobby: lightly accented green walls, modern art, and a plasma screen TV looping a video that explains the benefits of cannabinoids. After handing the receptionist my driver's license and medical card, I was buzzed into the back room. There was a vending machine for medibles and a large refrigerated safe where the cannabis was stored, already weighed and packaged. The back wall displayed paraphernalia and two digital menus, while approximately 20 different strains were lined out on the counter in small glass jars. I dislike that they have debit fees here and their product is pre-weighed, but this isn't uncommon at other dispensaries, so oh well.
My budtender was friendly as he explained how HWC's rewards program worked. Each purchase, depending on how much you spend, accumulates points. The first tier, at 200 points, is a pre-roll, but 2,000 points can get you one of the bubblers off the back wall. Your current score is printed on the bottom of your receipt. After I was told a little more about Herbal's history, I was encouraged to sift through and find the cannabis to my liking.
Let me preface this by saying I was broke. I went in knowing I would be only able to afford the bottom shelf strains, but luckily, they offered a free gram and a small pipe for the first 500 patients. HWC has been open only a few months, so I was still one of these lucky first few. Unfortunately, the free gram was also their cheapest strain available, the Baby OG. The pipe was nothing special, but it made a nice, impromptu present for a friend. Still, something about horses, gifts, and their mouths, right?
Every dispensary seems to have perks like this for their first time patients, but that doesn't make up for quality. I went home with two pre-rolled Querkle joints (HWC offers most at 2 for $10), an eighth of Master Kush (hybrid, $33/eighth), and my free gram of Baby OG.
The Master Kush was so sticky it clung to my fingers, and the large nug I was given was difficult to break apart. As a hybrid of Hindu Kush and Skunk, it definitely had that signature stench. The bud was dry, yet dense, but I was disappointed how many stems were still in the batch.
The high was lackluster at best. I had to smoke a larger quantity than usual to get where I wanted to be -- stress-free, letting my chronic pain melt into the static. While this took care of the latter, the THC hardly felt present and faded quickly.
So the next day I went for the Baby OG (indica, $30/eighth). The bud was lightly frosted, with more tinges of red, but it still looked flaxen and sepia-toned. It was dry, crumbly, and, again, stem-filled. It's sour scent brought up chocolate and fertilizer (I remember being told this was grown outdoors) and the smoke was smooth as vapor. It had the same feeble crescendo as the first high, so I wondered if it was my tolerance. Or maybe I just wasn't impressed because I chose low shelf strains. What else could I expect?
I decided to give HWC another chance. I waited a few days, this time grabbing a Scooby Snacks pre-roll (two for $10) and a mid-shelf strain (I wasn't going to go straight for top shelf if this was the pattern I was seeing) a sativa dominant hybrid called Haze OG (hybrid, $45/eighth). Again, it had a musty, earthy smell, but was pretty dry. The limey buds were small and clumpy, but held promise. While slightly more intense, the high withered as quickly as it came.
Then there were the pre-rolls. Both times I lit up the Querkle, it was quick to announce itself, but not much more satisfying than what I'd been dealing with previously. The Scooby Snacks joint was the only redeeming purchase. It finally got the job done, giving me enough relaxation to get some euphoric sleep, but this alone wasn't enough to make up for my disappointment in everything else.
Later in the week, I went to a co-op and I got some Sour Dream and Green Snowflake. (Note: I don't currently review compassion clubs or co-ops because their gray legal status makes me feel they wouldn't want additional attention. Feel free to e-mail me if you feel differently about your business.) Each of these did far more magic than anything I sampled at Herbal Wellness Center, so I know my tolerance wasn't affecting the high. Maybe it was just the lower tiers I'd been meddling in, but I'm not eager to keep climbing this ladder, especially if I can find equally priced medication with a better kick elsewhere.
When if comes to medical marijuana, I know it's not all about the high. Most importantly, the CBD content took care of all my ailing pain. But one of the benefits of being able to freely choose this alternative medicine is sampling different flavors, scents, and, yes, letting euphoria temporarily rock you away from the troubles of modern life. It's been said before and bears repeating: Go big or go home.
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For only being open a few short months, I know Herbal Wellness Center is trying to establish itself, and no one can fault them for that. They often have discounts and promotions, but this doesn't help if their product isn't up to speed. Furthermore, their employees seemed a little nervous when I asked them questions, like if they were growing their own cannabis or purchasing it from other dispensaries. I never got a straight answer, because I don't think the receptionist really knew. I honestly felt more sketched out here than I have at any other location, and I'm not sure why that is.
I think Herbal Wellness Center is on the right path, but they need to really reevaluate the cannabis they're offering. Furthermore, I'd like to see them doing more in the community to show they're not just into selling marijuana. They need to offer more than just flowers, they need to offer something that'll really make it worth the trip out here.
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