Making my way to Natural Rx proved much harder than I'd anticipated. I went to the address—an office park on the North Side—and had to double check my GPS. “You have arrived,” it gleefully told me, but I was dubious. There were no signs visible from the road or even the parking lot.
I got out of my car and meandered around the front of the building trying to look nonchalant while I looked at suite letters. I found the right letter in the last place I looked and found a door with a single decal no longer than two feet. I was already telling myself not to get too attached. There's no way a place that makes it this hard could possibly be successful.
Before I could reach it, the door swung open, held by a security guard. A solid din clamored over his shoulders, knocking me back a step. The place was full of patients and had the tense atmosphere of a trading floor. Buy! Sell! It was all a bit overwhelming, all the more so for being unexpected.
I had stumbled in at exactly the wrong time. As my budtender would tell me (shout at me, really), Natural Rx has a special on Tuesdays: Spend $50 and get a pre-roll for a penny. From every side, I heard, “Did I hit 50, yet?” People continued to funnel in behind me. “It's also Happy Hour,” my 'tender said, followed by an explanation that was drowned out by the collected sounds of the crowd around me. Pre-rolls were extra cheap right now, from what I could gather.
He stuck something under my nose that didn't smell like anything I'd encountered before. “Whoa,” I said. “That's a weird one.”
He took a whiff himself and nodded. “It smells like cheeseburgers.”
Waiting to pick up and pay was just as hectic as ordering, but I was rewarded for my patience with a free gram and a free chocolate chip cookie (25 mg THC, $8/two-pack). I found the employees' good humor and continued enthusiasm in the face of a crowded showroom was impressive, seeing as how I was itching to get out of there as quick as possible.
After making it back home, the first order of business was getting at that cookie. I hadn't had lunch and was daydreaming about chocolate chips the whole drive. I tore open the package and took a bite. Though tasty, it was hard as a rock. I choked down a few more bites before I looked closer at the package. It was dated Feb. 14 (that's three weeks old, if you're counting) right next to a proud statement that there were no preservatives. Gross! I chucked the second half and sighed.
Irritation hovered around me for a moment, but I discarded it. After all, beggars can't be choosers, and I got the thing for free. I decided to just pack a bowl and forget about the whole thing. I started with X-Rated (THC: 18%—$12/gram), a sativa-dominant strain, and was irritated to find, once again, another dispensary that doesn't print the lab results on the package. This is an industry standard found in most other stores, and the practice is crucial when cannabis proponents argue that use of the drug is safer within the confines of a legal, well-regulated system—one where the patient can look any time and see exactly what they're putting into their body. The second biggest complaint about the black market sale of cannabis (behind cartel and gang violence) is that the buyer doesn't know what they're getting.
Granted, the THC and CBD content of each strain was available on the menu at the actual store, and the THC (sans CBD) content is listed on their online menu, but it's completely ridiculous to think anyone is going to store that many numbers in their head. It also completely ignores the needs of those interested in some of the lesser known cannabinoids like CBG and CBN.
So I was already grumpy when a dry bud tumbled out of the package. After grinding it, a sizable amount had turned to powder, and the rest ended up burning faster than I could enjoy it. I did enjoy it, though. It smelled and tasted peppery, and though it was gone quickly, it did still have an effect. For one, I got a little less bummed about the experience and just chocked it up to bad luck. Maybe they were having an off-day. It was an interesting strain, actually. I was quiet and contemplative, but focused and energetic.
It wasn't scratching the itch, though, so I packed a bowl of Super Lemon Haze (THC: 23%—$12/gram), another sativa-dominant strain. And more dry buds. It was more fragrant than the first, and tasted fruity and tangy, but it also seemed to burn up immediately, leaving me unfulfilled. The effects seemed pretty mild, too.
So I'm perplexed. Despite the somewhat hidden location, lack of printed lab results and sub-par medicine, the place was packed with patients who were clearly regulars. Sounds like a mystery to me, and I gave up mysteries for my New Year's resolution.