My medical card renewal paper showed up in the mail the other day. It only took three weeks. Not bad, Health Department. Along with my new card came a list of the state dispensaries. I would've told you I've been around the block and back a number of times, but there was a name on there I didn't recognize: Sandia Botanicals. A place I hadn't been to? I felt like a fraud.
So I hopped in the car and drove out to an industrial parking lot to press a buzzer and wait awkwardly to be let in.
I always feel uncomfortable at these kinds of dispensaries. Instead of a hip storefront in a normal shopping center, they tuck their shops among warehouses and brownstones, away from public discernment. It makes the whole thing feel like a drug deal.
I have the suspicion that these sorts of places are the holdovers of those weird times back when the state cannabis program was young and nobody was sure how it would pan out. These days, though, a good chunk of the population already has a prescription, and those who don't seem okay with seeing a dispensary next to their favorite Starbucks. Cannabis has finally been normalized. Just go with it. Please.
Despite the weirdness out front, once the mirrored door had opened, I found a clean and inviting showroom with low lighting and a smiling staff. My budtender—a young lady with dreads and a palpable sweetness of spirit—told me that their medicine was all organic and hand-trimmed as I filled out my new patient forms. It's become common practice among most dispensaries to use trimming machines in the preparation of flower. These are devices that manhandle buds to trim off the low-THC-bearing leaves and improve their appearance. Using these machines saves hours and hours of labor (and labor costs) and gives buds a uniform, Christmas tree-like shape, meaning your product becomes standardized—a boon for any major operation dealing with thousands of customers.
But machine-trimmed buds actually reduce the overall quality of a flower. Different cannabis strains carry their resin in different areas of the plant across different densities. To truly get the most out of a bud, someone who knows the strain inside-and-out is required, who knows what to cut and what to keep—something a machine will never be able to do.
This isn't a knock at the larger companies, though. Finding and paying an entire specialist workforce to just sit in a room with tiny scissors and snip away at buds all day would cost an ungodly amount for the heavy-lifters, an option that simply isn't economically viable. But it does make a place like Sandia Botanicals stand out from the pack. Think Cracker Barrel versus Murphy's Mule Barn. One serves a quality, uniform product that will do its job and leave you a satisfied customer; the other serves a unique, artfully crafted food that will make you rave for weeks about its singular vision. (I like chicken-fried steak. So sue me.)
Sweet Jesus, I'm hungry! One of the strains I picked up while I was there was Blueberry OG (THC: 23.80%, CBD: 0.04%—$12/gram), and I've been nursing a bowl of it for the past half hour. This fruity and sweet indica-dominant bud makes me absolutely ravenous, and while I was writing about trimming machines earlier, it took a monumental effort to keep my mind from wandering to sausage gravy. This powerful strain is effective as hell for relaxing muscles and relieving stress while dodging the heady sleepiness of many indica strains. It's a cross between Blueberry and OG Kush (a fact I didn't have to look up, since Sandia Botanicals prints not only lab results on their packaging, but genetic inheritance, too).
I also picked up a gram of King Louis XIII (THC: 22.42%, CBD: 0.04%—$12/gram), a sativa-dominant cross between Cali Sativa and OG Kush that absolutely made my day. It tasted strongly of diesel and smelled sharp. It was one of those sativas I love—where my head starts buzzing pleasantly before my awareness moves into overdrive. Conversation becomes easy, since cleverness seems to be a by-product, and those who suffer from social anxiety will notice a major decrease in conversational strain. If you're one of those patients who sometimes feels paranoid after smoking certain strains, then you might want to steer clear of this one. In my experience, the sativas that make me feel more at ease socially and relieve anxiety have the opposite effect on patients who weren't anxious to begin with. You know who you are.
Despite my distaste for their choice of venue, I have to say I was pleased as all-get-out with my experience. It wasn't just the high quality of the medicine, though. When I think back on it, there was a relaxed and happy atmosphere at that dispensary that's an oddly rare find, it seems. The staff seemed to genuinely enjoy what they were doing. How sad is it that I would need to note something like that?