The heat had long since settled into the pores of my skin when I came to a dead stop on I-40. We were being pushed into two streams flowing slowly past a massive pileup. Progress was being choked by all the looky-loos, and I was determined not to be one. Nevertheless, I made eye contact with an EMT pushing a stretcher as I passed. Her gaze was hard and judgmental. I looked back at the road.
Immediately past the accident, the highway turned into a river again and I tried to forget the woman's face as a trickle of sweat parted one of my eyebrows. I'd walked three blocks to get to the car, and it was enough to make my skin prickle. Even with the air conditioner on full blast, my internal thermometer was about to pop. A terrible song came on the radio just as a Mustang switched lanes in front of me without using a blinker. I melted into the seat and hissed.
I exited into the afternoon Midtown traffic, changing lanes and feeling like a cheetah. I turned on Menaul with a growl and a curse aimed at no one in particular. When I got out in front of Ultra Health, I was crackling and sharp. The sun bounced off the shiny chrome of a passing car and left a tattoo on my retina. I winced and turned my head. A dog was sitting on the curb with no leash. It looked at me passively and closed its eyes to nap. I hurried inside.
The door clicked behind me—and a calm, cool waiting room greeted me. I sighed and walked over to sign in. Behind me, the door opened again. “Holy shit, y'all got the right idea,” a voice crowed. “It's hotter 'n hell outside. Feels good in here.”
“Even better back here,” the receptionist said from behind a glass partition. A patient exited right then, and I felt a draft blow in from the showroom. I hardly cared about the cannabis at that moment. I just wanted some of that refrigerated air.
My name was called and I went back. I pretended to peruse the menu (even though I'd already decided in the waiting room). I asked some questions about products I didn't want and dawdled, soaking up the arctic blast that was blowing through. The showroom was bright, clean and had that professional ambiance you always want in a medical provider.
Ultra Health currently (to my knowledge) offers the widest variety of smokeless THC and CBD health products to cannabis patients—including topical lotions, sublingual and oral tablets, transdermal patches, suppositories and others. The number of products was pretty incredible, and I gave up trying to memorize all of them. The most appealing and impressive thing for me was the perfectly measured doses offered by all the options. Dosing is a huge problem in the medical cannabis world, since most edibles will come out shaped like a cookie or gummies and patients are left estimating doses.
I finally stopped wasting everyone's time and chose a gram each of Sour Punch (THC: 17.39%—$14/gram) and Burqueño Berry (THC: 17.33%—$14/gram). If you didn't notice, those are some pretty steep prices for flower. Ultra Health is the state's largest cannabis producer, which I assume is why they feel obligated to charge so much more than their competitors. They do have sales throughout the week on designated items (I serendipitously went on a day when flower was $10 a gram) that bring the prices down to normal levels, but that's not exactly the most ethical business model in my mind. The technique is known as “price anchoring,” and retailers have been using it for so long that not too many people are fooled by it. There are some suckers out there, of course, but you have to wonder why anyone would attempt to turn patients in need of treatment into suckers.
It was just an issue of principle for me, though, since I only paid $10 a gram (this was last Friday—they do it on Saturdays, too). I wasn't too hurt as I walked back out into the baking sun. I avoided the freeway on the drive back home and left the radio off.
Back in my apartment, I pulled the blinds and retreated to my bedroom with a joint I'd rolled of the Sour Punch. Like its name implies, it smelled and tasted sour and bright. I was a bit nervous at first because the buds were fairly dry, but the strong effects kicked in pretty quickly. This sativa-dominant hybrid gave me an immediate mood boost and cooled off my itching annoyance. Within minutes, I was feeling calm and happy again, ready to face the world. I was still feeling tense, though and decided to dive into the indica strain I'd chosen in hopes that it would relax my muscles as the Punch was doing for my nerves.
I packed a bowl of the Burqueño Berry and was bummed to find it even drier than the Punch. It smelled sweet and swampy, though, and the first hit was smooth and dank. A peppery note tickled the back of my throat and made it a pleasant experience, but beyond a mild fuzziness in the eyes, I didn't detect much effect. I ended up smoking three successive bowls before giving up and moving back to the other strain. I'm pretty certain the blame can be laid on air exposure, since the buds practically turned to powder as I broke them apart.
But I was still feeling smooth from the Sour Punch, so I wasn't angry. I was … disheartened, maybe? It wasn't the worst thing that had happened that day. If I'd paid $14, it would've probably been a different story, but I'm no sucker.