Excellent on the Eastside 

Desert Bloom offers great prices, good selection and a knowledgeable staff

A truck can't kick up a rock in Arizona without cracking a windshield ... or hitting a medical cannabis dispensary, apparently.

Forty are near opening statewide, and eight of the 10 Community Health Analysis Areas in and around Tucson have dispensaries now. One new one, Desert Bloom Re-Leaf Center, is in my old stomping grounds, CHAA 106, which covers the city east of Kolb Road and south of Tanque Verde Wash.

Desert Bloom, which opened last month, is easy to find. It's in a strip mall on the south side of 22nd Street about half a mile east of Pantano Parkway. There doesn't appear to be any parking in the rear, so if you want to be incognito, you could park a few doors west and pretend you're going to Skate Country. Hehe.

The front door is nondescript, and there is no sign, speaker or button indicating a buzzer, which left me kind of wondering what to do when I pushed on the locked door. I quickly heard a buzzer, however, and opened the door. The waiting room is low-key, with a couch and a coffee table offering some cannabis reading material. Desert Bloom's bank-style glass reception window is a little off-putting at first. It's tinted and mirrored, so you can't see the receptionist. She sounded very friendly, though, like she was probably smiling, so I forged ahead and slid my card through the slot.

The paper work is thankfully a short, one-page questionnaire which took all of one minute. The Invisible Girl then buzzed me into the back room, where I was greeted by her (she did turn out to be smiling), a bud tender, and Aari Ruben, the Desert Bloom director. Interestingly, Jon Gettel was there, apparently just getting off work as a bud tender. Gettel is the president of Tucson's regional chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, so if he's working, you can get a first-hand education on legalization efforts. Score.

Aari is also a serious cannabis advocate on all fronts. In addition to opening Desert Bloom, the former administrator at the medical practice Healthcare Southwest has attended local and regional gatherings of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

The NCIA is a growing group of business-minded folks who aim to help patients and spur job growth and economic development. Lest we forget, every dispensary that opens in Arizona or anywhere else is employing real, actual human beings, many with children and mortgages and a pesky need for food and clothing. Dispensaries help them, too. Duh. Go dispensaries, and thank you, Aari Ruben.

The glass case at Desert Bloom had 16 strains the day I went. The cannabinoid levels weren't marked, because the dispensary is still working through opening inventory. Several strains they intend to stock were scheduled to go out for testing this week, though, so look for test results soon. Look for their Harlequin strain, which is a low THC (5 percent or less) high CBD (4 percent-ish) strain for pain patients who don't want pretty pink unicorns in their heads.

Desert Bloom' s prices are impressive. They sell top-shelf buds for $55 per eighth, including taxes, which makes them one of the cheapest dispensaries in town. They have three price tiers: $15/$45/$85 per gram/eighth/quarter; $20/$50/$95 and $25/$55/$105. It's fun to type a maximum price of $55 for an eighth. And Desert Bloom seems hell bent on lower prices. The bud tender and Aari confirmed they look forward to competition driving prices lower.

All in all Desert Bloom is hitting the mark. The staff is laid back, and Aari is knowledgeable and dedicated to offering real science to patients. They have a full line of strains from Sativa to Indica, and and eventually the center hopes to do evaluations and certifications.

Mr. Smith approves.

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