Marijuana critic William Breathes looks back on a year of Mile Highs & Lows dispensary reviews

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William Breathes
It's been exactly one year since we kicked off our Mile Highs and Lows dispensary reviews. Since he's a sentimental guy (we think it might be the marijuana), William Breathes gave us the following look back at a year in pot reviewing:

Believe it or not, Westword staffers aren't potheads. Drunks, maybe. But a year ago, when this whole thing started, the Westword staff writer who wrote the early reviews didn't even puff. (He probably gets a contact high just walking past me in a hallway.)

Writing under the pseudonym Mae Coleman -- after one of the stars of the marijuana cult classic Reefer Madness -- the staffer did a great job describing what he saw inside the places, but that's about as far as it went.

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Mae Coleman in Reefer Madness
"I always tell people it was like having a restaurant critic who didn't eat the food," the still-somewhat-anonymous Coleman tells me. "I wasn't very passionate about it; I was basically describing the locations and the prices. I wanted to get a Lester Bangs -- someone who is passionate about marijuana, so that it would come out in their writing."

So not long after Coleman got things started, the now-infamous search began for someone a bit more cannabis-centered to write the reviews. There were tongue-in-cheek news stories about the hunt on media outlets ranging from Denver's CBS4 to the BBC.

Admittedly, it's an unusual kind of newspaper hire -- especially when few newspapers are hiring at all. But as editor Patricia Calhoun explained, there was an actual growing need for this type of service -- the same sort of service a food critic offers in a town with a thriving restaurant scene.

In November 2009, just as all of the people who made a big deal of the job search were moving on to the next weird news story of the day, the Wildflower Seed and I were hired to bring some semblance of order to what several politicians were calling "the wild West" of the medical marijuana industry.

Looking back at our first reviews, it's easy to see that neither of us had a clue as to exactly what we were doing. Having only been to a dozen or so dispensaries before doing my review of Walking Raven, I didn't have much to compare it with. I also didn't focus as much on the medicine as I do in my current reviews. The Wildflower Seed's first review was much the same. In short, both of us had a lot to learn. It's fun to look back on those reviews and see how much has changed in a year.

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